Busted at the Post Office

Waiting in line a few months ago to pick up a package, I snapped a couple of photos. A postal employee noticed me doing this and said (I am paraphrasing from imperfect memory the exchange that follows), “You took a picture”. I said yes. She said, You can’t take pictures in the post office. I shrugged. She called over another lady whom she identified as a supervisor.

The supervisor said, You can’t take pictures in the post office. I said I wasn’t aware of such a rule and it’s a public place. She said photography is against the law in federal buildings. I knew this couldn’t be true but there wasn’t much to gain by arguing. The ladies were very stern and I thought their reaction excessive. My assumption in such situations is that something else is probably going on. Maybe they don’t want a picture going up on the Internet that shows postal employees talking on the phone or whatever. Someone could get into trouble. But I don’t know. Anyway, I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything wrong and I didn’t know what they wanted me to do. I didn’t feel like hanging around but I was still waiting for my package. At this point the supervisor called her supervisor.

The second supervisor said, You can’t take pictures in the post office. I said something like, I’m not trying to give you a hard time but are you aware of a specific rule against taking photos? He said he wasn’t aware of a specific rule but he was sure it was in the postal regulations.

Somewhere around this time the first supervisor retrieved my package and said I could have it but only if I deleted the photos I had taken. I said, I can’t do that. The postal employees conferred among themselves. After a minute they brought me my package. Before I signed for it the top supervisor made a point of copying my name and address from the package label and said he was going to forward my info to the postal inspectors. I said, You can do that, and signed for the package.

As I turned to leave I noticed that a line of customers had formed behind me during the surreal interaction that had occupied me and three postal employees for something like ten minutes.

Post office customers in Miami, Florida. (Jonathan Gewirtz)

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