So far, getting hired at the Post Office has been almost lickety-split. I filed an application via the web and attached my résumé, and a mere five weeks later they sent an email saying I'm "conditionally hired," pending background and fingerprint checks.

Notice what's missing? No job interview. That's peculiar, but AOK by me. I'm awful in interviews and usually don't get hired.

The "conditional hire" email said to get fingerprinted within 72 hours, which wasn't possible — they sent the email on Thursday, their fingerprint office is closed every Friday and all weekend, and was also closed on Monday for the holiday.

I'd emailed the person who sent the job offer, explaining and saying, "I trust this won't be a problem," but they never replied, so I still trust it won't be a problem, and on Tuesday morning I went to be fingerprinted.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

They do the fingerprinting at the USPS regional office, which is in Federal Way, a shopping-mall suburb 30 miles south of Seattle proper. And the office is in a particularly remote section of Federal Way. Why is the regional office so un-centrally located?

Jeez, it's so far from life on Earth that I had to take four different buses, and the bus that goes to the office only goes there once hourly. And when I finally reached the regional office, of course it's behind a tall security fence.

I walked the whole block casing the joint, but the only way in was a driveway through a very closed gate. There was no guard, just a telephone box. "Visitors, call 3142/5067 for admittance."

I dialed 3142, and it said my call could not be completed. I dialed 5067 and it rang and rang. And rang and rang, and it was still ringing when a car pulled up, and the driver flashed his employee badge to a screen. The gate started slowly opening, and the guy in the car saw me and shouted, "Just walk in behind me."

Every place I've worked, they always said never never never let anyone sneak in behind you at a security gate. It's something people get fired for, so I said, "Ah, no thanks, I'd prefer to do this the legal way."

Because who knows? Maybe I'm on a candid camera and they were testing me? Maybe this was my job interview.

After the car drove in and the gate closed again, and after about a billion rings, hosanna in the highest, someone answered the phone.

"Hey, I'm here to be fingerprinted," I said, and a very pleasant voice explained, "Just wait at the gate until an employee drives in, and you can follow after them."

A few minutes later, a pick-up truck pulled in, the driver flashed his badge to the seeing eye, and I walked in illegally after the truck.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

After crossing the vast parking lot, at the building's front door, there was another security phone, with a sign that said, "For fingerprint services, dial 3111." I called that number, and a very nice voice told me they'd send someone right down to let me into the building.

After waiting five minutes, I called again, and again they said they'd send someone down.

After another ten minutes, I called again, and again they said they'd send someone down, but this time they really did. "Follow me," said a very tall white man, but he said it nicely — actually, everyone at the whole place seemed very nice.

The tall man led me up two flights of stairs and blitzed at 20 mph through the building's labyrinthlike interior. Just from climbing the stairs I was sweating like a sponge and breathing like huff and puff and blow your house down, and the tall man was walking so fast he beat me to his desk by 20 seconds.

He looked at my driver's license, had me fill out a brief form, then told me to spread some gunk on the tips of my fingers and thumbs, and press them onto a glass screen, and we were done.

"It takes about four weeks to get the results back," he said, and that's good news. It means I get to watch movies around the clock for another month.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

My heart was still thumping bongos from the stairs and the trotting, but according to my watch, the next hourly bus was due in ten minutes. Excellent. There'd be time to spare. I only needed to cross the parking lot and then cross the street and walk half a block to the bus stop.

After hiking through rows and rows of cars, though, there was no button to push, to open the giant sliding gate. I waited a few minutes for someone to drive out, figuring I'd follow like I did coming in, but no cars were moving in the parking lot.

A sign said, "Do not pull or push gate. Death may result." OK, you had me at 'death'.

A smaller, human-size gate was marked "Pedestrians," but of course it was padlocked.

In five minutes my bus would be coming, so I traipsed across the vast lot again, back to the building's door, and buzzed the fingerprint office. Keeping my tone polite and friendly, I asked how the hell to get out.

