Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Going postal

Last week I went to the Abu Dhabi post office for the first time, and like many things you do for the first time in a new country, it was slow and complicated. I assumed it would work the same as a US post office– you address a package, wait in line, have it metered, pay the postage and be done with it. This was a silly assumption. Family, if you don’t receive our Christmas gifts this year (or our Christmas cards, for that matter), this might be why…

Though all perfectly pleasant and full of smiles, none of the 4 postal workers who helped me mail 3 packages and 8 envelopes spoke more than 5 words of English. They seemed just as perplexed that I did not speak Arabic, and in fact, kept speaking to me in Arabic as if I would be able to understand. In a country where English is the typical marketplace medium, it was most surprising to have this happen in the post office!

I’ll skip most of the boring details, involving waiting in lines, filling out forms, and desperately trying to understand what people were saying to me, but at one point our box bound for Dallas and our box bound for Chicago had the barcodes reversed. I watched this happen and had to reach across the counter and point out the problem. The woman helping me at this point kept trying to say both packages were going to the same country, while I was trying to explain, using little more than hand gestures, that the USA is a very big place.

While the woman, and now her colleague, tried to rectify the mis-matched barcodes, I discovered that they had changed “US” to “UK” in the system. I wouldn’t have known it, except I heard the letters “UK” during a discussion they were having in Arabic, which again prompted me to lean over the counter and look at the computer screen. Sure enough, Great Britain had been assigned as the new destination. When I pointed out the error, both ladies giggled and looked at me like I was crazy, but after a bit more discussion they did change it back to US, and, I think, got the appropriate barcodes attached to the right boxes. Only time will tell. In any event, they will probably not make it home in time for Christmas, so hopefully "the thought that counts" will apply.

1 comment:

  1. Guess I'll never complain again about the occasional "lost" envelope or long lines at our American Post Offices. The package I mailed you for Christmas is stuck in customs over there, so it has to get through that process and depend on the local PO there to get to you, who knows when?

    I'll let you know just as soon as yours finally reaches us. But meantime, yes, your thoughts and efforts count for everything. We have something to look forward to, eventually. Thanks for thinking of us.