give & receive

I can’t remember the last time I went into the post office in this country. Was this my first time then? Possibly. But I have sent letters before without the need to go into one. I would buy stamps at a stationery shop and push the envelopes into a red post box, hoping they would arrive at their respective destinations.

I was here not to send a post. As a 22-year-old, I am now eligible to vote for the next election, and so I needed to register my name. The procedure should be easy enough. All I needed to do was take a ticket, wait for my turn, and go to the counter to give my ID card.

Now, where is the ticket machine? It should be on my left as I walk in, according to my brother who had registered the day before. There was a group of people standing on the left. On the right side of the office were rows of red chairs that were mostly occupied. It is always as busy as this, they say.

It turned out that the 2-foot ticket machine was behind that group of people. I was only made aware of it when a stranger in a blue shirt pointed towards it after surmising that I was searching for it. He might have probably thought I wasn’t from that area not to know where the machine was!

Press A for posts, parcel, and post-related inquiries.

Press B for bill payment and other services.

The unique thing about the post office here is that it is not just a post office. It also acts as an office for paying bills, renewing driving licenses, registering as a voter, and probably a few other things I am not aware of. I personally find it weird, but I guess it is somewhat convenient if you don’t consider the waiting time.

My ticket number was 1238. The calling number was 1191. Great. I must wait.

I settled myself on a seat in the last row. I had expected this so I was glad I brought along Northanger Abbey.

I was engrossed in reading within the first 15 minutes when a man called to my attention. I was at that moment between dreaming and awake that it took a few blinks to realise what was happening. That same man in the blue shirt murmured something whilst handing out his ticket to me. I then made sense of the situation. He wanted me to have his ticket, which was numbered 1218. I asked him whether he was certain about this and he said yes. I said thank you and he left the post office.

Lord only knew how happy I felt! It was like receiving a gift that I had not expected. I looked at the number on the ticket again. And I looked up to see the current calling number. 18 more. Better than 38. Bless that kind man.

But now I have a dilemma. What do I do with my original ticket? Do I keep it? Do I throw it away? Do I give it to another person?

It’s one thing to receive but it’s another to give. I couldn’t focus on Catherine Morland and her desperation of finding a dancing partner. I was desperate to give away my ticket!

I pretended to continue reading but all the while I was strategising. I thought that perhaps I should wait for a new customer to come in and press the ticket machine and I shall see which button they chose. If it were B, I would not hesitate to approach.

That seemed like a good plan. A tall man came in and went to the ticket machine. His figure blocked my view and I couldn’t tell which one he chose. He then held up the ticket to his face rather too quickly and didn’t put his hand back down. Darn it.

The next person was shorter and he didn’t block the machine from my view so I could perfectly see that he pressed B. I could also see the first to digits on the ticket he held less discreetly. He looked at his number and he looked up at the calling number. He did that a couple more times just like the tall man previously did. Both showed a face of irritation or dissatisfaction.

When the short man walked a little closer to where I was sitting, I eagerly said, in my mother tongue, “Excuse me, sir, would you like my ticket?” I then explained what had happened and that he could have my original ticket. He nodded with a smile and took the ticket. He seemed pleased.

I proceeded with pretending to read until the number 1218 was called. The whole wait took about half an hour, which was better than the usual one-hour wait, minimum.

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