Columns | Kane County Chronicle

Hollinger: Let’s make our post offices as hospitable as hospitals—big and small

I required more than a stamp, so I walked up to the window of my small-town post office where I was told the color of something I needed from across the room. Only the color, not “cardboard envelope, top row, right side of the metal bin in the corner.”

After minutes of searching, I might have brought back the wrong container or asked for better directions. Or both.

A week later, needing another form, I was told to fetch a something-or-other, but not “on the desk under the window, second slot from the left.”

Both times, I felt like a thirsty cowboy searching an endless desert for a 1-foot circumference oasis.

After this, I promised myself to stick to the friendly, efficient service the St. Charles Post Office offers. If both were burgers, I’d take the big city’s juicy, medium-rare, grass-fed half-pounder cradled in a croissant over the small town’s overcooked, dried-out, cheeseless, bunless quarter-sized slider.

I get it. A job can be a pain in the can. When a teacher, there were days I didn’t want to step foot in a classroom, but I tried my best, even when, ESPECIALLY when, the slog felt tedious, overwhelming or thankless.

Sometimes you just have to fake it.

For an education in how a business, school or volunteer organization should treat its customers, students or audience, earn your graduate degree next time you need stitches, an EKG or other medical attention by going to one of Northwestern Medicine’s many health centers.

Recently, I’ve been to two, where the healing came as much from the friendliness and efficiency of office staff as the expertise of nurses and doctors.

When (what I call) “working out” at a park district exercise facility (once known as “gyms”), I was pushing myself off the floor using the back of a chair when it collapsed, throwing me off balance and into a post, its ledge lacerating my ear.

I told the front desk my name was Van Gogh and asked for a razor to finish the job.

Well, that’s not true. When I confessed to my idiocy, they offered an ambulance or something to stop the bleeding.

At home, an ice pack planted on my head, my wife Tia suggested that instead of leaking blood on the floor, I should get patched up.

“No stitches!” I whined behind a locked bathroom door.

Or that’s what I felt like doing. Instead, Tia drove me to St. Charles Northwestern Medicine Immediate Care. In an hour they cleaned my wound and glued it closed – no stitches!

Then, a week later, Tia called, starting with, “Don’t worry,” worrying me. “I’m at the ER.”

“Hmm. ER: Entertainment Room! Large-screen TV, karaoke and pinball machines?”

In fact, she was lying on a Delnor Hospital Emergency Room’s comfy hospital bed covered with a heated blanket and tended to by kind, supportive professionals.

“My blood pressure kept getting higher each time I took it,” she explained.

Later, her physician assistant advised her to use her home blood pressure cuff only once daily, in the morning. Taking one’s blood pressure multiple times exacerbates stress when seeing the pressure rise – making the pressure rise.

After taming Tia’s vascular issues, we bid a sad farewell to our caring caregivers.

Good thing my least favorite postal employee was drawn to envelopes, stamps and packages. I can imagine him as my doctor. Seeing my blood-drenched ear, he points to the other side of the examining room and tells me, “Band-Aids are over there.”

• Rick Holinger earned a Ph.D. in creative writing from UIC. His work has been accepted for publication in Chicago Quarterly Review, Chautauqua and elsewhere. His poetry book, “North of Crivitz,” and essay collection, “Kangaroo Rabbits and Galvanized Fences,” are available at local bookstores, Amazon or Contact him at