Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New York, Day Two, Part One: Mission Impossible

(Sorry for the lateness of this post, the photos took forever to upload from my camera)

Saturday, April 24th, 2010


Good Morning S.M. Carrière. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find a Post Office and mail the post-only queries prepared for you. You will find the envelopes in the satchel by your bed. Please note that each envelope contains a smaller envelope, upon which is to be affixed sufficient U.S. postage to be mailed to Canada. Everything you need is either with you now, or can be purchased at your destination. Good luck to you.

This recording will self-destruct in 3... 2... 1... *poof

Does anyone smell smoke?

Breakfast was early Saturday morning. Well, early for my exhausted self. I managed to be dressed and down for breakfast at around about 7:30am. Not bad. The bus would leave at 8:00am to take us into Manhattan for a bus tour. Given my mission, taking that tour was not an option. It was fortunate, then, that we were given the option.

Having been in New York once before, and not terribly enthralled with big cities, I decided to strike out on my own at the drop off point - 34th street and Fifth Ave. It was imperative that I find a post office. As it turned out, my good friend S.D., had acquired a map from a contact that had all the post offices listed on it. Knowing my desire, she very kindly accompanied me on my mission.

After a great deal of fruitless walking, it became painfully apparent that she had been double-crossed. The dirty rats gave her a map that was mis-marked. Damn them. Under the guise of clueless tourists, we wandered the streets of Manhattan, occasionally accosting employees at various stores for information. Twice we asked in vain. The third attempt yielded some results. There was, according to this source, the main post office behind Madison Square Gardens on Eigth. I had become suspicious at that point, but had no choice but to at least check it out. Thus, S.D. and I headed there only to find the mother of all post offices.

The mother of all post offices.

With marked relief, we wandered inside and lined up. S.D., her assistance no longer required, departed to wander Manhattan and shop. Shopping was never my thing. I stood in line for only a brief moment before summoned to window no. 8 and was greeted by a woman who looked like a Caribbean of Indian decent, and suspiciously like my friend's mother, M.H.

'How can I help you today?' she asked in an accent that was a curious mix of the hard sounds of American English, and the musical inflection of an Islander.
"I must send these," I replied with smile. "But I have envelopes inside that require sufficient postage to be returned to Canada."
"I don't understand, dear, what do you mean?"
I frowned. What does she mean 'what do I mean.' I mean just what I said. I tried again. She shook her head.
"I still don't understand you."
Was there a secret password I required?
"I need international postage for letters going to Canada."
"You're sending these to Canada."
"No." Was she playing me? Was this some agent from the other side sent to confound me? "I'm sending these within America, but the companies I'm sending to require postage for a letter to Canada."
"So they're sending something back to you in return?"
Has this woman never heard of such things? "Yes."
"Oh, I see. You'll need 75c stamps then."
"Will that get them to Canada?"
"Then I need 75c stamps."
"How many?"
At last! I'm getting somewhere.

With everything organised, I needed only to apply the postage and seal the envelopes. Graciously allowing me to cut the growing line once the sealing was completed, the post office assistant then weighed all my envelopes of various sizes, applied the postage and handed them back to me.
"You'll need to drop these off at window 49. Make sure you put the big ones where it says 'large envelopes.'"
"Right, thanks!" I started moving off.
"It's that way," the attendant said, pointing in the opposite direction I was headed.
"Oh, thank-you."

I could feel her eyes on my back as I delivered the envelopes, and hoped to high heaven that she wasn't an agent from the other side. Suddenly the spacious and beautifully decorated interior of the post office got to me. I needed out and fast.

Inside the post office. Pretty, yes?

I was not obstructed as I pushed through the rotating doors into the warm sun. It was still early morning, and there weren't that many people about. Feeling safe enough outside, I sat on the steps of the post office and ate a fruit cup. It was no-sugar added. Unfolding my map, and knowing I did not have to report back until 8:30 that evening, I searched the map for directions to the one thing I desperately needed to see: the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Satisfied that I could now find my way without constantly consulting the map and giving myself away, I folded the map and stowed it in the now-empty satchel I carried at my side. Finishing my fruit cup quickly, I squared my shoulders and, with a cursory glance to ensure I wasn't being followed, set off in search of Fifth Ave.

To be continued....

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