Mid-afternoon is the sweet spot for hitting the post office. Sandwiched between lunch hour and school pick up is quietest. I have finely calibrated my visits to take as little time as possible.
Once there I sidestep the queue and go to the terminals where I mail six packages to overseas destinations. Each parcel requires the address and post code to be typed in one letter at a time via a touch screen. A customs form is then filled out and a barcode sticker applied. Every part of the customs form must be filled in accurately in block capitals. I am warned parcels are now being sent back if the forms aren’t correctly completed.
At the end of this laborious process the machine declines my card. Then it declines it three more times. I breathe deeply, put the parcels back in my bag and go to the bank. My card works perfectly and I take out fifty pounds from the cash machine. The notes feel waxy and unfamiliar in my hand.
At the post office I repeat the process at a different terminal. Taking a gamble I tap my card on the reader and smile as I see the payment is accepted. My satisfaction is short-lived as the terminal crashes. No stamps are printed, no receipts are disgorged. There is no proof I have just spent forty pounds on postage.
A clerk opens up the front of the machine and gingerly touches her fingertips to a metal plate inside. This isn’t a good sign. She re-boots the machine and presses a dizzying number of on-screen buttons. A maze of menus opens one after the other. There is no record of my transaction.
The clerk apologises and disappears behind a locked door. This definitely isn’t a good sign. I stand and wait. I see the clerk occasionally peering at me out of a small square window, phone pressed to her ear. I suspect she is hoping I will go away. I am not going anywhere. The machine just robbed me.
The clerk tells me I need to go to my bank to get a statement to prove whether or not their terminal stole my money. She writes me a note to take with me. I am handed a sheet of unlined A4 paper folded in half with a message written in black biro. It’s been hastily drafted with some crossings out and signed with touching familiarity with the assistant’s first name and her job title, Post Office clerk. This isn’t the official document I had in mind when needing to resolve a financial matter with my bank.
At the bank I decide not to press the note against the teller’s bullet proof window. It might be mistaken for an amateurish hold up. I go to a terminal where I can print out my statement. I put my card in the slot and press the buttons. The machine ponders my request for longer than seems reasonable. It makes alarming whirring noises followed by tearing sounds. I can just see a corner of the paper statement mangled in the metal teeth of the machine. The terminal produces an error screen. The card slot flashes but there is no sign of my card.
I turn around to look for assistance but no one is there.
Listen to me being interviewed by Gil Roth over at the Virtual Memories podcast. We discuss The Book Tour, working on middle-grade books and how and why I got started in this business in the first place. Check out the Virtual Memories archives where Gil talks to a wide variety of interesting and talented cartoonists and writers, which begs the question what I was doing on there. It being a podcast you don’t have to see how sweaty and nervous I was. Thanks to Gil for having me on and asking such great questions. He also has the most impressive Books I’ve Read list I’ve seen (dating back to 1989).
Today is the last day of voting for the Eisner awards. Should you be so inclined you can vote for The Book Tour for Best Graphic Album.
I have books out in the world, Kerry and the Knight of the Forest and, yes, The Book Tour. I will stop talking about the The Book Tour now. Support my award nominated efforts through my store/digital comics/patreon or by leaving a positive review online.
(Book Tour. Book Tour. Book Tour.)