One of the things readers of my book Chez Stinky often find amusing is the depiction of rural, small town life. The little hamlet of Alpine Grove that I’ve created in my novels is based to some degree on my life here in northern Idaho.
Where I live, if you want to see pretty much everyone you know, the best place to go is the local post office. Why? Because you get to spend quite a bit of quality time in line. And in that line, you are likely to see at least one person you know.
For even more fun, you can time your visits around national holidays, such as Memorial Day. If a Monday will be a holiday for the USPS, there is always considerable postal anticipation, which can result in a line that stretches past the stamp machine way out into the lobby beyond the bulletin board. (Take my word for it, that’s a seriously long line.)
Postal anticipation also can lead to small town traffic jams and parking issues. People end up dropping off their passengers and circling the lot in their quest for a parking space. The last time I had this experience, by the time my husband finally parked and joined me in line, I had made it past the stamp machine and was the person with the honor of using my foot to hold open the door to the inner postal sanctum.
When you have whole lot of people in line and a small number of postal employees to help them, chatter ensues. And like I said, in a small town, odds are good that at least a few people in line will know each other and get into deeply involved conversations as the overwrought postal employees deal with the onslaught. Unlike the big city, small town postal employees are often cheerful and nice, but they do have to answer countless questions about insurance, delivery confirmation, and stamps, so each transaction takes a while.
In my novel, spending time in line with the crowd at the post office turns into an embarrassing moment for my main character, Kat Stevens. Half of Alpine Grove learns more than Kat might like about what’s going on in her personal life.
But you have to expect that kind of thing when the post office is the social mecca of town.