The Post Office and the Pious Woman
Standing in line to get into the post office will someday be one of those archaic things our grandchildren will never understand. “You see, kids, back then people used to send you little containers made of paper that contained other, more important pieces of paper. Sometimes the most important things would be sent to you this way.”
I was standing in line at the post office one cold February morning waiting to pick up a box of another archaic form of data transfer called the check. “You see, sometimes you would pay for things by writing the amount down on a little strip of paper. You would write the number down in a little box. Then you would write it out longhand just to make sure that everybody was on the same page. And then you would sign it to say that you were good for it.” It’s amazing that some organizations still prefer these paper IOUs. Since they do, I had to go to the bank to order checks. “A bank was a kind of store where you went to access your money.”
I get up early now. Even on Saturday, I am up at 6 am. It is a tragic fact of having small children that you will never sleep in again. I ran a few other errands and pulled up to the post office around 8:45; it opened at 9. Having nothing to read, I decided to grab a newspaper and wait out front. ”Newspapers were these big bundles of paper that contained yesterday’s news, the opinions of other people, and grocery store flyers.”
I walked up to the great art deco façade of the Logan Square Post Office and propped myself against the wall by the front door. Two other citizens waiting to get there respective paper box and/or envelope filled with something important soon joined me. Both of the gentlemen I was waiting with looked as if they were there to pick up a check. “The best thing that ever came in the mail was a check; it meant somebody was trying to give you money.”
Both of those gentleman also looked like the PO Box inside that post office was their primary residence. Most of the people you meet waiting for the post office to open are there to pick up a check. I’m guessing these two gents were there to pick up a check from Uncle Sam. Good ol' Uncle Sam. “The government used to send these checks—yes, that's right, those little strips of paper—when you had lost your job. Yeah, the government actually tried to take care of you when you were down on your luck.” I had spent the last summer unemployed, and those checks kept me alive for four months. God bless the New Deal.
The time passed, me reading my newspaper and my two cohorts pacing about. As the minutes went on, more citizens joined our ranks. One gentleman walked up with his elderly mother, no doubt waiting for another kind of check from the government. “When you were old, the company you used to work for and the government chipped in together to help support you. Back then it was not everybody for themselves.”
As we inched ever closer to that glorious time when the doors would open, our numbers swelled to about a dozen anxious souls. Then the bus pulled up. The bus pulled up and then knelt down to let an older woman off. “A bus was a big people transporter subsidized by the government.” As the doors opened, we could hear what was coming.
“Lord Jesus. Oh the Lord Jesus has been good to me!” the pious woman shouted as she stepped off the bus. “On this day. On this glorious day the Lord Jesus has been good to me. Oh yes. Oh yes. His face has shined upon me today and nobody, no sinner can tell me otherwise. No no. You ain’t known the truth until you known the Lord Jesus. That’s right.” Someone else mumbled “that right.” She was a force. She blew into our silent and somber group like a force of nature.
“That’s right! You don’t know the truth until you know the Lord Jesus!” she went on, having a conversation with herself. “All of you people don’t know the Lord Jesus.” I wasn't sure if she could tell this by just the looks on our faces or if she had help from some divine guidance, but she knew. Oh boy, did she know.
“How many of you have accepted the Lord Jesus as your personal savior?” Wow, an actual question. Followed by silence. There may have been some people in the audience who had accepted Jesus as their personal savior, but nobody thought it worth engaging the pious woman at this point.
“None of you have accepted Jesus. You must to accept the Lord Jesus! And ain’t nobody going to cut in line in front of me. Lord no. Ain’t none of you accepted the Lord Jesus and ain't nobody going to cut in line.” This continued as she moved slowly up the stairs and toward the doors of the post office.
“I was standing out here yesterday!” she exclaimed as she grabbed the handles of the front doors.
I was still standing propped up just to the side of the front doors; I was obviously one of the first people in line. It was my two possibly transient friends and me at the front of the line. The two gentlemen let the pious lady pass.
Then it was just her and me. She was right in front of me. She started yanking on the door to see if it was open. “Ain’t nobody going to cut in front of me who don’t know the Lord Jesus,” she said to my face.
I cleared my throat. “Ma'am, if you would like to go into the post office first, then please go ahead.”
I wanted to add, “That would be the good Christian thing to do,” but I thought that might beleaguer the point.
The doors opened. And the pious woman went in first. Not through the eye of a needle, but through the doors of the Logan Square Post Office.
She ran up to one of the tellers. I went up to the package pickup window.
I received my box of slips of paper to transfer money. I’m not sure what she received. Probably just what she was looking for.
“Kids, back in the day, people used to yell and scream about God a lot. They were very sure.”
Copyright 2010, Geary Yonker
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