one of my favorite al lewis memories was a story he told me about going on an indian reservation as a kid…
…i won’t bother repeating the whole thing right now, but it included the musings of a literal tribal elder basically telling the young al that in their culture, to become a man, you had to actually accomplish some shit (go on a hunt, take a wife, etc) to become a man where as in OUR culture (white folks) you just had to “not die for a certain number of years” and BOOM you’re a man.
sometimes i’m shocked at those that have accomplished the feat for as long as they have. this is the story of one of those folks.
before we go further i’ll throw down a vocabulary term from this i was unaware of: “precanceled stamps” are postage stamps bought at a lower denomination for mailing in bulk for things like ads, marketing, and charity shit (in this case the last one).
so i had to go the post office to ship out some jordans i sold on eBay. because they were worth a few hundred i didn’t wanna just toss em in the bin, so i waited to hand them to a clerk and get a receipt. i had three people in line ahead of me. the first didn’t have shit ready, and kept laughing every time the clerk would point out things they forgot to fill out, which dragged on a bit.
the next was (what looked like) a kindly older couple. he stepped up to the counter and said, “i ordered a roll of precanceled stamps for the mcmahan fire department”. the clerk replied, “precanceled stamps? we don’t carry those”, and he fired back, “I KNOW! that’s why i ordered them a week ago!”
so the one clerk (who wasn’t one of the counter regulars) asked the other (who was) if she knew anything about the stamps and she didn’t. then then did the token glance under the counter, came up with nothing, and asked him who he spoke to. when he didn’t know, they asked him if he had spoke to a man or a woman, he said he still didn’t know – but he did know that they were ordered and were supposed to be there.
they had nothing. this didn’t work for him.
seeing quite a line building up behind him (and me at the front of it, and they like me there) she asked him to step to the side and she would get a supervisor to chat with him…in about ten to fifteen minutes…when they were out of a meeting we had all just seen the postmaster walk in to.
again, that didn’t work for him.
“I’M A CUSTOMER”, he screamed, “i think he should come talk to me RIGHT NOW! i am more important than anything they’re talking about in that meeting…i’m a CUSTOMER!”
she started to repeat what she said when his wife cut in as she gently placed her hand on his shoulder, “dear, there’s a door to where they are right there“, she said, nodding towards the lobby entrance to the office, “just knock and tell him what’s going on”.
and knock he did. but not a “gentle rapping at the chamber door” knock. this was a cop knock. the kind that gets a gun barrel in your face at certain houses (including mine) kinda knock.
and the office didn’t respond. i envisioned them all glancing at the door as it happened, mumbling to themselves, “fucking teenagers”, and moving on.
“hit it again”, the wife said, and he did, this time with the postmaster coming to the door.
he immediately started in, “i ordered some precanceled…” and was cut off, “sir, i’m in a meeting, i’ll be out with you in a few minutes…”
“NO”, the old man yelled, “you’ll deal with me RIGHT NOW”, and as the postmaster was trying to gently shut the door he wedges his velcro strapped in foot in the way.
this is when i left as i’d gotten my receipt in the middle of this melee and saw no reason to see any more of his tantrum. but it did make me wonder – if this is how he reacts to something as benign and postal stamps, how has he survived this long? he wasn’t tall or big – kicking his ass at pretty much any point in his life (assuming he hasn’t dramatically shrunk over the years) doesn’t look like it was that big a chore. how has he made it this far?
maybe he just saved up all his ire for his later years?