I mentioned in my last post something about discomfort, and decided to write about this one today. Does anyone use discomfort as a north arrow on their personal compass? It seems like it may be a viable option. If all we ever do is continually seek out what is comfortable, do we ever grow? Last week I got hung up for a moment over something most folks wouldn’t think twice about. I had driven 7 miles into a small town near our campsite to retrieve a package at the post office. Since we move every two weeks, a “home address” is not a possibility. Instead we have a mail delivery/opening service to which we have all our standard mail sent. Like everyone else these days, we also order things on-line and we need to ship them somewhere. The US Post Office will accept deliveries as “General Delivery-Hold For Customer Pick Up”, but evidently only when they are the primary shipper. Sounds very typical of a typical government protocol, right? Rules are rules. Customer comes first, but only if the rules are followed to the exact, meaningless level of detail. Further, if the USPS was cutting edge, we wouldn’t be propping them up like we are now, awaiting the hammer to drop. The day will likely come when FedEx, UPS, and all the other private carriers own it all.
I could go on all day about that. Instead, back to the story. So, Emily ordered Kitty’s “special” cat litter on-line. At this point, I am uncertain why we went that route. In part, when we look back on it, we could easily have picked it up at any one of the pet stores in Tucson. But, I think we had so much on our plates that we said “F -It”. Amazon shipped the package via UPS to this little post office for general delivery pick up with Emily’s name on it. Tracking information indicated package delivered Thursday. I arrive Friday, go to the one man (woman rather) counter and request pick up, handing her Emily’s driver’s license. The woman looks around, and by looks around I mean the 80-square foot area in which she’s standing. Apparently, the general delivery items make up maybe a total of three in this tiny post office.
She doesn’t see anything with Emily’s name, shows me the few little packages she does have for pick up, and asks me for a tracking number. I give her the one Emily sent me, and she says that’s not a USPS tracking number. I tell her it was sent by Amazon and was shipped via UPS and delivered yesterday. She says, “yeah, we don’t accept shipments from other carriers. We send them back.” She looks at me, and in the typical government worker’s manner, shows me what she does have. Realizing none of those packages are anywhere near the size of our intended package and knowing from her demeanor that she’s not here to help, I thank her and leave.
As I’m walking out, I dial up Emily to let her know. Emily asked me if I would go back in and let the woman know the package was received yesterday by “Fryenhagen”, and see if maybe she could check again. Now, this is where the discomfort hits me. This is where I go back to ‘little kid being scolded’ feeling. The thought of this woman, an average post office clerk, looking at me like, “Didn’t I just tell you I don’t have it? What the hell is wrong with you?”. Most people would simply walk back in and say, “Hey, it says right here Fryenhagen signed for it yesterday. Can you please double-check?”. I tell Emily the woman isn’t helpful and she already said she doesn’t have it. Emily pacifies me and nicely says she’ll just call the woman. So, I sit in the truck for a minute and realize this is one of those times, a time where I need to act against my tendencies. Even more, I know a (friendly) face to a clerk is harder to hide from than some random caller. Plus, I knew getting through the “phone call diversion system” would not be quick for Emily.
So, I figure, here’s my chance. I go back in, and there’s still almost no line of customers in front of me. Once up there, I say very kindly, “Hey, I know you said you don’t have this package, but my wife let me know that an individual named Fryenhagen accepted delivery yesterday…” As it turns out, she was Fryenhagen, and in realizing this, she changed her tone instantly. She remembered receiving a package of a size that matched the description. “But,” she said, “the package was picked up by UPS this morning.” At this point she was very nice and apologetic, and suddenly an actual person blossomed out from that deeply calloused government shell. Not just a person, but a thoughtful and genuinely personable one. We weren’t able to do anything with the package, at least not through the USPS, and I suggested to Emily to just go back to Amazon and work it through them. As we’ve found before, Amazon has great customer service and unlike the USPS has a strong focus on customer service.
The whole point of this relatively typical occurrence each one of us faces almost daily, is that great things can come from moving toward discomfort. Yeah, we can also “go with the flow”, but where is the flow taking us? Is the flow in the direction of our highest and best self? Had I left without going back in, the matter would have felt unresolved, and seeing Emily spend a whole lot of time on the phone to get an even less than gratifying result would have left the discomfort inside of me. This little bit of discomfort added to 43 years of other little bits of it amounts to a huge pile. Within that pile, and amongst other piles of a similar nature, lie the pitfalls that undermine my true nature and potential.
I intend to get more courage through the simple everyday occurrences like this one by heading toward the discomfort. To this end, I hope regularly facing the little fears will cause the bigger ones to be more easily overcome. Maybe it will even help make sense of the daily emotional challenges I have in staying the course with our “Taking The Leap”. If nothing else, I believe it will help crack open a hidden/vulnerable side of myself in the same way it opened up the USPS clerk, allowing me to have closer and more lasting relationships with those I already know as well as those I have yet to meet. What makes you feel discomfort?