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    Wait Reduction Surgery
    It is a traditional New Year's resolution: Cut back on calories. Well, I've traveled that ambitious, delusional road before, and the guilt and frustration invariably lead to an increase in size and a decrease in sanity. That's why this year I'm cutting back on something else: pet peeves.

    Total elimination of life's little annoyances is impossible, because peeves are like shark teeth: There are always more to replace them. Get rid of open-mouthed chewing and it's replaced with mouth-full talking; remove overseas customer service and it's substituted with a fully automated "Press four if you have a rotary phone" telephone system.

    My first pet-peeve reduction surgery of 2009 will be performed on standing-in-line impatience. I made that decision after waiting at the post office on Dec. 17, the busiest mailing day of the holiday season. I walked in with Christmas spirit and left with a Grinch's heart that was two sizes too small. Jacob Marley appeared at the exit and told me to lighten up.

    It began at the self-serve machine. I had one small package, 35 minutes before a dentist appointment and four people ahead of me. The woman in the front was holding the shopping bag version of a clown car, pulling out a seemingly endless number of parcels.

    This is a good time to note my interesting discovery about self-service facilities: They are devoid of a learning curve. Despite repeated use of a self-checkout register, many people approach it as if it was their first time. Like clown-car bag lady.

    One of the pages on the post office machine is a query about hazardous, restricted and perishable mail. Clown-car bag lady read it thoroughly (I watched her lips move) with every single package. At no point did it occur to her that it was the same each time. Did she think the restrictions would change with each ZIP Code? .Fargo, ND.: If liquids included, is it likely to freeze? Cooperstown, N.Y.: Are you a Mets or Yankees fan? Seattle, Wash.: Is this package Grande or Tall?

    I muttered, "Lady, you're mailing Christmas chachkis to Cleveland, not proofing the Declaration of Independence."

    The next customer had one letter. This ought to be quick, I thought. But he was a finger-hoverer: a person who gently drifts his pointer finger over selections like it was a divining rod. The screen was his Ouija board as his finger meandered close enough to give hope to waiting saps, but far enough to avoid impetuous decisions about complex matters involving letter size and debit or credit. He eventually decided that he was indeed mailing a large envelope and not a letter. Thank goodness for the machine's accompanying pictures.

    Next was a lady carrying three envelopes. I thought I had a shot at getting out in time until, to nobody in particular, she asked, "How do I buy international stamps?"That was my cue to leave, but I didn't. I had time invested in this line -- I might as well go for broke.

    For international stamps, we all learned, one must go through a series of screens and type in the name of the country. Of course, her three envelopes were going to three different countries. Who has friends in three different countries? I'm grateful to have three different friends.

    One pal lived in the United Kingdom and I stared as each letter popped up on the screen. This woman was like Vanna White recovering from anesthesia, slowly typing "K-I-N-G-D-O-M." Twice. Before passing out, I said a prayer that this globe-trotting spelling bee didn't have a buddy in Austria.

    For all this, I was rewarded with a (late) visit to the dentist, who noted teeth grinding. I'm not concerned. Pet-peeve reduction should take care of that.

    [January 21, 2009]

    For more Odd Angles, go to the Loudoun Times website and search keyword “Odd Angles”
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