The post office isn’t my favorite place in the world, but since one can’t always stay away from what one can’t stand, I found myself once again at the site of occasional meltdowns, the Quezon City central post office. I needed to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope in what I was going to mail, and since I was sending to a foreign address, this meant purchasing an international reply coupon (IRC), available only at select branches (the bigger ones). After being given the staple runaround, I was told to go to the admin office, tucked away in the far end of the second floor of the building. The trek to admin had me walk through the innards of our beloved city’s postal system, a warehouse filled with rows and rows of tables with built-in cubbyholes and populated by men in various states of undress and various degrees of somnolence—there were topless men, men in sandos, men in shorts, men staring at their desks, sleepy men, snoozing men, men sleeping the sleep of the just, men rubbing sleep from their eyes. A few were chillaxing with other men, a few smoking. I think I saw a few men here and there actually sorting the mail. I think I saw one woman. There was some action in one corner, some laughing and hooting, where over a dozen men were playing darts.

I have received Christmas cards in June, parcel notices months too late, letters that have obviously been opened and haphazardly re-sealed. Sometimes I do not receive my mail at all. There is no point in complaining when such things happen. Just lose the faith and give it up. Pay (a huge amount of) extra for private couriers to get your goods delivered.

In any case, I finally made my way to the admin office where the woman in charge, upon hearing my request to purchase an IRC, said: “Ano yun?” I explained to her five times over what exactly I needed, my positive outlook in life slowly being eroded in the process. Fortunately, she wasn’t the belligerent kind (another post office staple), and after making sure that she (and the three other people in admin) had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, she proceeded to make a few calls. While waiting, I just had to ask one of the other admin people kung mga kartero nga ba yung mga lalake sa labas. “Oo, sila yun,” he said. Eventually, one of the calls yielded information—I should go to the cashier’s office next door. I went, picked up my IRC, headed downstairs to have it postmarked, and endured one final dose of belligerence from a postal employee who didn’t know what it meant to postmark an IRC and faulted me (who else?) for it.

And so I made it out of the hellhole sans meltdown. I even have a lousy scrap of paper a.k.a. the post office’s idea of a receipt to prove it. Total time spent at the post office: 1 hour, 15 minutes.