| Second Thoughts |

Return to Sender

I stood there frozen in place, frustrated and indignant. What pathetic mindset would choose this venue as a postal branch?



Let’s set aside the tensions and anxieties of these days, and for a moment turn to something more amusing: the Israeli Postal Service. It is no secret that this Service has never been anything to write home about. In fact, if you ever wanted to write home, they were not the wisest choice. Efficiency, speed, and customer service were never among their greatest strengths — qualities they share with similar services around the world, where “postal” and service” are huge exaggerations.

In recent years our Postal Service has been downsizing itself — if one can further downsize that which is already downsized in quality. Residential mail deliveries have been reduced to once weekly; branch post- offices have been closed, street mail boxes have largely been eliminated. The Service has made some efforts to serve a dwindling clientele by assigning limited duties to neighborhood shops where one can mail letters, pick up special deliveries, or purchase stamps.

Last week a notice in my mailbox informed me that I should pick up a registered letter at the “Basic Needs Shop at 85 Emek Street*. When I got to Emek Street, surprise! The street was lined with apartment buildings, but no sign of any stores. But there, hanging askew on the side of the front porch of number 85 was a dilapidated, handwritten sign: “Basic Needs Shop.”

I had arrived. Only one detail was missing: where was the shop? Certain that it must be at the side of the building, I inspected the entire area, but found only discarded cartons, a bent, rusting tricycle, a broken dollhouse — but no shops, not even a door.

Back on the street, I asked a passerby. “Oh yes, Basic Needs Shop. It’s all the way in the back. Go behind the building and turn left. You can’t miss it.” Back to the side of the building, down a pathway of broken concrete, past the boxes and tricycle and dollhouse and rotting wooden boards and abandoned toasters, I arrive at the back of the building. Nothing there but a muddy, grassless yard and a ramshackle tool shed with a caved-in roof. But I espy a door at the far end, more a lean-to than an actual door. On the door is a copy of the sign on the street: “Basic Needs Shop.” Excited, I clamber up the wooden steps and try the door. Locked. I try knocking. No answer. I knock again, this time more forcefully. Silence. I stare at the door in despair, and notice another small sign. Taped to the door, it informs one and all that this is an Official Postal Service Branch, and lists the opening and closing times for different days of the week. I was struck by the magnanimous Tuesday hours: 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. — a full two hours. I glanced at my watch. Twelve noon and yes, it was a Tuesday.

I stood there frozen in place, frustrated and indignant. What pathetic mindset would choose this venue as a postal branch? Is this the same bureaucratic intelligence that makes other governmental decisions? May G-d spare us if this is the kind of mentality that guides our current war effort! Did whoever made this decision ever visit this “branch office”? No wonder the Postal Service keeps losing money. Or is the Postal Service sending a message: don’t bother me with your annoying mail; don’t you have anything better to do than send letters?

But then the absurdity of it all struck me, and my resentment melted into amusement. For here I stood, within walking distance of the magnificent skyscrapers of downtown Jerusalem, at a time when sophisticated electronics scan the earth in milliseconds, when AI can drive your car for you and smartphones can answer all your questions, where electronic wizardry guides your driving to the most obscure destinations — here am I in a time warp, a throwback to an earlier century in a Fifth World country, to my grandmother’s little Polish village where the post office is concealed from public view and is only open a few hours per day.

My reverie faded away. The sky was azure, a tiny bird was chirping away, all was still. It occurred to me that anyone who is weary of this frenzied, raucous life and yearns for a more laid back, easygoing existence should call me. I know a spot in the middle of bustling Jerusalem which offers an oasis of quiet, calm and devil-may-care insouciance, where there are no smartphones or computers, no competitors, no deadlines, no quotas, no pressures or stress or anxieties, and where you are instantly transported to a serene and tranquil world. If interested, for a small contribution to tzedakah I will reveal the secret address.

I returned home without my registered letter and glanced again at the Post Office notice. It was from the Department of Transportation, probably a parking ticket. Well, I tried; now it’s their turn to find me. I can be found at 85 Emek, behind the huge building, down the broken walkway, past the decaying detritus, across the muddy yard, at the very last door near the broken tool shed.

Best to come on Tuesdays at noon. I should be easy to recognize: I’ll be the one knocking on the door.

*Names and addresses have been changed


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 996)

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