Tales of the City: blue ink

It was his second attempt at the counter and I could tell that he was already flustered; his first go at sending the parcel having been rejected outright.

The grounds:

“You’ll need to fill out this form sir”

As I stuck my stamps on, I saw that his second attempt at sending the parcel was also in the process of being dismissed.

The grounds:

“Sir, I cannae accept this form. You’ve filled it in with blue ink.”

Clearly this man was not a post office aficionado, and therefore not versed in the dark art of unnecessary form filling in.

“I dinnae want to use black ink like.”

“Sir, I can’t accept it unless you complete the form in black ink.”

“I’m nae filling it oot again.”

“Sir, I can’t take it unless you complete in black ink. I don’t make the rules.”

The lunchtime queue was starting to throb. No first time bones were ever thrown by the sole teller, no matter how busy.

“Aye, but you can choose to just accept my form. I’m the customer. I’m always right.”

“Sir, I’m sorry. I can’t accept it unless it’s in black ink. There’s nothing I can do. I need to serve the next customer.”


He turned to look at the audience, turned back, shook his head.

“This is un-be-fucking-lievable. You’re seriously telling me that you won’t send my parcel because I won’t fill in your poxy form wi’ black ink?”

“Yes, sir.”

To cut a long story very short, this exchange went on and on and on.

Both sides got louder, angrier and more aggressive.

The queue snaked out the door.

Neither party were for backing down.

Then, all of a sudden, the man started thumping his fist on the perspex window separating him and the teller.

Telling her to take the f’ing parcel or he would f’ing smash her f’ing face in.

I’m pretty sure that we all felt like we should do something, but we weren’t quite sure what.

If I’m honest, it was all quite exciting for a Tuesday lunchtime.

It was all terribly un-British.

This guy was seriously raging.

Eventually the police arrived. I’m not sure who called them, but I’m pretty sure it was less out of concern for the guy’s mental health (or the teller’s safety for that matter) and all about the fact that we were twenty five minutes down on our lunch breaks.

Fairly quickly, the situation escalated and the man was face down on the post office floor in cuffs.

As he was bundled out of the post office and in to the cop car I noticed the now crumpled parcel under the arm of one of the policemen.

I mean, all that.

All that for the petty sake of preferring to use blue ink over black.

Or was it a valiant stand against the jobs-worths, the fascists, the restrictors who make up the sillier of rules.

Or a breaking point that could have been over anything for this man that day.


We’ve all been there, one way or another.

We all sweat the small stuff from time to time.

All hail the rebel without a cause.


41 thoughts on “Tales of the City: blue ink”

  1. This is just a fantastic story, down to the fact that someone most likely called the police so that the line could start moving again. I laughed out loud. Nicely done.


    1. This is exactly what I was thinking as I read it – it sounds like something that would happen in my machismo, impatient California hometown…


      1. Sadly, its the human condition but life would be so boring if we all just played by the rules! Thanks for stopping by to comment. Have a great weekend 🙂


  2. I think my blood pressure escalated while reading this because asinine rules so rigidly adhered to make me CRAZY…yes, dangerously close to call-the-cops-on-your-lunch-hour crazy! Very enjoyable read.


  3. Great use of language in this piece and building tension, but truly amazing how stubborn people can be.


  4. I am torn between feeling sorry for him and feeling sorry for the teller. Sigh, but that’s the way life plays out eh?


  5. I completely feel his pain. I love that this is where and how he decided to make his stand, for whatever reason. You’ve got great storytelling skills, by the way! Loved it.


    1. Hehe – do let me know if you work out why. Wasn’t sure whether to refine the lingo but in the end it just felt right to write it as it happened. Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  6. It reads like a poem. A funny poem. But an ultimately disturbing poem. Blue ink reproduces and xeroxes as well as black. The arbitrary can drive us all a little crazy.


  7. Someone was just telling me of a similiar experience they had today, but fortunately they weren’t arrested. 🙂 Timely and a story you told well, thanks.


    1. Thank you. Interesting that something similar happened your end. Makes me think people who work with the general public probably get it all the time! Have a great weekend 🙂


  8. I love this!! One of my favorites this week. The small stuff definitely gets the best of us from time to time. But I can appreciate someone who’s unafraid to rage about it.


  9. Glad I read this. Your ‘Tales of the City’ series reminds me of reading another ‘Tales of the City’ series, by Armistead Maupin in the ’70s. It appeared as a column in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. It was quite popular and a lot of fun. He became a big deal novelist… there’s hope for you yet. I remember your story about tea in South Africa. You have that way of telling things.


    1. Thanks for this – I hadn’t heard of another TOTC and so shall see if I can track them down online and have a read. San Fran is another favourite place of mine and so the series sounds a lot of fun. Thanks for all your kind words – a dream indeed!


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