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Calif., Texas Nix Countdown Clocks

October 8, 1999

DALLAS (AP) _ Postal officials thought it was a benign little promotional item: digital clocks counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the new millennium in offices around the country.

But they didn’t anticipate that the clocks _ with their big red numbers _ would remind customers of how long they had spent waiting in line _ and of their own mortality.

``The customers said it made them feel more time-conscious. It made them feel hurried, like their lives are going too fast,″ said Jackie Beall, postmaster in nearby Colleyville. ``Some customers said, ’Y2K is coming anyway, why are you putting this stress on us?‴

The clocks, part of a nationwide campaign, are coming down in dozens of North Texas offices and in several Northern California offices.

Recent customer surveys found satisfaction levels decreasing for some Texas offices, so Postal Service workers started informally polling customers on what they liked and disliked about the stations. They learned that the clock distressed several customers, said Stephen Seewoester, a spokesman the Postal Service’s Fort Worth region.

Some customers complained that the clocks made the wait seem longer or made them feel older, said Sam Bolen, public affairs manager for the Postal Service’s Southwest area.

``We have 40,000 post offices nationwide,″ Bolen said. ``Try as we might to please everyone, there’s always going to be something that offends some people.″

Alan Wald, Postal Service spokesman for the Oakland, Calif., district, said five clocks were removed from offices because of complaints.

Customers felt ``the clock was a reminder that (doomsday) was coming. And we didn’t see any compelling reason why the clock had to stay up,″ he said.

Why only in Texas and California? Are people’s lives more harried? Does death and doom haunt them more than those in other parts of the nation?

``I wouldn’t begin to speculate,″ said Bolen. ``Talk to psychiatrists about it.″

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