July 17, 1997

Wandering after-hours one day last week into a local Post Office that shall remain nameless, an eavesdropper overheard, through the lobby wall, a thought-provoking conversation between two postal workers. One employee was apologizing profusely to another, telling her he realized that what he'd done was wrong and promising he would not do it again.

It seems that just before 5 p.m., as the offended party was locking up for the day, a man had come running up with a large package. Told that the window was closed, he became incensed and shoved the package inside the still-open door, making it impossible to shut it. He had come a long way, he yelled. The next day was July 4, when the Post Office would be closed. He wanted service, dammit, and would not leave until he got it.

The postal worker stood her ground, saying that if she bent the rules for one customer, there would be no end to the working day. Into this impasse, apparently with a few people looking on, stepped her co-worker, who told the angry man to come ahead, he would take care of him.

Now, an hour after closing time, the two employees were still talking it out. An isolated act of incivility had come between them and ruined the day for both.

That surly latecomer could, perhaps, be cousin to another, the weekender heading home who drives by the recycling center after closing hours every Sunday and leaves the weekend's garbage by the locked gates. In that person's defense, timing one's departure to the dump's closing may be a little too much to expect; there are better things to do with the long daylight hours of summer than fight the Long Island Expressway.

Perhaps recognizing that, or maybe just bowing to the inevitable, Southampton Town has decided to extend the Sunday hours of its four dumps from 5 p.m. until 6, through Labor Day. It's something to think about. Won't help the Post Office, though.