A Post Office Post
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Monday, March 11, 2013

A Post Office Post

Mail's here!
Nothing gets me excited in Paris quite as much as the post office.  Have your caf├ęs and your Michelin star restaurants.  I spend my days at La Poste, and with good reason.  I like getting my mail.

In most developed nations where the postal system has been in place for decades, you can reasonably expect to receive your mail, be it an Amazon delivery or a letter from your mother.  In Paris, the mail is not so much unreliable as it is a learning curve. 

The mail does actually get sent, but there is a problem with follow-through that demands you, the customer, to pick up the slack.  After nearly five years, I’ve just about earned my wings.

With several packages lost, and others returned to the US after 15 days of me not picking them up at the post office, I’ve become savvier when two common scenarios present themselves:

Scenario 1: It’s a typical Friday.  I order a book from Amazon.  I receive an email confirmation that it’s been sent.  I wait.  I wait.  I wait.  And I wait.

Scenario 2: It’s my birthday and a friend has sent me a package that, due to its volume, won’t fit in my tiny mailbox. A standard problem for Parisian mailboxes.  Size does matter in this case.  I wait the avis de passage, a note from the mail delivery person that my package is stashed at the local post office.  I wait.  I wait.  I wait.  And I wait.

In these scenarios, time is against you.  If the package is waiting for you at the post office, but you don’t pick it up within 15 days, it will be returned to the sender, which means a second trans-Atlantic trip for my Reese’s Cups.  But how to know if the package has arrived when you have no tracking number?  Or more frustrating, you do have a tracking number but there’s no avis de passage in your mailbox? 
You make friends.

Why we want our mail...(from 2012)
After my runs every morning, when expecting a package, I stop by the post office.  They must know me as the freak that comes in wearing tights and mismatched running gear.  I ask politely if I have a package and they ask for a tracking number.  Usually without one, I say no.

“But it’s been a few days now, and usually it should be there, and I never receive a slip in my box, and…” I explain in my best rehearsed French.  They stop me, taking my ID card before heading to the package storage area.  Within five seconds they return with my package in hand.  Like clockwork.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what happened,” the worker tells me each time, unable to account for his coworkers’ oversight.

“No worries, just happy to have my package,” I say, smiling as I sign for the goods and leave. 

I kill them with kindness and now, we need not go through the formalities.  When I show up without an avis de passage, the workers know.  “It’s him again,” they think, “the sweaty one,” and, like any new best friends, I can hear them sigh collectively when I show up.

5 comments:

  1. I also use the kill them with kindness approach, infinitely more satisfying than getting worked up !

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  2. I'm pretty sure there is a law in France that if you have Reese's peanut butter cups, you're required to share them with any other American that demands it.

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    Replies
    1. I'll double check that one, but it sounds familiar...we'll see what 2013's Easter package brings :)

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  3. ..."like any new best friends, I can hear them sigh collectively when I show up..." hilarious! Like it came out of a David Sedaris book (huge compliment, hope it is for you too).

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