Last week when I took some bills and late Christmas cards to the post office, I also accidentally “mailed” some gift certificates that were in a blank envelope. When I realized a couple of days later what I’d done, I hurried to that post office to find out where things with no address or stamps end up and if there was any way I could retrieve that envelope.

As soon I got there I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to just walk in, ask my question, and walk out. “Wow, this must be the busy time,” I said to the middle-aged woman in front of me as I joined the people waiting in a rather long line. The woman and I exchanged some additional small talk, and then I told her why I was there. “They’ll probably tell me to go to the downtown post office,” I said. “At least that’s what they told me to do once before when I had to retrieve something.” I smiled as I remembered. “A long time ago I mailed a ‘Dear John’ to somebody,” I explained. “But the very next day I felt I’d made a big mistake and asked the post office if there was any way we could intercept it before it arrived at this guy’s house.”

“So did they do that for you? Did they find the letter for you?” the woman asked.

“They actually did!”  I told her then about the older clerk who’d been so kind about what I considered a life crisis. I laughed a little then. “If I’d known I would still end up breaking up with the guy just a couple of months later, I wouldn’t have put that poor postal worker to all that trouble and I wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble myself.”

The woman didn’t laugh with me. She hesitated for a few seconds and then said quietly,”I still feel bad about a ‘Dear John’ I wrote to someone a long time ago.  He was a really good guy, and I’m pretty sure I broke his heart. It’s bothered me all these years.”

“Yes, but that’s life.” I said. “Sometimes we ended up hurting people during those dating years, but then other times it was the opposite and we were the ones who got hurt.”

“Still I could have made it easier on him,” she said. “I could have at least given him some warning. I could have been nicer about it.”

“You were young. You didn’t have the experience you have now. We all have things we’d like to go back and do differently if we could. Believe me, I do.”

“That’s true, isn’t it,” she agreed. And we talked then about how hard we are on ourselves sometimes. In just those few minutes, this woman that I’d just barely met and I were practically BF’s as we philosophized about life and tried to help each other. And even though I found out when I got to the front of the line that I would need to go to the main post office, or at least call,  I didn’t feel all that bad about it. Yes, even though I definitely had a lot of things on my list that day, I  didn’t feel waiting in that line that morning  had been a waste of time.


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