Archive for the Capitol Hill Category

Postal History Part I

Posted in Autobiographical, Capitol Hill, Senator Ted Kennedy on August 31, 2009 by smpiv
  • syn·chro·nic·i·ty
  • Pronunciation: \ˌsiŋ-krə-ˈni-sə-tē, ˌsin-\
  • Function: noun
  • Inflected Form(s): plural syn·chro·nic·i·ties
  • Date: circa 1889

1 : the quality or fact of being synchronous
2 : the coincidental occurrence of events and especially psychic events (as similar thoughts in widely separated persons or a mental image of an unexpected event before it happens) that seem related but are not explained by conventional mechanisms of causality —used especially in the psychology of C. G. Jung

I love words like this, possibly because of my experience with the Jungian aspect of the psychic aspect of this definition. And, as trite as it may seem, one of my favorite Police albums (I did say album).

The following story, however, has more to do with coincidental occurrences that are more like parallel lines that veer ever so slightly from the infinite point and bump into each other for the briefest of moments to form their own singularity.

I’ll start with myself–

idfixedFor my part I am working on Capitol Hill in the stamp window just off the crypt in the Capitol just in back of the souvenir stand. Both of these locations were demolished to make way for the new Visitors Center.

It’s a position I held for a year-and-a-half while I went to the Corcoran School of Art. It was a patronage position that I backed into several years before and the job I had just before going to Richmond.

It wasn’t a particularly taxing job, in fact, it was downright easy. The hardest part for me was keeping my drawer balanced. I didn’t borrow from my drawer like a number of my associates, but I insisted on doing the math in my head. This was long before the advent of the computer screen you see in post offices now and I’m not sure if we even had a calculator. So I had a tendency to come up short every night.

Other than that our days consisted of selling stamps to tourists, money orders, and answering questions that had nothing to do with the mail. Our most consistent customers were the reporters who covered the Hill. One who had an amazing stammer until he went on camera and another who could barely see over our counter she was so short.

There were two of us to man a position that could easily be handled by one person. So I would come in at 8, then Danny would come in at 9; at 11 I went to lunch, came back at 1 and Danny would leave for his lunch and come back at 3. At 4 I went home, Danny at 5. It was a comfortable schedule to say the least, but the nature of patronage positions.

Our second actor in this cosmic dance is a family from anywhere USA.

They are excited to be in DC and probably for the first time. Awkwardly dressed in clothes that don’t quite go together, topped with the ignominious DC sweatshirt bought from a street vendor, and usually some other bit of garb that sports the logo of the last vacation they went on. Nine times out of ten, Disneyworld.

They are squat and unassuming and their eyes dart about like nervous birds. They are trying to take it all in, trying not to miss a thing. For them this is a pilgrimage that may never be repeated. They know their friends will ask them a hundred questions and they are trying to be ready for them all.duane_hanson_tourists_2[1]

Dad is the bow as he breaks through the crowds, while Mom clucks over the kids to behave and stay close. It’s a brother and sister this time. They are quite reserved, their eyes wide at the wonder of it all and a bit unnerved that their usually very solid and confident father is a bit at sea in this new world.

Our final participant is a Senator who is very well known and unmistakable.

His white main and sturdy frame he carries with a confidence and finesse that belies his position. On this day he is far off his usual route and he is flying solo.

So to review, my position is basically static. I am standing behind my counter, can’t remember if Danny was there or not. Our second actor has either just arrived at the Capitol or perhaps has taken the tour and is ready to send off their postcards to awaiting family and friends. And, finally, the Senator.

Has he voted? Meeting constituents? Don’t know, but he is now standing behind another regular of mine. A little, waifish, bird-like old lady (in fact her name was Miss Sparrow) who came intermittently on day passes from St. E’s looking to sell something for a dollar. It was usually ivy she had ripped out of the ground outside the door. She never looked up, mumbled incoherently and would hand me a note with the price of what she had to offer that day.

Like I said, it was always a dollar, and it was usually ivy. Until this day I had never bought any of her wares. On this day I opened the note to find the recipe for toast–this I bought.

Clutching her dollar and a handful of ivy she mumbled her way past the Senator. Then our second group had just arrived behind the Senator.

“Good afternoon Senator. How can I help you today?”

In his very patrician, Boston accent he asked for a book of stamps. That was it. He paid, turned and left.

As he moved past our family, their eyes darting everywhere, their heads on a swivel, they fanned out in front of my counter. Dad looked at me intently and asked in an undistinguished accent, “Do you ever sell stamps to anyone famous?”

“Well I just sold a book of stamps to Senator Kennedy. He was just in front of you in line.”

ted-kennedyHe blinked a couple of times, his family looked at him intently, and he said, “No, that wasn’t Senator Kennedy. I know what Senator Kennedy looks like and that wasn’t him.” They all shook their heads in unison as if to say, Dad knows his Kennedys and that wasn’t one of them.

I could do nothing with that, so I nodded politely and asked them what else I could do for them. Stamps for postcards they said, my usual fare. They paid and left.

There is nothing extraordinary about this event. I have no idea who the tourists were or what Senator Kennedy did with his stamps. Yet for the briefest of moments, two minor parallel lives and one major one stopped looking off into infinity to form a semi-comic singularity. A minor synchronous event that only now how has body, with no causality, but to be reported.

Rest in peace Senator.