The Clerk, Fleming, and Me

That’s an AMERICAN stamp!!!

Reacting to the tone more than the words, I take a half-step back. A clerk at the sub-post-office (sub-post office? sub post-office?) in my local drugstore has just snapped at me. I review the conversation to date.

Hey, good morning.

Me, sounding cheery.


Clerk, grunting.

Could you check to see if I have enough postage on this, please?

Me again, still sounding cheery. Being polite. Acting well within the normal range of customer/clerk postal interactions, I’d have said.

That’s an AMERICAN stamp!!!

I consider my options. I could retrieve my envelope and go complain to the pharmacist who presumably issues the sub-contract for this sub-post-office (sub-post office? sub post-office?), or I could try to get through this. I decide to take Door #2.

No, it’s a Canadian stamp.
See? That’s Queen Elizabeth on it.

Me again. Cheery again and still polite. But becoming a tad more emphatic.

There’s no amount on it.

Clerk again, surly again.

It’s a permanent stamp.
– pause –
So, it’s worth what, today? 92 cents?

Me again. Trying to move this along.

There’s no “P”.

Good Lord. In addition to poor eyesight this clerk has a bottomless well of surly.

Let me see it.

I, on the other hand, am reaching the bottom of my puddle of cheeriness. I take the stamp and squint through its curlicues.

Yes, the top-right corner contains a “P” overlaid on a maple leaf. Just where you’d expect to find this marking. Just where it is on all permanent Canadian stamps. Right next to the CANADA, all in capital letters, which is not a usual feature of AMERICAN stamps.


Not shown actual size

I admit the “P” is tiny and hard to pick out with all those curly curlicues, but did I design the dagnabbed stamp? No, I did not.

Here it is.
– pause –
It *is* sort of small.

Me again. Trying to smooth the waters.

10 cents.

Clerk again, advising me of how much more postage I need for the weight of this envelope.

No verbal acknowledgement that the stamp is Canadian, stating itself as such in text and showcasing the Canadian Queen in graphics.

No verbal agreement that it’s permanent and, therefore, worth 92 cents today.

No verbal or body-language apology, directly or indirectly. No smile. No well-would-ya-look-at-that or I’m-an-idiot-today chattiness.

Thank you!

Me again. Still sounding cheery, but being a little less so, to be honest.

As I leave the drugstore, I wonder what was going on. Did it just happen to be a bad day? I hope that’s the answer, although observations of other interactions would suggest not.

Once is happenstance.
Twice is coincidence.
Three times is enemy action.

Ian Fleming, being pithy. And being helpful. Having been hammered happenstancily, I’ll wait to be clobbered coincidentally. But if I come under attack sustainedly? I might decide not to cut slack interminably.

There’s always Door #1.


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8 Responses to The Clerk, Fleming, and Me

  1. Just feel sorry for the clerk – she has to live with that attitude all day every day, and you get to go on your merry way.

  2. An American stamp with the Queen on it? Never mind the almost-invisible “P” that is worthy of a Where’s Waldo puzzle. What was she thinking the word CANADA meant? Or did she think it was a foreign stamp and the first “foreign” that came to mind was “American”? At what point did this person stop reading, let alone thinking? Seriously. Has Canada Post become so computerized and mechanized that the clerks are discouraged from using their own minds? Your “observations of other interactions” is a tantalizing phrase. Perhaps you can tell other stories that would enlighten this mystery.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Well, I was baffled. The only thing I could think of was that the clerk didn’t immediately recognize it as Canada Post product (it was issued 2 years ago so isn’t current) and, maybe, didn’t recognize the Queen in an earlier version and then jumped to the American conclusion. For sure they didn’t look closely or read anything on it. For some reason they were on a hair-trigger and I just happened to be in the line of fire. I’ve seen what I would consider to be abrupt-at-best, surly-at-worst behaviour with other folks, so Judith may have the rights of it. That’s just who the clerk is. All day, every day.

  3. barbara carlson says:

    Everybody is getting ratty. We are 8.5+ months in and I thinks it’s dawned on people this is not going away for another year… but then there are just stupid people who can’t read and when it is pointed out get angry, realizing they are wrong.

  4. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – nice stamp though!

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