Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Rules Are Made to be Broken

by Julie Coulter Bellon

There are times when rules must be broken. Yesterday was one of those times.

I was standing in line at the post office and turned my back for a moment and a rather large man butted in front of me. I turned back and there he was. He stared me down with his small beady little eyes and I admit, I said nothing. Whatever, I thought. The line was moving pretty fast and I didn't think it would matter. Until I heard the six words that every parent dreads. My three year old looked up at me and said loudly, "Mom, I need to go potty."

There was a small bench near where we were standing, so I had him go sit on that. It worked for all of two minutes and then he stood up, doing a war dance, saying again, "I need to go potty BAD!"

The man who had butted in front of me, looked at my son in obvious distress, looked back at me and graciously offered to let me go in front of him. "Thanks," I said as I walked up to the teller. I plopped my package down, thinking I'd quickly get it stamped and be on my way to find a potty. Unfortunately, I got one of the slowest tellers in the universe. He did the ‘hunt and peck' method on the keyboard and messed up several times. Normally this is not a problem for me, but when you have a child next to you jumping up and down saying over and over, "I need to go NOW" it creates a sense of urgency in a parent. Another few minutes pass by and the urgency was kicked up a notch with, "Mom it's almost coming out."

I leaned over the counter and said, "Do you have a restroom we can use?"

The teller barely looked up at me and said, "No. It is against the rules to let any public person use our facilities. If the inspector came while an unauthorized person was in the back, we could be fined. It is definitely not something we can do. We do not break the rules."

The teller's little speech was punctuated by another cry of "Mom it's going to come out!" And I said to the teller, "You're going to have a puddle on the floor to clean up." He nodded, unfazed.

After another thirty seconds, I said I was probably going to have to come back. My child was in misery and I couldn't stand it any longer. I reached for my package, and he gave a loud sigh. "I can't finish the transaction if you do that." I nodded, knowing that it's hard to finish the transaction if the person has to leave before they pay, and I picked up my child and sat him on the counter. It was a staredown. I looked at the teller, he looked at me, and my son looked at both of us and squealed, "It's coming out! It's coming out!"

At that point the teller panicked. He took one look at the counter, my child, and me, then ran and found a woman teller (which was odd to me, but okay) and frantically whispered in her ear, all the while pointing at us. He walked back toward me and said, "it's against the rules to have any unauthorized people in the back. We could be fined, but if you will just follow her she will show you the way to the restroom." Then he added, "I won't be able to finish the transaction until you get back."

I barely waited to listen to him finish his spiel again before I picked up my child in a football hold and ran to the back of the post office. By this time, my little boy is yelling, "It's coming out! It's coming out!" so all of us started running faster, dodging mail bags, and post office people on the way to the bathroom. My son and I burst through the bathroom door, ran into a stall and he barely made it, but he did, a huge relief for both of us.

We were back in front of our teller in a matter of minutes where he again reminded me that it's against the rules to have unauthorized people in the back. They could be fined. But I guess when it came right down to it, they would rather have a fine than a puddle to clean up.

There are times when rules must be broken. And thankfully, that was one of them.


At 9/21/2006 12:59 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

That's hysterical, Julie. I won't tell the supervisor if you won't. :)

It's also illegal to urinate in bushes, etc, but I admit, there have been occasions when I have been absolutely forced to encourage my sons to do just that.

At 9/21/2006 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 9/21/2006 2:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilarious, Julie! I can just see you running through the back of a post office dodging packages and mailbags with Brandon in a football hold... his little legs dangling. :) Good thing you're in good shape!

At 9/22/2006 10:08 AM, Blogger Keith N Fisher said...

putting your son on the counter is a nice touch. great blog

At 9/22/2006 7:07 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

As the mother of a 3 year old, I am so impressed with you. Putting your son on the counter was brilliant!

I loved your post so much, I blogged about it at Evil HR Lady. Hope you don't mind!

At 9/23/2006 12:17 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

I wish you all could have seen the teller's face when I set my little boy on the counter and he said, "it's coming out." It was just too priceless and I still laugh even thinking about it.

Thanks for blogging about me Evil HR Lady. I loved your site! Mothers of 3 yr. olds should stick together!

At 9/24/2006 12:09 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Yes and my 3 year old had 2 accidents yesterday--we had family visiting and she was so excited about cousins that she had a few problems.

Next child, I'm going to let her college roommates potty train. No need to start before that!

At 9/26/2006 1:54 PM, Blogger Ken Pierce said...

[chuckling] Very nice tactics indeed. I only wish I had been the man in line behind you (at least, I would wish that if he had been polite by inclination rather than by intimidation).

Ah, memories...and the fact that they are now only memories, is part of the upside of having switched from having our own kids to adopting kids that somebody else has already potty-trained...

At 9/26/2006 2:39 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Anonymous, are you the teller by any chance?

At 9/26/2006 2:55 PM, Blogger Ken Pierce said...

Actually, Anonymous, you will note that the problem arose only because the Post Office had, with the kind of disregard for its customers' needs that screams "government-enforced monopoly on services," neglected to provide a bathroom. By "found him a place to use the bathroom," you mean, "Leave the post office and go drive to another store." I don't have any kids who are young enough to be making puddles on floors, but any so-called service organization that doesn't provide public restrooms, deserves to have a steady stream (if you'll excuse the expression) of cleanup jobs.

