The Postal Worker Who Woke Me Up to the Bystander Inside

By robindf
December 18, 2015

A most amazing thing happened at the post office the other day. I was standing in line to mail Christmas packages – a line that weaved through the main office, out the door and around the front of the building – when I heard a young couple arguing about a conversation the man was having on his cell phone. The conversation went something like this:

The woman telling the man: “Ask her if she can do x,y,z in time for …”

The man’s response to the woman: “Don’t nag at me bitch, I got …” at which point he continued talking on the phone, while turning away from her.


The conversation went on like this for some time, punctuated with harsh remarks between both of them. As they continued the woman seemed to retreat inside herself while the man grew louder and more harsh in his remarks.

Lines at the post office are typically slow, but having to witness this kind of conversation made each minute a drudgery to endure. I was only 3 people away from the front of the line so decided to hang in there, otherwise I would have left. It was that tense.

I glanced at others nearby more out of curiosity than to commiserate in silent agreement, but of coarse, most people were peering into their cell phones.

And then one of the two postal agents on duty, I’ll refer to her as Barbara, said loud enough for all to hear but directed toward the young man, “No need for disrespect son, we’re all wanting to get on with our day.” With this, she went straight back to completing the transaction with her customer, as uneventfully as picking up a glass of water to take a sip, then putting it down.

It was one of the most direct, compassionate, un-sensational and extraordinary interventions I’ve ever seen. There seemed to be no personality or opinion or technique, just clarity and presence. The right words at the right moment to reach past the noise inside and out, in him, in me, in everyone.

Instantly, (and I do mean instantly), the young man spoke less loudly and was less harsh. People in line, including myself seemed to drop their shoulders just a bit. A few folks even looked up from their cell phones. It was as if the entire room exhaled after holding its breath for an unnatural period of time.

What a difference we each can make in either direction, adding to the noise or being beyond it.

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