"Just pull your car up to the gate, and it'll open," said the voice on the phone.

"I'm on foot," I said.

"You're on foot?" he shrieked, like people walking on their feet is the most preposterous notion. And it is. This is America, where everyone goes everywhere in cars, but I'm a feet guy. "Well OK," said the voice, "I'll be right down."

And he came right down, and I appreciated that, and it was the same very nice, very tall guy who'd taken my fingerprints. I smiled and tried to be nice, because if he got annoyed, he could push a button at his desk and delete my fingerprints before they're even connected to the Great Database in the Sky.

He walked (too fast!) across the parking lot and flashed his employee badge at a sensor that was supposed to sense it, but it didn't.

"Huh," he said, and stared at the gate like he might open it with the power of his mind, but that didn't work either.

He shrugged and walked across a few rows of the parking lot, got into his SUV, drove it up to the gate, and— hosannas again — it opened.

Loudly I shouted, "Thank you, fingerprint man!" and free at last, free at last, I skidaddled out the gate and across the street.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

My bus was supposed to have come several minutes earlier, but I hadn't seen it go by, and buses are often late, so I jogged across the street and toward the bus stop. And oh, I am too fat and flabby to be jogging, but I did not want to wait an hour to begin my long journey home.

The bus appeared at that very moment. I hadn't reached the stop yet, but I waved, and the driver waited. After three more buses I was home, and exhausted — too exhausted, really. I'm gonna-gotta walk more, and more often, if a few trots across a parking lot and up some stairs leaves me so very tuckered.

And that was my Tuesday morning. A few interesting things happened on the buses, too, but this story is too long already, so I'll leave those events in my notebook to bore you with some other day.

Getting fingerprinted took maybe two minutes, but the trip to and from Federal Way took four hours. I am not working at that facility, thank Christ — my "conditional" job is at a post office a mile or two from my house.

But again, why does USPS have its regional office in frickin' Federal Way? Is the regional office for New York City ten miles outside of Hackensack, New Jersey?



  1. A little "Insider New Jersey Talk," when presented with the option of mentioning "Hackensack," try instead the more remedial "Ho-Ho-Kus." It's somewhere in the same vicinity but the silly hyphens and Santa-like premise make it an excellent substitute. --Arden

    1. Never have I ever heard of Ho-Ho-Kus. Wikipedia says, "Not to be confused with Hohokus Township, New Jersey," which amuses me further. An Injun name, it says.

    2. Well, Seattle was sort of named after Chief Sealth and Tacoma was sort of named after the mountain that was God. In fact, the mountain was named Mt. Tacoma until some Seattle politicians stole the mountain and renamed it after a guy who never saw it. My grandmother called the mountain Mt. Tacoma until the day she died. Tacoma has a high school named Mt. Tahoma which is a little closer to the Salish pronunciation. Yiddish speakers come closest to the original name, since they have the phonetic equivalent of the middle syllable and English doesn't. The mountain doesn't seem to care, but it looks much more majestic from Tacoma than from Seattle. Yes, I still hold a grudge. Why do you ask?


    3. Blame it on the US Board on Geographic Names, but I always wondered why the folks in Tacoma didn't raise a stink. Tacoma is what it was called before we got here, after all.

      The Chief specifically asked that the city *not* be given his name, so of course Seattle was named for him. How perfectly American.

  2. Ah the post office, following in the foot steps of Bukowski...Eel

    1. Well, I guess so, but Bukowski was too rapey for me, so I'm not doing it to follow in his footsteps. It just seems like a decent job with decent pay.

  3. >Never have I ever heard of Ho-Ho-Kus.

    I swear, wasn't that the name of the casino you men tion in one of the Stephanie blogs on the other page?

  4. Ah, the Ho-Chunk Casino, where Steph & I often bingoed. Trivia: The same tribe is also known as Winnebago, and had their name stolen by the RV company.

    We also bingoed at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee. They had better separation between smoking and non-smoking, but we won more often at Ho-Chunk.


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