You Can’t Make Me Cry
By Joe Kurmaskie
In an effort to pedal my talk, I decided to use my bicycle to deliver more than 500 copies of my new book to the post office. These would then be shipped worldwide to the unsuspecting people who thought they were clicking on the ShamWow button strategically placed by the book order shopping cart.
Lowbrow lit was everywhere, tucked around three-year-old Matteo and his armada of toys, packages poking out of the front bag. When I placed the last manila envelope into the “Chariot Trailer” it resembled the Grinch’s sled after he’d pillaged Whoville. I jammed package after package into my Arkel panniers, their famous triple stitching and reinforced zippers were in for a test. The post office opened at 8:30 a.m., I had to be at the bike swap by 10 sharp so we set sail into a rather thick fog just after 8 a.m.
I imagined my arrival at the main post office parking lot looked something like the final scene in “Animal House,” when Belushi’s rogue float emerges out of the smoke to cause mayhem. I just wanted to be first in line. I’d barely broken a sweat on the ride there, but unloading all those books from the wagon train left me both soaked and spent, but at least I’d be their first customer.
Matteo sat atop a mountain of boxes playing with his Lego guys. I smiled and nodded at the guy who found himself behind me. He took one look at my delivery and swore in my face. What he didn’t know, and never would now, was that I’d been about to tell him to go in front of me.
With one hand balancing a box of toys, the other holding my son, and legs pushing the payload to the counter while trying to keep a bounce in my step, despite the crushing line of people building during a non-holiday rush time of year, I announced that I’d group like shipments together, organized by country, and knew the media mail prices for each. The worker I’d landed — one of two they’d decided to staff the busy downtown location with, well beyond her “working directly with the public” expiration date — was not impressed. We went back and forth a few times about stuff that needed to be blackened out on one envelope. I’d just been trying to do my ecological part by reusing as many packages as possible, but this worker was itching for a fight. When she realized that the customs label to Canada went right over the spot she’d just made me blot out with my own sharpie, I made eye contact, smiled and thought it over. Strange as it is to believe, I held my tongue. That seemed to make it worse. She started giving me a hard time about an envelope having too much tape on it, another not enough. I almost got out the cardboard book of Goldilocks and the Three Bears stashed in the chariot trailer just so I could read along with her commentary.
Finally, I countered with, “Lady, why are you giving me such a hard time?”
She lit up like someone had handed her an extra ball to fire at the bottles along the midway. Clearly the woman lived for moments like these. “Son, if I were giving you a hard time you’d be in tears and calling for your momma right now. Hard time? I could break you ... like that!” snapping her fingers and stamping her stamp, dismissing me. I stepped back. Obviously someone had already broken her. It wouldn’t even be a challenge, but her threat made me laugh — a hearty, sincere laugh — and against my own resolve to remain dignified, I let it fly.
“Lady, I’m the father of three boys, with a fourth son due any day now. You couldn’t make me cry if you had all day.”
The postal worker next to her broke out in a laugh that dwarfed my own. Folks in line joined in, except for the guy right behind me. Matteo even started to chuckle, then offered the woman a Star Wars Lego as an olive branch. She was not amused, but by the end of our business I still had not cried.
My apologies if all of those books didn’t make it to their destinations. I’ll send you a ShamWow for your trouble.
Joe Kurmaskie rides a bike for the joy of it. His next book, “Mud, Sweat and Gears: One Family’s Rowdy Adventure Across Canada on Seven Wheels,” is now available. For more information go to www.metalcowboy.com