Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Post Office

Minsk Central Post Office
Alla discovered a convenient trick for sending stuff overseas. She had a kitchen towel that she wanted to send to Nika, and she just stuffed it into a sufficiently-large envelope and mailed it without ceremony. The people at the Post Office warned her that they couldn’t guarantee anything if she mailed it that way, but it worked. It worked once, anyway. We tried the same trick again with more valuable contents and a bubble-lined paper envelope, which arrived empty except for the accompanying letter. Alla called the Post Office to see if she might recover the contents, but they said they don’t confiscate stuff and the guilty party had to be in America.

I imagined no issues at all when sending a little package internally. I ended up with a friend’s audio cable, which I wanted to mail before we left the country. I dropped by the main Post Office and bought a little plastic envelope. Presently I returned to the window to get stamps for my envelope. Oh no, the clerk intoned, you can’t send plastic envelopes from here. You have to go around the building to the package-shipping office. I contemplated buying a paper envelope and trying again, but decided to have a go at this package-shipping office. We’d been there once before and I hadn’t liked it, but maybe it would be different this time.

I approached a line of identical-looking windows, found one without a queue, and waited for the clerk to stop her conversation with a colleague and acknowledge me. I waited some more. Finally her colleague asked what I wanted, so I showed her my envelope. Go to that window, she directed. “That” window had two people ahead of me, so I waited. Another window opened up, so I checked there but the clerk sent me back to “that” window. I waited some more. I shuffled my feet and wondered when I’d get to a bathroom. The woman ahead of me tried out various envelopes and shuffled her shipping forms.

Finally the clerk took my envelope and wrote a word I didn’t know underneath the place where the stamp would go. She passed it back to me and said “Ценность:” I told her this was a word I didn’t know and she gave me a look that I was able to translate. It said “You’d better figure it out buddy, because I’m not going to tell you.” I realized that the root related to value, so I asked her if she wanted to know the value of the contents. Yes. Who knows? It’s a little cable. I wrote 1,000, figuring that any nominal value was OK. Then I thought she might imagine I was talking about dollars or Euros, and that might lead to problems, so I added BYR. The clerk looked at me coldly and asked if this were rubles. Yes, I replied. It turns out this does indeed make a difference. The tax on shipping something worth 1,000 rubles in a plastic envelope is 30 rubles and a lot of waiting. I think I prefer paper envelopes.

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