Going to the post office in the first place is hard enough. It’s musty, the people who work there are less than delighted to receive you, and there’s long lines that don’t end with a ride on Space Mountain. But the experience is guaranteed to be exponentially worse if you dare arrive at the post office without a pen to address your precious package.
No pen at the post office? Prepare to be treated like a debauched cowboy who arrived at the rodeo sans horse. Ask to borrow a writing utensil and you will be pen-shamed, if not outright rejected with a first-class stamp of “Loser.” Your parcel will go nowhere, while your ticket is punched posthaste to Palookaville. You will know how Dickens’ orphan Oliver Twist felt when he dared beg his minders for more drecky gruel.
It’s easier to get ink from an octopus, a singing telegram from a bikini-clad Queen of England, easier to vote by mail in a minority district in Texas… than to send your mail without bringing your own Paper Mates to the post office.
My fellow Americans (plus the residents of Florida), how did it come to this? We know that the United States Postal Service is curiously still run by Trump appointee Louis DeJoy, who abhors the mail, not to mention the potentially venal sin of its expeditious delivery. Louis (not C.K.) DeJoy is like the condom of the mail, ensuring that, even if your parcel is to actually come, you will not fully enjoy it- because it will take forever, and it won’t have been worth all the effort of putting it in (the mail) for so long. (Those on the receiving end of the spectrum will be raw and unsatiated by the experience, even if it’s just the mail that’s not coming.)
To this day, they call the man who runs the Postal Service, “The Postmaster General.” The title hearkens back to America’s colonial past, but our Postmaster General today runs the mail with erudition not seen since General George Armstrong Custer administered the Battle of Little Big Horn.
That said, this dilemma of the post office and its pens, or lack thereof, predates the plutocratic Mr. Potato-head-looking grinch who currently sits his girthy hindquarter on the USPS’s Iron Throne. Thus, ultimately, Louis DeJoy may be a joyless Goon DeMail, but he is not the villain who has pilfered all our postal pens.
Many will be tempted to point to petty theft as the sole cause we cry out for ink only to hear an unchained melody in return. So often we see the metal chains still linked to the counters with no pens linked at the end. We presume that pens meant to serve the public good were ruptured from their anchor. Blame the recalcitrant criminals who rip out the pens and rip-off the entire mail-sending public! Just get tough on crime, and we’ll incarcerate our way out of this crisis. Put the pen-thieves in the pen!
Alas, we know the criminal element is not the root cause of our penury of pens. How so? Think of this simple truth: The diabolical Hamburglar himself has never stopped stealing hamburgers and yet McDonalds still claims over 300 billion hamburgers served. (Okay, well maybe he has stopped.) In any business there will always be breakage and attrition and pens broken off from their flimsy chains. But if a Bic pen annihilated innocent animals, dismembered meat plant workers, and destroyed the environment with the same tasty efficiency as a Big Mac, would the post office still keep their stock resupplied?
Don’t consider the logic of that question. Instead, for an answer, look no further than the New Yorker’s recent article on the inception of the Bambi story. Who knew Bambi was originally a dystopian book, more “Yellow Jackets” than “Snow White,” authored in 1922 by Felix Salten? Old Salty could not have known then what a ballyhooed stripper-name Bambi would one day become. (No doubt, he’d be proud.)
Apparently, the point of Bambi in the book is that a deer must do for himself, grow the hell up fast, and eat the fuck out of Thumper if things get dicey with the grass situation. It’s every deer and doe for themselves out in the forest, and don’t expect another animal to lend a hand, paw… or pen.
But why must this primeval outlook prevail when we’re in the post office? (Or, even, say, a pandemic?) We Americans have never been the communal type, but somewhere there must be a line between becoming Stalinist Russia, early kibbutzniks, or even Smurf Village, and always having pens available in public spaces where people need them.
In the spirit of contemplating a more generous society, I want to say this to my readers who already have a bountiful supply of pens steadily and readily available for free at their local post office. I declare war on you, the one percent.
David Rock has written for film, magazines, reality television, and even at one time (gasp) the WWE. He is the author of the hit play GRAND DELUSION and the Co-Executive Producer of ” American Gangster:Trap Queens” on BET. His new play MASTERS OF PUPPETS will debut next year. He believes in vices, but not viceroys.