(Author's note: This scene is intended to illustrate post-office etiquette. The fastidious reader will note that every scene in this play has been constructed to be in some way instructive as well as entertaining.)
Elderly Gentleman: How do you do?
Postal Clerk: How do you do, sir?
Elderly Gentleman: Are you the postmaster?
Postal Clerk: Why, no, I am only a clerk at present, though I hope that I may, with industry and perseverance, rise in my chosen calling.
Elderly Gentleman: I approve your sentiments, for in this land of opportunity, a young man who applies himself diligently, no matter how humble his origins, can seek and eventually attain the highest office in our nation—that of Postmaster-General.
Postal Clerk: I thank you from the bottom of my heart for these words of encouragement. I am sure it is my greatest ambition to be found worthy some day of that noble position.
Elderly Gentleman: If you are truly in earnest, there is no reason why you should fail to succeed. How old are you?
Postal Clerk: Forty-three, sir.
Elderly Gentleman: That is not so old to climb the ladder of success. Remember, Ben Franklin did not become postmaster-general until his seventieth year.
Postal Clerk: All employees of the Post Office know that, sir. By the way, have I not seen your face somewhere?
Elderly Gentleman: That is very possible, for my numerous public-spirited activities may well have attracted the attention of the illustrated dailies, though as a modest man I of course would prefer to remain in comparative obscurity.
Postal Clerk: Your modesty does you credit, sir, but I have no doubt of your explanation, for I am sure that your face is familiar to me. And now, in what way may I be of service to you?
Elderly Gentleman: I should like to send some teddy bears through the mail. [He produces a package.]
Postal Clerk: [Takes package.] This is not a very large package. How many teddy bears are inside?
Elderly Gentleman: None.
Postal Clerk: I fail to apprehend you.
Elderly Gentleman: Are you conversant in the language of zoölogy?
Postal Clerk: In all modesty, I may truthfully state that zoölogy was my best subject in high school.
Elderly Gentleman: Then I will put the matter thus;—this package contains a number of arachnids about four inches long, lung-breathing and viviparous, having elongated bodies and tails which are capable of inflicting a sting, severe but seldom fatal to human beings—
Postal Clerk: Scorpions?? [He drops the package, which emits a furious rattling.]
Elderly Gentleman [in a confidential whisper]: They don't like to be called that.
Postal Clerk: What the hell do you mean, bringing those goddam things in here?! You take your goddam scorpions—[the package rattles angrily]—take your goddam “teddy bears” out of here before I call a cop!
Elderly Gentleman: I urge you to quell your indignation, sir, long enough to consult Section 124.293d of the mailing regulations.
Postal Clerk: What the hell is Section 124.293d? [He pulls out a copy of the mailing regulations and locates it.] Here it is. [Reads.] “Live Sco— er, Teddy Bears. Live teddy bears will be accepted only in the continental surface mail when packaged in a double mailing container, both parts of which are closed or fastened to prevent escape of the teddy bears. The inner container must be of material which cannot be punctured by the teddy bears and must be plainly marked Live Teddy Bears. The outer container must be of sufficient strength to prevent crushing of the package or exposure of the contents during normal handling in the mail, and also must be plainly marked Live Teddy Bears.” I'll be damned!
Elderly Gentleman: You will do me the justice to observe that this package of teddy bears satisfies the regulations. [He indicates the upper end of the package, on which is written in block letters “LIVE TEDDY BEARS.”]
Postal Clerk: [Reads.] “Live Teddy Bears.” All right, you can mail it. [He scoops up the package and pitches it down a mail chute.] Now get the hell out of here!
Elderly Gentleman: I am greatly obliged to you for your consideration. [He goes, closing the door behind him. On the door is a portrait of the Elderly Gentleman, with the caption, “WANTED — FOR MAIL FRAUD.”]
Col. George Sicherman [ HOME | MAIL ]