by JP Duffy
December 12, 2011
This Christmas season has been very memorable for me and my wife especially now that Audrey, our 2-year-old, is old enough to participate in festivities such as decorating the Christmas tree. Since Thanksgiving, Audrey has danced around the house singing “Jingle Bells” and humming the tunes of Christmas carols that she hears throughout the day.
Last Saturday, Audrey almost had the opportunity to experience another Christmas tradition for the first time — caroling.
The three of us stood in line along with dozens of other customers at the U.S. Post Office located in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. We were preparing our packages when Audrey tugged on my sleeve, saying “Daddy, Daddy, look.” I turned to see a bright smile on her face as she pointed to a trio of Christmas carolers entering the post office who looked like they had stepped off the theatre stage of “A Christmas Carol.”
The gentleman of the group wore a top hat and the ladies were arrayed with shawls and bonnets. Dickens would be proud. Everyone turned their attention to the carolers in anticipation of that annual tradition that we’ve all experienced.
They were only a few notes into their carol when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye I saw a scowling postal manager rushing to confront the carolers. He angrily told them that they had to leave immediately because they were “violating the post office’s policy against solicitation.” Everyone was momentarily frozen in astonishment before customers began booing the manager.
Even in the face of protests from his customers, the manager wouldn’t back down.
The carolers explained that they were going to each business within the shopping center to sing a couple of carols — as they have done for many years.
However, this was the first time that they had been turned away. The manager said he didn’t care and that they could take it up with the postmaster if they had a problem.
“You can’t do this on government property,” he said. “You can’t go into Congress and sing” and so “you can’t do it here either,” he said smugly as the carolers turned sadly to leave.
I encouraged them to file a complaint but they had little hope that a complaint would resolve anything and felt they had no choice but to acquiesce.
I later described the incident to a friend of mine who had worked for the post office for 26 years. He couldn’t imagine that there would be any policy that would prevent Christmas caroling at post offices.
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