Well, I spent a large portion of my day proofreading, checking, and rechecking my short story The Inhibitor to mail it out. I went into Walmart and bought the appropriate labels to put through my printer for the appropriate sized envelope in order to look appropriately professional. I triple checked the editor’s name, made sure I spelled it correctly, printed on fresh paper with a fresh ink cartridge, and made sure I signed the cover letter as well as typing my name. I made sure the manuscript was paper clipped, not stapled, with the Self-addressed soon to be stamped return envelope folded perfectly in half and attached firmly in back. I slid this all carefully into the outer envelope, making sure I didn’t fold or wrinkle any corners, and cradled it like a human infant as I carried it to my vehicle. My lab coat surrounded it in the passenger seat to keep it from falling out, and I didn’t open my window all the way to be sure it didn’t fly around.
All of this I did because Editors read thousands upon thousands of words every day, and if you’re smart you do everything in your power to make it easy on them, to look professional, and to not piss them off.
I got to the Post Office and saw a sizable line to the front desk, so opted instead for the inviting automaton that stood with bright screen and outreached scale open for all to use. It did not respond to verbal commands no matter how sternly I reprimanded it, so I used the droid’s primitive touch screen. Checking the scale surface for any substance that might mar the pristine whiteness of my 9×12 envelope, I weighed my package and saw that it would cost 1.28 for postage. Yeehaw! If my story gets published, I stand to make somewhere around five dollars, so with shipping both ways I could net at least $2.44. That’ll buy me five egg rolls and enough self confidence to ask a girl out. Or at least five egg rolls. More than that, I’d be published. My life would take on meaning, and I would rise above the ranks of mere mortals.
It was all perfect. Except the kindly robot gave me not stamps but a scanny-label thingy, which I was pretty sure wouldn’t please an Editor to see on a self addressed envelope, or would even work correctly. So I stuck it on the external one and joined the ranks of the waiting zombies to talk to the magic postmen.
I was behind a middle aged man with a limited vocabulary who was accusing the postman of having his chickens. I was concerned for a moment, thinking it was some kind of livestock dispute that would end in a wrasslin’ match, but then the postman procured a box with holes in it that seemed to be chirping. With a tobacco-rotted smile, the man tore into the box and began doing what I can only assume was a thorough physical exam to each and every one of the dozens of chirping chicks. After a few minutes of this, the postman became irritated and told the man he would have to take them somewhere else so that other customers could get through. The man quickly acquiesced, jogging to a table in the back of the room with all the joy and fervor of a boy with a Christmas present.
It was my time to shine. I had taken the manuscript out with all the care of handling plutonium and separated the self-addressed envelope from the paper clip, in an attempt to make things easier. When I approached the counter, however, the postman grabbed the empty envelope and stuck it on his scale without allowing comment. I told him I needed postage for everything in my hands, including the manuscript and envelope, in order to put on the internal self-addressed envelope. He looked at me like I was an idiot. I pointed out that I had already paid for the postage of the package in general, and just needed the same amount in stamps for the return. He took all the papers, put it on his scale, pressed some buttons, then said, “I’ll just give you the same amount in stamps.” Good idea. He got the stamps, offered to affix them for me, and I allowed it. I took my papers and began to put them together so I could step outside, seal it, and drop it in the mailer. The postman, in an honest attempt at being helpful, said, “Here, i can just put it in and mail it for you.”
Here’s where my social idiocy kicked in. I reflexively avoid conflict in the smallest of forms. I can’t help it. I could have easily said, “No thanks,” and walked out the door, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I handed him the papers. He stuffed the manuscript in, then shoved the folded envelope in in front of it, unattached.
Editors like it attached. In the back. I opened my mouth to speak, but no sound came out, and the postman happily sealed it, with it sealing my doom.
Perhaps it won’t matter. Perhaps it will. Perhaps I’m obsessing a bit too much. Any way you view it, somewhere an editor will be annoyed, and thus I was screwed by the postman.