The post office at the university where I work is small and ad hoc, and for this I like it. I lament the morphing of Post Offices into Post Shops. In the latter you can buy novelty plaques, figurines and fold-up picnic tables, the kind of cheap ugly gifts that no one would ever treasure, and which surely break the first time they came in handy.
One of the things I particularly like about this post office is that is still dispenses stamps for packages, rather than the dull labels spat out by the printer at most post offices. While these have the advantage of showing where your package was posted from, there is something exciting about receiving a nicely stamped package.
So I was at the counter of this little post office, adhering the family of stamps onto my package to make up the postage, when a woman appeared next to me and asked the girl behind the counter for a book of 10 stamps.
“Is there a choice?” she added.
“No, we just have the one.”
“Oh, what horrible thing is on them this time?”
The girl paused and looked down at the booklet of stamps in her hands. “Dogs.”
This is the point at which I should stay silent but can’t help myself butting in with some comment. I used to be a very shy person but I have become someone who will talk to strangers as if it is the most normal thing in the world. And isn’t it?
“Dogs don’t seem too bad,” I said.
“Well often the stamp is completely inappropriate, you’re sending a Sympathy card and the stamp is Luna Park!” The lady said to both me and the post girl. “I wish they’d just have… you know… suitable ones.”
“Most people can tolerate a dog I think,” I said.
“Yes, With Sympathy for your dog!” she replied, that is, the situation in which the dog would be inappropriate. It makes me wonder: how many With Sympathy cards is this woman sending?
On my way home I got to thinking about stamps and in particular, the kind of iconic stamps that trigger my memory. Particular series from the 80s will make me remember the letters my father received at his post office box, and then stacked on the copper coffee table beside his pipe and pile of business magazines.
These days there is no iconic stamp I can think of, the designs changing every few weeks. And now I find out from my postman boyfriend that they’re going up to 60c soon, or even now! The dogs might be the inaugural 60c ones.
I have a dislike of the ones with people’s heads on them, notable Australians or Australian authors. I fancy the more scientific type. Lately I have been given Gallipoli stamps every time I buy them, which I especially dislike. Give me dogs! I’d be happy with them!
Some stamps were seemingly endlessly on sale, such as the 45c Australian flora and fauna series. Perhaps these were the suitable type the woman meant? These stamps are very familiar to me as they were around at a time when I was receiving a lot of mail, during the first half of my zine making years.
So I spent a while going through my huge suitcase of old letters. I have kept about three quarters of the zine letters I have ever received, I think (discarding the short notes about trades and asking for copies of my zine etc.). While I was looking through for stamp examples, I was able to revisit some of my favourite letters. I found I had a good memory for them, for instant when I read this:
receiving it was as clear in my mind as yesterday.