Bring patience with you the next time you visit your local post office. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Bring patience with you the next time you visit your local post office. (Jennifer Bardsley)

The longest line in Washington is at your local post office

America has allowed its postal service to deteriorate. We should demand our leaders do better — and we should treat post office workers with kindness and respect.

“Don’t worry,” I tell myself as I drive to the post office in Lynnwood. “This will be a quick trip.” It better be quick, because I’m due to pick my daughter up in 45 minutes.

I need to renew the PO box I keep for my author newsletter. This is my fourth attempt at renewing it. The first was online, but that wouldn’t work. The second was at the Edmonds post office, but they said I needed to go to Lynnwood. The third attempt was on a Sunday afternoon when I tried to use the kiosk in Lynnwood, and it wouldn’t work. Now it’s Monday at 2 p.m. and I am trying yet again.

My first clue that trouble brews is the packed parking lot. The second clue is the long line out the door. Outside the temperature hovers at 82 degrees. Inside it’s much warmer. Fans can’t do much but swirl around hot air.

I take my place in line and wait. I check my phone. I wait some more.

“I’m here,” the man behind me says. “I’ll be right back.”

“OK.” I shrug noncommittally and stare back at my phone.

Ten minutes later the man comes back and tries to cut in front of the six people who have lined up behind me. “It’s fine,” he says. “This was my spot.” He looks at me for confirmation.

All the people he cuts glare at me accusingly.

“Lots of people have lined up since you left,” I say. “It’s not right to cut them.” I turn around, not wanting to get involved. After all, I hadn’t promised to save his spot. Had I? It’s too hot to think straight. He moves to the end of the line.

“How can there be six windows and only two people working?” the gentleman in front of me asks.

It’s a valid question. In the faraway past, the government optimistically built a post office with the capacity to serve six customers at once. Now they’ve underfunded the USPS to the point that it’s a hot mess, in more ways than one.

An elderly woman a few spots behind me leans on the counter for support. “This heat,” she complains. “It’s horrible.”

I wish I could trade places with her but that would mean being late to pick up my daughter. Correction: even more late than I already am.

I’ve been waiting for 25 minutes now. Forever stamps are advertised for sale everywhere I look. That’s how long it feels like I’ve been stuck waiting in line; forever.

“What do you mean my mail’s not here?” complains a customer at the window. “I spoke to my postal carrier yesterday and he said to come pick it up.”

“Unbelievable,” the man in front of me grumbles.

Unbelievable is right, but it’s not the employee’s fault, it’s voters like you and me who aren’t lifting up our voice and demanding that our elected officials solve this mess. America can’t be a top-rate nation without a reliable postal service. That’s something that red and blue voters should be able to agree upon.

When I finally make it to the window I’m ready with my credit card and a big smile. I exude politeness. I figure that the employees stuck in this turmoil deserve a friendly face.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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