Thursday, March 25, 2010

149 days to Bar Mitzvah: wild stamp chase

One reason Sandra Bullock is Sandra Bullock and we are not is her commitment to honoring the most miniscule of details. While this is only a small factor in her great career success, it will prove to be invaluable as the Bar Mitzvah nears.

For the people that live with her, this particular personality trait can be a wonderful thing. I'll admit, for example, that after 17+ years I've grown fond of finding the covers turned down on the bed each night, though a chocolate on the pillow would also be a nice touch.

But there are time when my sense of wonder is more "huh?" than "wow." There are times when I am an sent on a detailed errand, only to find that the realities of the world won't support my wife's commitment to detail. News of this is usually received by my wife much in the same way as she receives a plea from the Jawa or I that yes, we looked all over, but we still can't find (our wallet, the keys, the Tylenol, etc.). That is to say she doesn't believe us.

I work on Sundays, which is an open secret at work. I'm not supposed to.

But I do, so I don't feel too bad when a Thursday includes some errands along with work. Today, the errand was easy: go to the post office and pick up 210 stamps for Bar Mitzvah invitations.

Did I mention that Sandra Bullock is detail-oriented? You can't put any old stamp on Bar Mitzvah invites. As cool as that Frank Sinatra stamp looked stuck to the wall at the post office, we had a specific stamp that needed to be bought.

As a sidelight, did you know you can make your own stamps? That's exactly what I thought we were doing. I thought the design team had found a way to create Godzilla stamps, and I was partially correct. The Godzilla stamps, while still in beta testing, will go on the invitations themselves. The stamps I was sent to get were for the RSVP cards.

"Get 210 Lunar New Year stamps," said my wife to me last night. "They've got to be the Lunar New Year stamps. If they don't have 210, get as many as they have."

I got right away that Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, happened a few weeks ago. That this might impact the availability of stamps commemorating the event didn't occur to me until much later, though.

So off I went to the Diamond Heights post office, to buy 210 Lunar New Year stamps, repeating over and over in my head "Lunar New Year stamps, Lunar New Year stamps," so I wouldn't forget.

I got to the front of the line and said, "I need 11 books of Lunar New Year stamps, or whatever you have."

"I don't think we have 11 books," said the unimpressed postal worker. "I'll check."

They had exactly 11 books, which made me glow with accomplishment until I got outside and realized that unlike normal stamps, Lunar New Year stamps come in sheets of 12. Instead of 210, I had 132. I was 78 short.

Meanwhile, there were other errands to run. We needed our oil changed. As I sat there at SpeeDee Lube, waiting for my five quarts of synthetic 5W-40, I stewed over the missing 78 stamps. I didn't want to have to call up Sandra Bullock and tell her I'd only found 62.9% of the stamps we needed.

So I decided, sitting there in the SpeeDee waiting room, that I would continue looking until I found the other 78 stamps, or until I had to go pick up the Jawa. Only my responsibilities to get the Jawa to his Rabbi class then to swim lessons, would supercede my responsiblities to the other 78 Lunar New Year stamps.

I used my Blackberry to find the nearest post office to SpeeDee Lube. It was in West Portal, only a few minutes away -- and as luck would have it, the neighborhood I'd be spotlighting in this week's Examiner real estate section.

I got there, parked at a meter -- risking another ticket -- and ran into the post office, where I was surprised to find that the entire building, customers included, had been preserved in amber since 1947; almost interesting enough to cushion my disappointment upon finding that they had no Lunar New Year stamps. Not one. "They've been discontinued," the postal clerk said without vocal inflection.

Discontinued. Of course. Chinese New Year was weeks ago. I'd been sent on a wild goose chase. It was amazing that I'd gotten 132 of these dated, yesterday's news stamps. Would Sandra Bullock accept that as an excuse? Not likely. So I drove to Noe Valley. Diamond Heights had a 132 sitting around. Surely Noe Valley had been allotted stacks of Lunar New Year stamps in anticipation of a major run, only to find that the locals prefer Earth Day stamps, which demonstrate the kind of commitment to the environment that goes over big in Noe Valley.

Again, I parked at a meter without putting in any change. I got out, sprinted to the post office and stood in line.

"I need seven sheets of Lunar New Year stamps?"

"They're all gone. They've been discontinued."

I returned home several hours later reeking of failure. I would own up and admit that I'd fallen a third short of my goal. Given only a few Bar Mitzvah responsibilities, I'd fumbled even those. Forget that I mananaged to find not only the modeling clay and white spray paint but also the moose the Jawa needed for his Boreal forest diorama. Forget that I'd gotten from Temple Emanu-El to Pacifica in 23 minutes during rush hour. I was 37.1% less useful and reliable than I needed to be.

"I only got 132 stamps," I texted to Sandra Bullock on the way home, thanking the engineers who work tirelessly to provide me with the technology I need to avoid direct conflict.

When we got home, though, she was blase about the whole thing. Sort of. "Oh, that's okay," she said, right before settling onto the couch and firing up her laptop for another three hours of Genentech work. "Maybe you can try downtown tomorrow?"

"Laura (from work) says that the Rincon post office has tons of stamps." So if you're looking for me tomorrow at, say, two in the afternoon, you won't find me at the office of the San Francisco Examiner. I'll be out in the street, dodging random protesters and ill-advisedly crossing pickets lines, whatever it takes for a chance at redemption. If I can return home with 78 more Lunar New Year stamps, I will be a hero in the eyes of my wife and son. Or at least not a failure.

Either that or I'll just pick up 78 Frank Sinatra stamps. I mean, who's really paying close enough attention to notice the difference?

1 comment:

Butter Goats said...

So naive. I always notice the stamps. Much like I notice gold rivets on red shoes.