January 5, 2006

A government agent interrogates me about politics.

At the post office:
Post office guy: Do you want flags or love birds?

Me: I feel like this is a political test.... I'll take two sheets of each.

New stamps.

I use my credit card and, to sign the receipt, I grab the pen-on-a-chain that isn't underneath my bag. It's at the left side of the counter and has a sign that reads "For southpaws only." I use my right hand.
Post office guy: That's for southpaws only.

Me: Yeah, I saw that. Now, I'll have to become left-handed. Government orders.
Yeah, well, obviously, I need some coffee. I set up my stack of bluebooks at Starbucks.


I do the NYT crossword and read half of a law review article. The music is piercing, squealy singing about passionate love. I'm sitting by the window. This is the view:



Dave said...

Wow. I don't think I use that many stamps in a year.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Your photo of the "view" cracked me up. That is definitely not the most picturesque view from a cafe in Madison.

Ann Althouse said...

Don't you think the snow is pretty?

Ron said...

Yikes, whoever talked about the 'romance of the road' hadn't seen that road!

Dan from Madison said...

Good 'ol university ave., as picturesque as always no matter the season!

Palladian said...

Isn't it weird how buying stamps is sort of a weird political thing? I live in an area that is a fairly even mix of post-college liberal hipsters, hispanics and orthodox Jews (a quintessentially American place, don't you think?) and I've had lots of similar exchanges at the post office here. I remember wanting to buy Ronald Reagan stamps, half because I think he was an interesting and important figure, half because I wanted to shock and horrify people on my mailing list as I did when I excitedly bought a sheet of Nixon stamps in the 90s. The postal clerk said "we don't have any Reagan stamps" loudly through the speaker causing the hipsters in line to glare at me (we have a bullet-proof screen between the clerks and the customers here in New York, hence the speaker; I once impertinently asked if the screen was to protect them from our bullets or us from their bullets).

When I went to buy the Buckminster Fuller stamps, the clerk first acted like she never heard of them, then when shown the poster of the stamp in the lobby, told me they were sold out and asked if Bucky was a cartoon charater (you have to see the stamp to understand why) and if I had heard of the upcoming Muppet stamps.

When I asked for the bat stamps: "Eww, ugly. We don't have those"

When I asked for the Garbo stamp: complete bewilderment. "We don't have!" said with as much panic and hesitation as if I had asked for a Richard Speck stamp.

This Christmas I thought I would be cute and ask for the Lorenzo Monaco stamp (which was the artist who painted the Madonna and Child panel painting on the Christmas stamp from the post office website). No response, so I asked for the Madonna and Child stamp. Bewilderment from the Asian clerk. I remembered that the USPS website called it the "holiday traditional" stamp so I asked for that and she responded "Oh, the Jesus stamp! We don't carry those anymore!" I looked at the tv hanging in the lobby and expected to see that Gibson guy from Fox news smirking down at me knowingly, but it was tuned to Oprah.

As an aside: Is Yip Harburg the first socialist to appear on an American stamp?

Mike said...

Ah yes, the view from Starbucks of the local coffee house (Victor's) that Starbucks put out of business.

vbspurs said...

Your photo of the "view" cracked me up. That is definitely not the most picturesque view from a cafe in Madison.

Gee, I liked it.

Maybe it's me though, as I have a definite love of quirky camera angles, which adds spice to a shot.

Wish You Were Here

Scroll to the "South Beach" bus shot.

Would've been quite prosaic, had it been right-up.


vbspurs said...

Post office guy: That's for southpaws only.

What an officious little guy.

He's either quizzing people about their likes, or barking orders at them.

Well, a bit of an exaggeration, but bureaucrats should be like Victorian children:

Seen, but not heard.

P.S.: I had a very different experience at the Post Office recently.

I went up to the counter at the height of Christmas, posted my packages, and when I was asked if I wanted stamps, I said,

"OH! Do you have any Reagans left?"

"Why would you want that?"

(slightly taken-aback)

"Erm, because he's my hero?"

The person didn't return my Merry Christmas wish, when I left.



Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

"Those are for southpaws only" -- now do you see what I mean about rulebound Wisconsinites?

Palladian: Hilarious. It reminds me of the scene in the Woody Allen movie (was it "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex"?) where he's trying to buy a girlie magazine surreptitiously and the cashier calls out loudly for a price check.

Joan said...

What a perfect slice-of-life post: "Afternoon with Althouse"

I for one especially appreciate the photo of the view. If I look out the window immediately to my right, I see our orange tree about to keel over from all the fruit on it -- I really should get out from behind this keyboard and harvest, but I'm just not in the mood. It's too hot out!

