Captain Trips

I’m standing in the post office and the guy behind me is having a fit. There’s no one at the desk and he’s in a hurry. I say, “I rang the little bell, someone should be out shortly.” This is a small town/rural post office where we actually know the folks who work there and don’t hate them for being Federal employees. They seem to work hard and they’re friendly and one even thinks he’s a stand-up comic.

“Is it the stand-up comic guy working today?” the man behind me asks. And then he does a dramatic shiver. Comedy Guy has never made me shiver.

“I’m not sure who it is today,” I say. I repeat that I rang the bell and someone should be out shortly.

“I can’t wait long,” the man behind me says. “I feel awful.” He gives another big shiver, and I realize he’s not shivering because he’s afraid of Comedy Postal Guy. He’s got chills.

He says, “I don’t know what happened, man. I was at work and I felt fine and then all of a sudden I got these awful chills and my bones ache –”

I smile a tight polite smile. “Really?” I say. “That’s just terrible.”

Inside I’m shrieking: What the hell are you doing in the damn Post Office then?! Get away from me!

I begin to suspect the postal worker on duty is in back monitoring the video feed of what’s going on in the lobby and is now deliberately not coming out. And I don’t blame him or her.

“I keep getting the shakes, too,” the guy behind me says. “It’s like I’ve got DT’s. I mean, I never had them, but it’s what I think it would be like. You know?”

AGH! No! No, I don’t know! And I don’t want to know! Get away from me! Oh dear Lord, did I touch anything he touched?! DID I?!

“Maybe you should just go home and come back here when you feel better,” I say out loud.

“Can’t,” he mutters, and he reaches past me and starts banging on the little bell.

Oh my God, I touched that bell! Do I have his germs? No, wait, I touched it first, so I’m okay. Calm down. Breathe. 

And then the worst thought comes into my head: We live near a huge military installation, where all manner of deadly things are tested. And at least half the people in this county work there. I ask him where he works, and of course, he mentions the name of that very military installation.

ACK!!! CAPTAIN TRIPS! CAPTAIN TRIPS! I gotta get out of here! No, it’s worse than that! Why does he NEED to be in the post office if he’s this sick?! Oh holy crap, it’s not The Stand – it’s Twelve Monkeys!!! “The thing mutates! We live underground! The world belongs to the dogs and cats now!”

And as the Comedy Postal Guy comes out from the back of the post office, I shout, “I just remembered somewhere else I have to be!” And I run out of the post office and pour most of a bottle of hand sanitizer all over my hands when I get to the car.

Only after I get home does it occur to me that the guy behind me might’ve just wanted to get ahead of me in line and made up the whole thing. He and Comedy Postal Guy are probably still laughing.