I have often joked with people at the Courthouse, or at clients' offices, (when it has been remarked that they do not see me very often) that 'I am only let out occasionally!' Most people find this rather amusing. Few realise that it is true! Obviously things don't always go wrong when I am let loose on the streets of Austin, but I do seem to end up, not necessarily at the wrong place, but mostly at the wrong time!
Once again, I was looking at rather a busy week. A new rule had been established, which came into effect on March 1, and one of our clients needed to have a rather large quantity of law suits filed before said date. This meant that, not only did we have to collect them from their office, bring them back to ours, enter them into the computer, but also send them to the relevant courts. Not a problem in itself, but the first box was not ready until 27th February, at lunchtime. Nothing like cutting it fine! Fortunately, Dana was back from his meeting by one, and left me to administrate the rather large task. Normally, this would not have been so daunting, but we now have an added logistic to make life not so simple. One of our main downtown post offices has closed its doors, and drop boxes. Up until very recently, we could leave the office, drive down sixth street, and either park in the spacious area if we wanted to enter the establishment, or drive through, and drop our post into the boxes outside. The nearest post office now does not have a car park, (I know...it was a luxury for me at first,) nor does it have a drop box outside. My options for getting the mail into the hands of the carrier, by the end of the day, were two. The first would be to drive several miles south, to the facility that remains open until 8pm, (or thereabouts,) or attempt to get the large stack of envelopes to the smaller shop on Congress Avenue, by 5:30pm.
Fortunately, by a quarter to five, all my envelopes were prepared and ready to go. Samantha offered to drive, in case there were no parking spaces, and we left the office with a large container. As we approached Congress Avenue, we saw the flashing blue and red lights. The motor cyclist sat, and had stopped traffic from crossing the main road, but we could not see why. Then we heard the sound of a brass band, and we knew we would not be going anywhere for a while. As the gymnasts passed by the front of the car, and we craned our necks to see how long the procession was, I decided to take my chances, and walk down the road and around the corner to the post office. Making a mental note to keep a pair of low healed shoes in the office, I tottered in my beautiful navy ankle boots, around the corner, just in time to have my ears blasted by the trumpets that followed the dancing girls. The drummers were next in line and I was looking for the 'five gold rings', but instead saw some rather strange effigies, which resembled the cookie monster from Sesame Street. It seemed a little strange to have a children's parade hold up the traffic at 'quitting time' on a week day, but I do live in Austin, and it was keeping it 'weird'.
The post office was not particularly busy, but I was fourth in the queue. There was one person behind the counter, and everyone appeared to be best friends. The woman at the front of the queue informed the member of staff behind the desk that she was not in a hurry. I did not have to ponder as to why she made her comment for too long, as the employee left her booth, walked around the corner, appeared on our side of the counter, and went down the stairs, out of the building. 'Is she coming back?', I asked, rather tentatively, wondering if I had been whisked into the twilight zone. Apparently, according to another customer, she had just gone to see where the music was coming from. Perhaps I am old fashioned, (or just sane!) but it just seemed a little odd for her to walk out and watch the rally. However, she did have some interesting information upon her return. It would appear that the cookie monsters were, in fact, supposed to be models of injured construction workers, and those who were taking part in the march were demonstrating against poor safety conditions in the workplace. Once again, I failed to see the significance of the pipers piping, lords leaping and ladies dancing. They were all heading up to the Capitol Building in order to voice their appeal to the men and women of the Texas Legislature.
While the other customers were happy to listen to the description of events happening outside, I decided to drop my mail that did not need to go over the counter, into the pull-down drum that was over to the side. Muttering to myself that I had work to do, even if no one else did, I failed, once again. The metal container appeared to be stuck. It would not go down, nor up. All my mail had gone through to the other side, except for one piece. On closer inspection, I saw that an envelope had wedged itself between the curved part of the drum, and the back shield. Rather than being welded, the two pieces were clasped together with clips at the side, leaving a tiny gap, just large enough for an envelope holding two pieces of folded paper (rather than one) to get stuck. I pulled with both hands, but nothing happened. I tried to move it to on side, but it was stuck fast. I pushed down on the drum but it did nothing to release the paper. I returned to the front desk. 'Can I help', asked a very enthusiastic lady who was seemed to be instructing everyone on the different forms they needed for their packages. I told her about my predicament. She frowned, then smiled, and said, 'Oh my!'. I asked if there was anything she could do, and she looked very pensive, then said, 'I don't think so', and continued to offer assistance to other people in the line. 'Excuse me', I called, and asked the rhetorical question, 'Do you work here!' Again, she frowned, and said, 'No ma'am'. Strike two. Not only had I jammed the mail slot, but I had been rather rude to a good Samaritan.
Eventually, it was my turn to speak to the girl who had previously abandoned her position. I gave her my over sized packages, and advised her of my folly. She did not seem particularly phased, and once again left her booth to come and inspect the damage. 'Oh, that's stuck', she said, and laughed very heartily. I was in the twilight zone! As I was just about to pinch myself, in an attempt to wake from the nightmare, Samantha walked up the stairs. Seeing me, and the postal worker trying to budge the wedged envelope, she remarked, 'You haven't broken it, have you?' I looked rather sheepishly at her, and the young girl burst into another round of laughter and simply replied, 'Yes ma'am!'
Another member of staff was called to see if they had a solution to the problem. 'Come round here, ma'am', she beckoned, and led me to the back of the shop, behind the counter. Perhaps she wanted me to serve the customers while she attempted to retrieve my letter, considering her colleague had, once again, escaped. I stared at the pile of parcels, and letters, and decided that I had been transported to a time, long ago, when trust was king! I looked around to see if anyone had a hula hoop, but everyone had vanished, and I was left in the abandoned facility, with my daughter and two laughing ladies. My panic disappeared, and then returned, when one of the women came towards me with a very sharp looking pair of scissors. I had put my bag on the floor, next to the mail chute, and ducked down to grab my phone, to see if the emergency services would be available in this time warp, but she walked past and started to stab at the drum. Thinking that I was in possession of the lethal weapon, Samantha shouted at me to stop stabbing her. It is often comforting to know that our accent sometimes disguises words, and I was able to squeal, 'It's not me', before the blade wielder recognised what was being said. As she was unable to move the document, she went around the other side of the wall, and stabbed them through towards me. Eventually, with all the pushing and pulling, the paper tore, and we were left with three pieces. One in my hand, one in Samantha's, and the piece that was still stuck fast in the gap between the drum and the back drop. It was then that the manager arrived.
My apologies appeared to be sufficient, and the nice female overseer was not perturbed by my having destroyed her mail drop receptacle. She called 'maintenance' and told them that they would have to come immediately to fix the problem. She didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that a civilian was on the wrong side of the counter, and asked if I needed the piece of mail. 'I have two thirds of it', I tried to joke, but she had already walked away to make a second call to maintenance. Slowly, and very cautiously, I left the back room, and returned to my rightful place. I thanked everyone for their help and apologised, again and again, for breaking their drum. Samantha assured them I would not be allowed to return.
The envelope contained a copy of a court document that was to be served in another area. Although we had the original writ, I had to ask our client for another copy of the pleading. It is not unusual to make a request for an additional copy, but usually the reason is not as embarrassing. The suppressed laughter from my client, when she called to clarify why I needed a replacement, did put me at ease. I do, quite often, see the funny side of things, but my sense of humour is not always shared. I am not sure that I was on loud speaker, but I am quite positive the story was shared. It was, however, rather more amusing that virtually everyone to whom I conveyed the tale told me that at least I would have something to 'blog' about, and suggested this could be .......... another story.