Volume 49, Issue 1- January 2014
Going Postal – Revisited
I picked it up as it completed its third ring, but as I did so, it slid through my hand and fell all the way to the floor. By the time I retrieved it and put it to my ear, the voice on the other end had already started talking … loudly and in an agitated manner.
“Hello, hello, is anyone there, hello.”
“Yes I’m here,” I replied as I moved the phone about 2 inches away from my ear
“I want to speak to Lyle Hill,” shot back the response with no drop off in volume or tremor. “Are you Lyle Hill?”
“I am and to whom might I be speaking?”
“My name is Wilma and I am calling to talk to you about a recent column you wrote for USGlass magazine.”
“Okay,” I replied, moving the phone yet another inch away from my ear to avoid permanent auditory damage. “Which one?”
Well, I just finished reading an article you wrote about the U.S. Postal Service. I found it to be offensive, unfair and demeaning. While it’s certainly not the first of your many articles I could take exception to, it is to date the absolute worst.”
“So you’ve been reading USGlass for some time now, Wilma?”
“I have probably been reading the magazine for about 11 or 12 years, maybe a little longer.”
“So I assume you are in the glass and metal industry in some capacity.”
“No, no, no, Mr. Hill. I would never work in the glass industry,” she replied with a bit of a snide chuckle in her voice.
Switching to speaker phone and lowering the volume as far as possible I said, “Then how is it, Wilma, that you receive and read USGlass? And by the way, what did you say your last name was?”
Wertzel … W-E-R-T-Z-E-L … and my husband is a project manager for a local glazing contractor. On the exact day he receives the magazine, he immediately puts it in his briefcase and brings it home because he says if he leaves it around the office, it is quite popular and tends to disappear. I think the janitors believe it is trash and treat it accordingly. So last night he brought his USGlass home and I read your article this morning.”
“Do I know him? What’s his name?” I asked while moving my chair back from the phone by a few feet and thinking that this was the loudest human being I had ever talked with.
“His name is Wilbur and I don’t know that the two of you have ever met but, Mr. Hill, I called to express my opinion about one of your columns—not to be interrogated by you.”
To my amazement, her voice had grown louder still.
“Okay, Wilma. I’m sorry, but just one more question, please. Can you simply tell me if, by chance, Wilbur and Wilma Wertzel are from Walla-Walla?”
“Mr. Hill,” she exploded, “this is exactly one of the things that I called to complain about!”
“About having to live in Walla-Walla?” “NO,” she shouted! “We don’t live in Walla-Walla.”
“Well surely you’re not calling to complain to me about your husband, Wilbur. I don’t know him, although I’m sure he’s a nice guy.”
“He’s a wonderful man!” she screamed. “It’s you and your writing I can’t stand.”
“Me?” I questioned while stuffing tissue into my ears.
“Yes you. The way you take something that is serious and twist it all around and make fun of it. I actually find your writing amateurish, often juvenile, and occasionally silly bordering on slapstick journalism. And now I think you have crossed the line of decency with your Going Postal article so I had to call to put you in your place.”
I put a pillow over the phone and plodded on.
“Wilma, is the word slapstick all one word or is it two words with a hyphen in between?”
“Who cares?” she yelled as I looked for another pillow.
“Well, I’ve never heard that term before but I kinda like it so if I ever decide to use it I want to make sure I spell it correctly.”
“Mr. Hill, as I said, I called to tell you that I found your attack on the U.S. Postal Service and it’s dedicated, kind, and hardworking employees unfair, uncalled for and irresponsible.”
“Wilma,” I replied as I moved to the other side of the room hoping the buzzing noise in my ears would stop, “I don’t remember making fun of any of the Postal Service workers themselves. It’s the system that doesn’t work and never will as long as the government is running it. And I remain convinced that if the recommendations I made in thatarticle were followed, we could save the taxpayers of this country hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. However, you are entitled to your opinions and I’m actually glad you called. But now, could I just ask you a couple more questions?”
“Go ahead,” she answered as she let out a huge sigh.
“Who do you work for, Wilma?”
“The government,” she replied in a somewhat normal tone of voice allowing me to take the pillow off the phone.
“By any chance Wilma, is the governmental agency you work for the U.S. Postal Service?”
“Well, yes it is. I am the local postmaster,” she answered softly as I removed the tissue from my ears so I could hear her.
“Okay, and I believe you said earlier that your husband always brings USGlass magazine home on the day he receives it at the office and that he had just brought it home last night and that you had just finished reading my article before you called me to complain. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” came the meek response.
“And Wilma, today is December 12 and the article we are discussing actually appeared over two months ago. So I’d like you to be honest with me … do you know why you are just now receiving it.”
“Actually, I do,” murmured Wilma. “And the reason is …” I pushed on. “I guess it got lost in the mail,” she whispered so softly that I had to press the phone hard to my ear to hear what she was saying.
“Thank you, Wilma,” I began, “and please give my very best to Wilbur.”