I emailed author Laurie Notaro last week to see if she could sign some books for a fan who was unable to attend her recent event here at Changing Hands (for Laurie's story collection The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death). Her response was just too weird and wonderful to keep to myself. Here's our exchange, reproduced with Laurie's permission, of course:
Laurie: Ooooh, potential disaster looming. Going to the post office is a HUGE pain in the ass for me, mainly because 1) I've been banned from the one closest to me and 2) standing in line behind Eugene people is a testament to witnessing vast amounts of stupidity, self-absorbency and essentially not understanding the basic principles on which the world works. I can't stand going there, and what will happen is that you will send me the package, and it will sit on my coffee table for weeks until you send me a nudging but nice email reminding me to send it out. I will still forget. You'll send me another note, I'll forget again, and it will go on this way until you are no longer speaking to me and I sure don't want that to happen.
So I will send you some bookplates, I'll sign them with whatever the lady wants, and as an added bonus for not being able to go to the post office, I'll send her stickers, magnets and an Idiot Girls membership card (which, by the way, is laminated).
I'm serious. If you send these to me, I will flake on you. Not intentionally, but it will happen. I am horrible at these things; it is a huge flaw and I admit it. If I can get this in the mail today, I will not flake on you. So...send me her name, what she wants me to write, how many, and I'll get them out.
Cindy: Thanks, Laurie. By the way, why did you get banned from the post office?
Laurie: When the price of stamps went up a couple of years ago, I went to the closest branch (it's in a crap store, like a Walgreens, but full of crap, floor to ceiling crap, crap like glass unicorns, balloons, Pyrex dishes and packages of fake poo. And candy. LOTS of stale candy. It's like the place where all old candy comes to completely decompose). I waited in line behind a zillion Eugenians who like to round out every money exchanging transaction with a nice, pointless conversation about a) are Disney stamps more expensive than regular stamps? b) what is the difference between a book of stamps and a sheet of stamps? and c) if they write a check, can they write it over the amount and get seven dollars and forty-two cents back? I was there for basically an entire afternoon and when it was finally my turn, I asked for 400 one-cent stamps. The post office lady looked at me like I had just called her a dirty whore. She actually gasped. "Oh no," she told me. "I can't give you that."
So I replied, "Oh, you don't have 400?"
And she said, "No, I do, but if I give you 400, there won't be any left for the next person who wants one-cent stamps."
And I replied, "Well, I'm not very concerned about that. I have to mail out 400 envelopes."
And she continued, "Well, you can't take them all for yourself! Someone else might need some and if I give them all to you, then I have to order more. And then I wait and wait for one-cent stamps because the post office is slow in sending them."
And I tried to reason: "What does it matter if I take all 400, or if I take two hundred and the guy behind me then asks for two hundred? You'll still have to order them."
And then she got surly and said, "No. I won't do it. I'll give you 200 and that's all. You can't have them all."
So I got the 200, and I was PISSED.
So the next day, I went back, waiting in line for a good portion of my life, and when I got up to the counter I asked for 200 one-cent stamps.
Then she got pissed. "I give you 100," she warned me, and then she pointed her finger at me and said, "Don't you come back. Never come back."
I didn't go back for a year, but the other post office is farther away, so I would make my husband take stuff down there or I'd go to UPS. Finally, I took the chance and she let me mail one package, then another a couple months later, and another. The last time I was there I told her her wrist tattoo was pretty, but I think she could tell I didn't mean it. We're working on our relationship, I guess. Turns out her husband owns the crap store, which answers lot of questions for me. We're taking it slow, and that's why I don't go there too often.