Friday, March 1, 2013

adventures at the post office

I know Yoni and I usually use this space to deliver snippets of our life in Okinawa, but – even though I am back in Okinawa as of a couple of days ago – I had such a simultaneously funny and frustrating experience at the Forest Hills Post Office last week that I promised my mom I would put it on the blog. So, Ema, here you go.

Let me back up. Growing up in the Skolnik house, it was easy to get in trouble for saying the “P word” at exactly this time of year. With Passover still a reasonable number of weeks away, everyone is trying to pretend it’s not coming while still vaguely (not yet frantically) preparing. At great personal expense, though, my mom broke her own rule about using the P word to help me (and Yoni, in absentia) start thinking about Pesach - our first together in our own home since we’ve been married. This is a big milestone on its own, but when you think about making your first Pesach (and hosting your first Seder) in Okinawa – well, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. At least, it was easy for me.

So, my mom and I set out on a mission to at least push me in the right direction. First stop? Amazing Savings, obviously, for the very cheap and hopefully reliable-enough kitchen supplies one needs when trying to replicate an entire kitchen. Our second stop was Aron’s where, despite the misleading signs outside, the Pesach section was not yet open. Serious bummer – even though I managed to raid a few cabinets at home and find some food stuff to send to Okinawa.

As you might imagine, all of this shopping lead to a serious accumulation of stuff that would need to be boxed and shipped. (Fortunately/ Unfortunately, I had already done a lot of other shopping which precluded me from being able to squeeze too much extra stuff into my luggage.) After we got home from the supermarket, my mom and I got almost everything boxed up in the (not-big-enough) military flat-rate boxes – five in total – so that I could take them to the post office the next morning.

Now, I have sent a fair share of packages from the post office in Okinawa, and I am quite familiar with the drill: bring your package to the post office, fill out the appropriate customs form, stand on line to wait for a representative, etc. What I was not prepared for was the fact that the Forest Hills Post Office does not provide pens. I know, I know – every reasonably prepared woman should carry a pen in her pocketbook. But – I don’t always do that. Instead, I put on my best smile and very politely asked the woman standing across the table from me, “Excuse me, have you got an extra pen that I could use?” This was her response:

“NO I don’t have an extra pen you can use. You want to go to the post office? You have to bring your own pen. That’s the way it works. I’m sure this isn’t your first trip to the post office. What’s that? You live in Japan? Well, maybe out there they’re nice enough to give you pens. But if you want to go to the post office in New York City you’ve got to look after yourself. There are no free pens here. And even if I had an extra one, I wouldn't lend it to you.”


Nobody looked up during the woman’s diatribe, so I assumed there was no one there who would be willing to lend me a pen, and walked out of the post office in search of one. Luckily, the nice woman in the shipping store down the street let me stand there with my bubbe cart full of boxes and use one of her pens to fill out my five lengthy and annoying customs forms.

Twenty minutes later I re-entered the post office, determined to finally get these boxes in the mail. After only about 10 minutes on line, I was called over to a window. When I told the man standing on the other side of the bullet-proof glass that I had five flat-rate boxes to ship, he said, “Seriously? Five?!” and proceeded to spend the next ten minutes complaining to everyone else behind the glass about how annoyed he was that I had five boxes, and how he wouldn't be able to do anything else for a long time because I had presented him with SUCH a hard and annoying job. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the USPS is currently in a certain measure of financial trouble. Don’t you think he should have been thanking me for shipping five boxes?!

Anyway, it was quite the morning, and a completely New York experience for me to take back to Okinawa. Truth be told, I almost enjoyed it. Most of the time I am very happy with the generally polite nature of the Japanese people, but every once in a while it’s good to have a hit of gold old fashioned New York craziness.

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