A man enters an office supply store. He was a mere mortal seconds before, but as he passes through the door he becomes a customer. His superior gaze drifts across his domain and settles on the cashier.
“Do you sell stamps?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say,” However-”
“I want one.”
“However, we sell them only in sets of ten.”
“But I want one.”
“I’m sorry, Sir, but I can’t sell you a single stamp.”
“Can’t you just…” He (skillfully) mimicks the act of ripping apart paper.
Clearly, I have never thought of this. My simple mind grapples with the idea. I realize I am dealing with a genius, and yet, I regretfully inform him, “Sorry. They come on stickersheets, and anyways, the barcode–”
“Well that’s just rubbish,” he informs me. He is right. I realize this now. His genius ignites a spark within me.
“You are right,” I tell him as I take fifteen sheets of stamps into my hands and begin to tear them apart. I type 0,019 stamps and press a non-existent key on the register. I hold out a quarter of a stamp to the customer (with a smile), but he shakes his head (without a smile). I rip apart all the stamps I can find, desperate to please him, for he has gifted this humble store with his presence. From the pieces, I begin to assemble a perfect, custom-made stamp. It is worth exactly 66,66€. I single-handedly reprogramme not only my cash desk, but the entire system. It can now scan any stamp in (or out of) existence. It is raining stamps. I am smiling.
Two hours later, it is done. Beaming, and covered in the torn remains of hundreds of unfortunate stamps, I hold the perfect stamp out to The Customer. He accepts it. I rejoice. It might just be my high fever and blurry gaze, but I think the right corner of his mouth moved upwards for exactly half a second. I am blessed.
He licks the stamp and slaps it onto a letter. He wants to lend a pen. I lend him a pen. When he is done, he holds the letter out to me expectantly. He does not say a word, my silent angel, but I can tell what he wants. Thus is our connection. There is nothing, I assure you, nothing I would have rather done than to accept his letter, on my knees, with tears of gratitude streaming down my cheeks… But alas:
“I want to send the letter,” my dear customer finally says, after the silence has stretched into infinity and back.
“Oh, I’m sorry, Sir,” I say with a polite smile, brushing stamps off my shoulders, “We don’t accept mail. We only sell stamps.”
After all, you can’t make exceptions to a well-established rule in the workplace.
The customer doesn’t bat an eyelash. “That’s okay,” he says with a disarming smile. “I wouldn’t ask the impossible of you.”
As he turns to walk away, a single tear rolls down my cheek. I wipe it off with a stamp that wears his majestic face, hand-stitched by me.
I don’t tell him there’s a mailbox around the corner.
(That’s not my job.)