They say there is a part of your brain that develops with age that is essentially a safety cover over the “DO STUPID SHIT” button. This story is probably the best scientific evidence I have for the existence of such a brain-part. It involves a post office.
There was a post office about a mile from my house. My goal (for reasons I’d rather not go into) was to figure out a way into the bowels of that post office and somehow mail a letter from inside it. Naturally, step one was reconnaissance. SPOILERS: I never made it past step one.
I emailed the director of the post office, posing as a college student doing a project on the policies of government institutions post-September-11th. They told me it was against policy to give individual tours, but I guess I am a pretty persuasive emailist because they eventually caved in and scheduled a day. In the meantime, I decided to do my own snooping.
You see, I was doing parkour at the time. For those of you without the internet, parkour essentially boils down to skateboarding without a skateboard. You roam around the city, looking for things to jump over and climb up and infiltrate because it’s the closest you can get to being a ninja without being required to actually end lives. The night before my scheduled tour of the post office, I parked my car in front of a grocery store across the street from the building and put my skills to the test.
The building was almost twenty feet tall, which was way higher than I could jump, even as a fucking ninja. But there was a ten-foot wall that branched off from the side of the building where the outdoor generator was housed, and if I could get on top of that wall, I could make it onto the roof.
It turned out that ten feet was also higher than I could jump. I threw myself at the wall over and over, kicking up it at the last second and reaching for the top. And over and over, I missed the lip and fell back to the ground. I lost count of how many times I tried, all the time being watched by a lone man at the bus stop across the street. I wasn’t worried about the guy at the bus stop. I mean, who the hell takes the bus in Los Angeles? He was clearly insane, and his testimony would not be trusted.
But finally, after eleventy-million tries, I caught the lip and pulled myself to the top. I wandered around on the roof for a while, I guess looking for a Mission Impossible-style skylight to lower myself through, before giving up and heading for the parking lot. The builders of the post office had made the best of LA’s rolling hills by digging into the side of one, which meant that the parking lot was a whole story lower than the sidewalk I’d stood on to make my run at the building. To get down to it, I had to drop back off onto the wall I’d come up, climb down into the enclosure with the generator, grab a chainlink fence, scale it across and over another chainlink fence (with barbed-wire all over it), then jump down into the parking lot itself. I did this successfully, because I am a champion.
There was not much to do in the parking lot, as is typical of parking lots. I made for the loading dock, to see if someone had fortuitously left a door unlocked. No such luck. Through the plexiglass windows of the double doors, I noticed an official announcement on salmon-pink paper:
BE YOUR PERSONAL BEST
I viewed it as an encouragement.
I turned around, and noticed a suspicious-looking fixture on the ceiling of the loading dock. It appeared to be a security camera. I belatedly pulled my shirt up over my face, and inched closer in an attempt to allay my fears. It turned out to be nothing more than a broken light socket. I uncovered my face, embarassed at being so paranoid. I heard a helicopter in the distance.
“I bet it’s coming for me,” I laughed. And you know what?
The sound of rotors was suddenly RIGHT UP ON ME, and a spotlight swept the lot like the vengeful eye of Sauron himself. I cowered in a corner of the loading dock, being totally screwed. There was no place to run. The back corner of the loading dock was the only place I could hide. It was only a matter of time before the SWAT team arrived. I should also mention that I had just come from bussing tables at a fancy restaurant, which meant that I had been sneaking onto the property of a government building wearing all black. As I sat there, waiting to be arrested, I felt my life unraveling the way I had when I was six and my mom discovered the pair of underwear I had stuffed behind her toilet instead of taking it the extra ten feet to the laundry hamper. I was caught. I was helpless. I was already being digested by the labyrinthine cloaca of justice.
Then the helicopter went away. Then it came back. Then it went away again, and I waited twenty bladder-taxing minutes to see if it would come back again. As soon as the twenty minutes were up, I ran. But one does not simply run out of the post office. I sprinted across the lot, jumped eight feet up a concrete wall and grabbed the chainlink fence, scaled it up and over the barbed wire, into the generator enclosure, kicked up the ten-foot dividing wall on the first fucking try, and absconded. As I passed the front of the post office, I saw a police car idling out front. Either the police car didn’t see me, or they didn’t find anything suspicious about a dude dressed all in black strolling leisurely down a sidewalk that could only have come from an auto junkyard, a freeway offramp, or the motherfucking post office. I made it to my car, and drove home with my eyes glued to the rear-view mirror.
The next afternoon, I had my scheduled tour of the post office. In case of any security footage of the previous night’s events, I got a haircut for the first time in months. In an hour, I went from this:
My tour was quite informative. For example, I learned that the US Postal Service has its own police force, called – appropriately enough – the Postal Police. I also learned that the Los Angeles Postal Police headquarters were DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET FROM THAT POST OFFICE. It’s not like it’s hidden either. I took a look after my tour, and there is a bigass sign out front that says “THE MOTHERFUCKING POSTAL POLICE ARE RIGHT FUCKING HERE ASSHOLE WHAT ARE YOU DOING” (the expletives are mine. Also some of the other words.) Some dude could literally have just looked out his office window and seen me doing my thing. Given that little tidbit of information, it’s a god-damned miracle I’m not in Guantanamo to this day.
This story is why I am terrified of teenagers. There is a time in every human’s life where we will basically just do anything we are physically capable of doing, up to and including breaking into the post office. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just The Biggest Idiot In The World, and my magnum opus occurred somewhere back around my 17th birthday. Whatever the truth of the matter, what’s important to remember is that you should NOT ATTEMPT TO SNEAK INTO THE POST OFFICE. They DO have helicopters, and they have NO QUALMS about using them. Which really just makes me wonder why the mail doesn’t come quicker.