From My WindowIssue Date: February 21, 2018
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
My father was a compassionate and kind man, but also famously impatient. One of the things that got him impatient quickly was being presented with a rule or regulation that did not make sense to him. He referred to those enforcing those rules as "rule boys." Examples were park authorities not allowing swimming somewhere he found perfectly safe and suited to swimming; or the refusal of a public librarian to check out what she referred to as an "adult" book to my pre-teen cousin (years ago, of course.)
Because a lot of my life's work was regulated, I usually can see both sides and the value of rules. When I don't understand the reason for a rule, I will often ask why the rule exists, just for my own edification. Often, there's a really good reason behind the rule, and I just didn't understand it.
I did, however, recently run into a couple of "rule boys" at a local package delivery service outlet, which I will refer to as "parcel service." This was NOT the U.S. Post Office, but a non-governmental business.
I had very carefully packed a box of exactly the correct size with quite a few items to be shipped to my daughter in Seattle. I spent a considerable amount of time arranging, padding, taping and labeling this box, and then took it in to the package delivery counter.
The clerk measured and weighed the box, then informed me she could not accept it, because the box had originally been used for wine. Now, I had not even noticed what the box was originally used for, it just happened to be the right size. I still didn't understand the problem, so I asked why a box formerly used for wine could not be shipped since I commonly reuse cardboard boxes.
"It's illegal to ship wine in Oklahoma," she said firmly. I responded politely "But it does not contain wine." "That doesn't matter," she said, "It says wine." Now it DID say wine in white letters that were very, very small; well under an inch high on a good sized box, but that had not escaped her eagle eye. WHY exactly Oklahoma would have such a strange rule, which is no doubt harmful to the small wineries here, I have no idea. However, I was now five miles from home and not happy to be sent back, given that I had made the trip especially to ship the box. "I can sell you a box, and you can repack it here," she kindly offered.
Well I was not going to stand in the store, trying to repack the box; probably being charged for tape, too. So I took my box, and left. About a mile down the road, it occurred to me I had a thick, black permanent marker in my purse I had been using for another purpose. "Eureka!" I thought. I'll just black out the little "wine" written in a couple of places on the box. I pulled into a parking lot and carefully blacked out the offending word " much like I usually black out old bar codes on boxes I reuse to ship all the time, without issue. I was really pleased with my effort.
I returned to the package delivery counter as casually as I could and handed over the box, but she was on to me right away. "Got a new box?" she said. "No, but I blacked out the word "wine" so it no longer says wine," I said hopefully.
She let out an annoyed sigh and went and got her supervisor who examined my handiwork, claimed she could still tell the box used to say "wine" despite my black permanent marker, and they could not accept my box.
So I wordlessly picked up my illegal box and left without saying any of the myriad of things that occurred to me to say. (I am pretty proud of that.) I went right to the U.S. Postal Office and they were happy to collect my $23 and send the box without complaint.
The two people at the package delivery counter were true "rule boys," even though they were women. I was, however, gratified at my self-control with my unhappy visits there; I fancy my father would have been less civil.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.
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