All I needed was a stamp.

I don't make use of the United States Postal Service very often. My relationship with them generally consists of them sending me firm offers of credit lines, convenience checks, and twelve cubic yards of junk mail every quarter. (Of course, I called the credit card place to stop the offers and convenience checks long ago.)

Before today, I just thought it was because email was faster and easier. I was more right than I could have imagined.

So the time came for me to send something through the post. Simple enough, right? I go down to the drugstore, find what I want to send, address it and mail it.

Not so fast. You need to pay forty-one cents to the US government. That card isn't gonna find its way to its addressee for free. Fine. Sell me a stamp.

CVS was my first stop to acquire a stamp:

-Hi. Do you sell stamps here?
-No, but you could try the 7-11 across the street.
-Okay, thanks.

Next stop, 7-11:

-Can I buy a stamp from you?
-No, we only have that vending machine over there.

The vending machine is the variety that only takes quarters shoved in simultaneously. It says: STAMP 75 cents. Forget that.

Next unfortunate stop: Wal-Mart:

-Hi, do you sell stamps here?
-I believe you can get them from Customer Service.

So I go over to Customer Service.

-Can I buy a stamp from you?
-Oh, there's a vending machine for stamps around the corner.
-Okay, thanks.

The vending machine has three active items you can choose from. 100 stamps for $41.00, twenty stamps for however much 41 times 20 is, and a 5 pack of post card stamps.

“Well”, I thought to myself, “I suppose I could throw two postcard stamps on the envelope and send it that way. I've seen jankier things sent through the mail.” A buck forty later, I realize that this is actually five post cards shrinkwrapped together with postage printed on it. Not stamps.

Where else could possibly sell stamps by the single? The post office, sure. But the nearest postal location is evidently a distribution center only. It has no customer vending machines, no clerks, no customer PO boxes. All it's got on the outside is a drop box.

I'll try the next-closest grocery store:

-Hi, can I buy a stamp from you?
-Sorry, I only have books of twenty.
-Where's a guy supposed to buy a single stamp around here with no serviceable post office?
-Sorry, sir, we only have books of twenty stamps for our customers.
-Well, do you know of any place nearby that sells them?
-You might try Walgreen's across the street, or 7-11.
-7-11 wants 75 cents for their stamps. I ain't paying that.
-Sorry. I don't know if Walgreen's sells them in singles or in books.
-I'll check it out. Thanks for your help.

The Walgreen's across the street:

-Can I buy a single stamp from you?
-I've only got books of twenty.
-Great. Then can I borrow your phone book?

He lends me the directory, and I attempt to look up a post office location.

POST OFFICE. There's actually no listing for Post Office.

US POSTAL SERVICE. Interesting. Nothing there, either. Evidently, they simply don't want you to know their address. Do they know something we don't about disclosure of addresses?

Luckily, the grocery store girl mentioned a cross street offhand. It just happened to be several more miles out of my way than I really felt like traveling. It was actually where she said it was, and they actually had a vending machine that dispensed single stamps. And a drop box.

That's another thing about where I live. Not only is it clearly impossible to grab a quick stamp, our apartment mailboxes are for receiving mail only. There's no dropboxes available within a mile radius. Even if I did enjoy using the postal service, I'd still have to go out of my way to do it.

One hour of driving all over town after my quest began, I had finally conquered my epic goal.

Now, it's just going to take six to eight weeks for the parcel to travel 200 miles. Now it's your turn, card.

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