`And Have A Merry Uh, Never Mind'

YOUR FRIENDLY POST-OFFICE clerks are forbidden to give you holiday greetings. Or at least, that's how they interpreted a recent edict from the U.S. Postal Service brass.

Ever mindful of the separation between church and state, Postal Service lawyers drafted a bulletin on Oct. 27 that bans signs reading "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Hannukah" from post offices. A number of postmasters, however, saw the bulletin as a gag rule that also prevented postal workers from wishing customers well for the holidays. Result: Many window clerks ended up saying nothing to customers--making the clerks seem a bit surly. Some clerks complained to local newspapers about the rule, and some embarrassing stories appeared.

That attracted the attention of Postmaster General Marvin Runyon, who will need all the public goodwill he can get with postal rates set to rise 10.3% on Jan. 1, bringing the price of a first-class stamp to 32 cents. He has issued a statement urging his people to extend the best of the season to the public--nonreligiously, to be sure.

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