John Althouse Cohen said...

Ah yes, the view from Starbucks of the local coffee house (Victor's) that Starbucks put out of business.

But isn't the Steep & Brew on University Ave. still around? That's right next to that Starbucks, closer than Victor Allen's. I once heard an employee at that Starbucks encourage a customer who wanted flavored coffee to go to Steep & Brew (while sells flavored coffee, unlike Starbucks). So I'm not so sure that Starbucks has this evil plot to go around putting local cafes out of business. Or, if they do, they don't seem to be doing a very good job of it. See also Espresso Royale on State St., right across the street from a Starbucks; Ancora Coffee Roasters on King St., a block away from a Starbucks. Those cafes seem to have been doing just fine for years.

Mike said...

Not evil. Just sad. It's where I always went.

Victor's was on the wrong side of the street. A coffee shop wants to be on the in-bound lane, not the out-bound lane. Victor's on Monroe St. seems to be doing fine.

chuck b. said...

The guy at my post office always charges me in cents. "Your total is five-hundred sixty-seven cents, please." I say, "Do you take bills?" He says yes; we have this whole thing.

(I've got Muppet stamps right now...I'd be happy to have all Miss Piggy stamps.)

Pastor_Jeff said...

Palladian: LOL! And wow - that Bucky stamp is really ugly. He looks like the old version of Brainiac from the Legion of Doom. Now if they had Bucky the Badger stamps...

AllenS said...

In the second picture, I noticed that the handle on the coffee cup is placed in a position for a southpaw. They got to you, didn't they?

reader_iam said...

For some reason--I kid you not!--the bird stamps made me think of ancient Eygptian tomb paintings.

Conjoined twins, or ... ???

AJD said...

Just wondering, Ann:

Are you a "line pioneer" in Starbucks, too -- or do you wait your turn like the rest of us?

Ann Althouse said...

R: ""Those are for southpaws only" -- now do you see what I mean about rulebound Wisconsinites?"

No, that really is the local sense of humor. It's just not terribly funny.

Ann Althouse said...

Allen S: Very observant!

Iam: LOL.

Anti-Sheck: You realize you have no sense of humor, don't you? Or no... I guess you would naturally also lack the sense of whether you have a sense of humor. I do hope you manage to find some way to enjoy life. Maybe substance abuse? I don't know. I can't think of another solution for you.

Chris O'Brien said...

Who the hell reads law review articles?

Ann Althouse said...

Chris: Well, truth be told, it was one of my own articles. I was preparing for a talk I need to give. I found my own article quite scintillating!

Palladian said...

RLC: I thought of that too! I think you're right that it's from "Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex...".

Pastor Jeff: Strangely enough, that image of Bucky wasn't created for the stamp, but comes from a Time Magazine cover from 1964. I love it, it's much more interesting than a lot of the "People" stamps, though the engraving style of the Garbo stamp is nice, and I like these Lewis and Clark stamps (since I love the look of old stamps).

Upon rereading my earlier post, I realize that it seems like my post office never has any stamps. Well, that's an accurate characterization! Unless you want the flag stamps or other standard pedestrian stamps, you're out of luck! I have to go to Grand Central to get any "fancy" stamps! I don't even know why I buy all these stamps, since I hardly ever send out letters!

Major Steel said...

I honestly can't remember the last time I used a stamp. Sort of sad, actually.

I ordered a bunch of custom stamps as gifts for family from photostamps.com. I had them made with various photos of my toddler son, but I thought about getting some with my photo before I lost weight and some with a recent photo and asking relatives to vote for either "Fat Jim" or "Skinny Jim" as the official "Jim Stamp" of 2006.

You should check out the custom postage route. You'll never have to deal with surly post office worker on the matter again.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

JA Cohen: I was trying to figure out where the author was taking that photo. Thanks for the grid coordinates. Who knew there were so many coffee houses in Madison these days? It was just Victor's and Steep 'n Brew back in my day.

Professor A: were you seething "Newman!" when you left the post office?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Palladian - I'm with you on the Reagan, Garbo and Lewis and Clark stamps (all attractive), but we'll have to disagree on Bucky's chrome dome. It gives me the creeps.

I think it's because it reminds me of the baby doll head with spider legs in "Toy Story" - I can just see it sprouting legs and starting a reign of terror.

It's looking right at me! Make it stop!!

Brendan said...

I went right past that site last Thurs morning when I had to catch a 6AM flight at Dane Co airport (nice renovations there, btw). Those shrubs along Univ Ave were all lit up with diff-colored Xmas lights.