May your Christmas be liquid, fragile, perishable and hazardous

GateHouse — “Good morning, sir, how are you today?”

Great, and you?

“Great, thanks. Just these three?”

Yep, just these three, please.

“Anything in here fragile or liquid?”


“Anything perishable?”

Nope. Not sending any ham today.

“That’s funny. Anything potentially hazardous?”

Nope. (This is what I say, although, technically speaking, I’ve found that anything can be “potentially hazardous” if it’s fired out of a large enough cannon.)

“Anything fragile or liquid?”

Neither. (This is what I say, although what I’d really like to say is, “It’s a vase from the Khang dynasty that I’ve filled with balsamic vinaigrette.”



Elvis Presley – Return To Sender



“Anything flammable. Is there anything flammable in these packages. Fireworks, ammunition, marshmallows, bags of popcorn. Flammable.”

Uh, no.

“Any animals?”


“Any animals. Hamsters, lobsters, squid?”

Any what?

“Squid, sir. Are there any squid in here?”

No, I think I’d know if there was

“And you’re sure there’s no liquid.”


“Squid live in liquid, you know.”

I know where squid live.

“Sir, I need you to swear this package is free of liquids, drinks, dips, dressings, sauces.”

Um, positive. This one’s an 8.5 x 11 manila envelope, as you can see, so since it’s not actually dripping we can probably assume there’s no

“Do you need insurance today?”

No thanks.

“Delivery confirmation?”

No thanks. (This is what I say, although I can’t figure the logic of paying extra for a service that’s not only implicit in the original agreement but also the only fathomable reason I’m even in this building. It’s like going to a restaurant and having the waiter tell you, “Now, for an extra $6, I can guarantee you’ll receive your meal.”)

“Would you like insurance? You can insure it up to $100.”

See, now here again, if there’s some skepticism about this object arriving at the address I wrote on the front of it, I can call

“No insurance, then?”


“I mean, if you think that’s OK…”

Why wouldn’t it be OK?

“… to send an uninsured package in today’s brutal and uncertain world.”


“what with what we know about terrorism, and Obamacare, and termites and bears.”

Why would bears be

“I want to go back to the flammable question. You’re absolutely positive, swear-on-your-dead-cat sure there’s nothing flammable in this box?”

Dude, can I just send the wait how did you know about my cat?

“And you’re really just blowing off the insurance, like this isn’t a murderous world, like this thing can successfully make it to Indiana all by itself.”

Seriously, I just need to send

“Do you think I’m attractive?”


“Nothing. Did you just ask me if I was attractive? Because I think you did.”

Man, I just need this package shipped why are there so many questions

“Can I get you some cocoa? Hot cocoa, Fresh pot. Wait, this one doesn’t have a Priority Mail sticker on it.”

Yeah, I know, I didn’t buy a

“It needs a label.”

I wrote the address right on the

“It needs a label.”

OK. Can I get a label?



“You can’t get free labels. You can send it Priority Mail, which will get it there in two days for $28.95, or you can buy a label.”


“Right behind you. They’re two for $2.59.”

Can I just buy one?

“Of course you may not.”


“Do you need any stamps today?”

No, please, can I just go

“You’re never planning on mailing anything again, ever, for the rest of your life.”

Well, someday, but I don’t need

“OK, so you’re just here, mailing a package.”

Yes, that is all I

“Well, you could have just said so. Merry Christmas.”

Merry Christmas.

About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, Billboard, Time, Modern Bride, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, The South Magazine and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

7 responses to “May your Christmas be liquid, fragile, perishable and hazardous

  • Meredith

    You are far more patient than I. I prefer to use the touch screen kiosk…until it inevitably becomes self-aware and requires a psychological profile test to send coffee pods to my family in Alaska…consequently, I’m afraid I wasn’t able to answer the required questions truthfully and will be using my day to determine if Tassimo pods are flammable/combustible. (It almost seems like USPS is posting a challenge to determine all possible chemical reactions of shipping anything.) Hope your balsamic vinegar and squid-filled Khang dynasty vase has a safe trip!


    • Jeff Vrabel

      I don’t know what these “Tassimo pods” are, but if they are somehow related to coffee and worth shipping to Alaska, which is like a whole other country, I will investigate them immediately. Thanks as always for reading, Black Cat


  • Minka

    Once again not sure why the previous comment didn’t work, but I can’t pass this one up… Your posts are great to read, kind of what I am attempting with my new blog. Thanks for the great posts! On with the story… I joined an adopt a soldier program a while ago and the only thing my soldier requested for Christmas was candy..
    “So this sheet says there is only candy in this box?”
    “Uh, you know you can’t send any pork products.”
    I know, it is just candy.
    “Ok what about christian literature or anything of that nature?”
    No .. just candy
    “Is there chocolate in here? It will melt.”
    Yes there is chocolate, he is fine with melted chocolate.
    “This is a 9lb box of candy? Just candy?”
    Yes Just candy
    “Thats a lot of candy… are you sure you are not hiding anything else in here?”
    No.. its just candy
    “Ok, well next time be more specific.”

    Gotta love it.


  • Kelly Dennis

    I visited relatives in Kansas over Christmas and read a few
    back issues of their newspaper. I read one of your columns for the
    first time, and was so aggravated I had to write. I think you were
    trying to be funny, but you appear quite ignorant of your postal
    service. For instance, there is no class of mail called “regular”.
    Never has been. Also, delivery confirmation allows you to see
    online WHEN your package is delivered…not IF. Packages don’t have
    to have address labels on them, but if you want a priority label,
    they’re free. The Postal Service is at your service 6 days a week,
    with lots of options to help you get your letters and packages
    where they need to go, like signature confirmation, insurance, and
    tracking. Check it out at


  • Jo

    Jeff – Saw your hilarious Postal article tacked up on our
    bulletin board at the Post Office. It was quite fitting with the
    Christmas message I sent to friends and family this year. Here it
    goes… A Postal Christmas Poem, just for you (and everyone else I
    know) (sniff, sniff) Christmas time each year Brings tidings of
    good cheer To all the folks we love the most At times we shed a
    tear (somebody hand me a tissue) Cards, letters, boxes, and more
    You will find them at your door (or curbside mailbox or maybe in
    the bushes or quite possibly your neighbors house) We go the extra
    mile Just to make you smile And bring you catalogs galore
    (especially Bed Bath and flippin Beyond) Our friendly postal clerks
    (hey, it could happen) Have a method that just works “Fragile,
    liquid, perishable” (“Umm, yes sir, raw meat is perishable” true
    story– a taped up styrofoam cooler full of raw meat won’t make it)
    Repetition makes life unbearable “It’s my break time.” just one of
    the perks. (what the???…there were 5 clerks and now there are 2)
    So my friends, without fail Not ‘gone postal, not in jail’ (not
    sure how I dodged that bullet) Merry Christmas to y’all On New
    Year’s Eve….just have a ball And oh yeah….the check is in the
    mail Sincerely Jo Postal


  • Jeff Vrabel

    Wait, seriously, someone tried to mail raw meat? I take it all back. Thanks for reading, and for stapling that column to the wall, and good luck on your future career writing poetry on the back of Bed Bath and Beyond catalogs!


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