And if my Libertarian prejudices and taste for sarcasm may be given vent: who would ever have guessed that an organization in which The Rules took precedence over simple human kindness and obvious customer needs, would be run by The Folks Who Are Here To Help You? Just try to imagine somebody at Wal-Mart or any other organization that is genuinely focused on its customers, pulling a stunt like that. The imagination boggles. I found Julie's story hilarious and the lengths she had to go to absurd, not because I'm a father who has had small children, but because I'm a consumer who has suffered bad service -- and disproportionately that bad service has been encountered when I've had to deal with monopolies (like the Post Office) who knew I had no choice other than them or nobody.

So, Julie, you go, girl, is what I say. (If, by the way, you think I'm being too harsh on Anonymous, or if you dislike Libertarian prejudices or sarcasm, then feel free to refuse to approve this comment for publication, without offending me in the least.)

At 9/26/2006 2:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the story, and I too think that is rather rude.

I have worked as a bank teller for a few years. We are NOT allowed to take ANYONE to use the bathroom- it is a security risk and we must accompainy them to the bathroom, wait for them to finish, and take them back down to the lobby. In accompainying them to the restroom, obviously someone must close their window and neglect the rest of the customers in line. Upon return, generally the rest of the customers who have been waiting longer give the teller a hard time and have a poor attitude from the added wait.

It is VERY unfair to put someone in such a situation to break the rules. Yes, the post office may get a fine, but also that person may get spoken to by a supervisor. It is in very poor taste to assume someone will "get away with breaking the rules" after you, the customer, leaves.

I concure with the person who posted above. When that happened to me as a child, my mother WOULD step out of line and find somewhere else to take me.

I'm sorry your child had to use the bathroom and was in such a situation, but I do believe there was a better course of action out there.

At 9/26/2006 3:05 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Ken Pierce, THANK-YOU! You stated so eloquently the real heart of the problem. And besides that, you're my new best friend. I appreciate you sticking up for me against people who obviously have no sense of humor.

At 9/26/2006 3:22 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

But Ken, if you have true Libertarian philosophies, answer this: if there was a ballot initiative that raised taxes to pay for bathrooms (construction, utilities, and janitorial services) in all the post offices across the country, would you vote for it?

At 9/26/2006 3:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, it was just a comical story. It wasn't as if she was strong-arming poor defenseless postal workers for a bathroom at gunpoint. If you read Julie's account, you'll see that she asked, the clerk refused, and she did her best to help her child deal with the situation by setting him on the counter. Sitting helps, if you didn't know that. :) She even offered to leave and come back later, but the clerk didn't want her to do that either. So what's the alternative? She didn't pitch a fit... her child (who is 3) simply stated the obvious. It's not as if she coaxed her child to "blackmail" the clerk into letting them use the restroom. She didn't pull a pistol from her purse and demand, "A potty for my child or I'll go postal." It was just a pickle of a situation that she chose to see the humor in. A little tip... life's a whole lot more fun if you can see the humor. ;)

At 9/26/2006 3:59 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Anonymous said I have worked as a bank teller for a few years. We are NOT allowed to take ANYONE to use the bathroom- it is a security risk and we must accompainy them to the bathroom, wait for them to finish, and take them back down to the lobby.

That was a poor choice by the bank management. I would avoid banking there. You can have bathrooms that are not security risks. Your management chose not to.

I have a 3 year old and I don't know that she needs to go potty until she needs to go. The main post office has no public bathrooms and the nearest place with them is a grocery store that is either a 10 minute walk, or take the kid back to the car, strap her into the car seat, drive to the grocery store, find a parking space and run inside. Either way you choose, for a 3 year old, it's too late.

And to answer Robison's question--I'm pretty much a Libertarian myself and I would vote against it. But, I would vote in favor of privatizing post offices.

At 9/26/2006 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a poor choice by the bank management. I would avoid banking there. You can have bathrooms that are not security risks. Your management chose not to.

Poor choice by Management. Not the teller's fault. I understand it's difficult to have children, but please consider those who are forced to work under such rules. In customer service for allmost four years I am yet to see someone who actully follows through complaints like that to management rather than takeing it out on the lower workers who really have no control on policies.

At 9/26/2006 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am posting anonymously because I have an embarassing condition which at times requires me to very quickly find a restroom. (As in, 3 second warning.) I know the location of every public restroom within a 30 mile radius of my home.

I think there should be a law that REQUIRES a public restroom in every government building. And yes, I'd pay taxes to get them there.

I also think that people who have to swear and call names to get their point across are undermining their argument.

At 9/27/2006 12:43 AM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Maybe I should explain myself better on a few points.

First of all, I don't moderate the comments, the owner of the blog does.

Second of all, just to clarify, I was totally willing to take my child somewhere else. As you read the blog, you see that I was in the process of doing that and taking back my package,(it was large) so we could leave. I set my child on the counter because there was no where else for him to sit and he needed to sit and I needed to juggle both him and the package to get out of there quickly. The teller didn't want that and it was then that he went and got someone to accompany us to the bathroom. I didn't threaten, I didn't ask again for the use of a non-public bathroom beyond the first time, I didn't force anyone to do anything.

Obviously, living in a small town, our post office is practically in the middle of nowhere and everyone knows everyone else. I know most of the tellers because I see them often. Most people are generous and kind and I'm grateful for that. That day at the post office, rest assured, no one had to wait longer in line, and everyone was relieved that the situation was taken care of, including the teller.

I'm sorry that some people are upset over the blog, however it has brought forward some very interesting viewpoints and that's always a good thing. Thank you to everyone for your posts.


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