09 May, 2009


Tales from the Multiculture: at the post office

I don't use the post office counter very often, but I do appreciate it when I need it. The Post Office has been the essential retail arm of the state for a century or more. It is a valuable public service which should be run efficiently but for its social value and not as an ordinary business judged solely on its direct profitability, as this imbecile free market-obsessed government and their asset-stripping pocket-lining crook-agents insist on doing.

But I digress. This is, after all, a "Multiculture" post. At least, I think it is: I'll let you judge.

The local post office was, amazingly, nearly empty when I arrived. Two positions were staffed and in use; there was one customer waiting in the queue. One of the positions became free but the lady at the head of the queue waved me through, indicating that she preferred to wait for the other position. I thought nothing of it, assuming that she had unfinished business which was already in hand with the clerk (do they still call them postal officers?) at the still-busy other position.

I completed my transaction. Rather more laboriously than I would have expected for a low-complexity two-page form and some supporting documentation, but in due course I had my replacement Old Fool's Pass in my hand. (In my ever-mounting senility I had dropped the original somewhere.) As I left, the clerk, in the now approved Post Office Counters procedure, tried to sell me some insurance. At least, I think she did, for she was softly spoken, the glass was thick, and her accent was nearly impenetrable. I should explain that, judging from her name badge, her appearance and her accent, the lady behind the counter was of the Nigerian persuasion.

Which, as I left the building, led me to speculate on the motives of the customer who had kindly ceded her place to me. You see, the self-sacrificing customer was manifestly a West Indian woman (or African Caribbean as I believe we must now call it). Was her preference for the White counter clerk driven perhaps by some ethnic hostility towards Africans? No, I don't know either, but it wouldn't be the first time in my experience of South London.

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