Friday, 29 December 2017
I went to the post office today – twice. The first time I entered the almost empty room, it was hot and there were six people in the line, standing like fish on dry ground, gasping for air. I joined the queue and told myself that being patient would be worth it in the end. I was there to collect a parcel and excited about it.
There were two people behind the counter, behind the glass pane, serving the public. I waited ten minutes and was intrigued. The scene before me looked frozen. I wasn’t sure if the people on either side of the counter had moved at all in the ten minutes that I had been standing in the queue. Then, the woman in front of me turned and said, “I’m coming back.” It was as if I was responding to an invitation. I turned and followed her out the door. Yes, she wanted me to know that she would be resuming her space in the queue upon her return. Sadly, I wasn’t prepared to wait for her. The heat was unbearable and, today, I wasn’t prepared to melt in a vacuum of inactivity.
How can people be so callous, I wondered? I was reflecting on those behind the counter who work at the post office. The general public were left to fend for themselves. There were no chairs and water, the heat was stifling, and three of the six people in the queue were old.
I went home and, an hour later, returned to the post office. As I entered, I was relieved to see that there were only two people in the queue. I recognized them immediately. The last person in the queue was the woman who had excused herself an hour ago from the line. I rejoined the line and waited. I watched the people behind the counter, behind the glass pane, and thought about the heat. I imagined that I, too, would work as slow as a sloth if I were them.
Nearly half and hour later, it was my turn to walk to the counter. I greeted the man and handed him my collection slip. Everything before me happened as if in slow motion. Was he even breathing? When he finally turned to go and fetch the parcel, I became aware of the cool air that escaped through the hole in the glass pane. I put my hand through the hole and realised that the people behind the counter were working in air-conditioned circumstances. I was so surprised, but it made sense. They shouldn’t work faster. They should work at the slowest pace of all. After all, not one of them is there because they want to be there. They’re not there to serve customers. They’re serving a life sentence.
I spend so much time telling the students in my class to choose subjects and a career that they’re passionate about. The years they spend at school are nothing compared to the time they spend earning a living. Assuming the average age to attend school is 5 to 18, I’d say that’s a mere drop in the bucket of life. Working from 20 to 65 (the general age of retirement) is where our passion is required to perform. Sadly, there are too many opinionated parents who force their children in directions the children don’t want to follow. Blessed are they who have the opportunity to follow their dreams.
As for those who end up behind a counter, if you don’t like what you’re doing and you cannot serve others with passion, find yourself a new direction. It’s never too late to start living.