Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Post Office


Bureaucrats have a lot of power.  When I first flew to Spain, I was scheduled to have a layover in Madrid and continue on to Cadiz.  Instead I wanted to go to Barcelona.  The airline charged me $100 to not get on the plane to Cadiz.  If I didn’t pay, they would send my baggage there without me, or so they claimed.  I paid because they had the power.

When my kayak arrive in Barcelona, I was charged almost 1000 euro in port fees.  I had already paid for shipping.  If I didn’t pay, I couldn’t get my kayak.  I paid.

Bureaucrats are necessary.  But when the revolution comes, I’m going to be going after a few of them.

I had new equipment.  To keep my boat’s weight down, I had to get rid of my old equipment.  

The Lega Navale here in Taranto seems to have a serious kayaking program, and while I wasn’t able to get directly in touch with any of the kayakers, I did leave my broken paddle with the secretary.  The parts could take a valuable role in future repairs of other paddles.

My dry top and Farmer John wetsuit I wrapped up tightly into a stuff sack and sealed it shut, ready for mail.

At the post office, all they had to do was slap a sticker on it and send it away.

But the bureaucrat behind the glass told me I needed to buy a box.  I couldn't mail a well closed tightly packed sack.  I had to pay four euro.

I didn’t like the idea, but she had all the power.  I wanted to mail my stuff home and I needed her permission.  If she had asked me to do the chicken dance I would have had no choice but to comply.

She pressed a button and a dirty glass door opened.  On the other side of the tiny cell, just large enough for a person to stand in, was another dirty glass door that was closed.  I put the sack on the floor between the doors.  The front door closed and the back one opened.  The woman removed the sack and put it in a box.

I filled out some forms.  She put stickers on the box.  It was time to pay.  They didn’t take credit cards and I didn’t have enough cash.

At the bank, I remembered that I forgot to pack my old spray skirt.  I ran back to my boat, got the skirt and returned to the post office.

No, they would not add the skirt to the box for me.  They would have to reweigh the whole thing and put all new stickers on.  Closing was in ten minutes.

I was shocked.  “Are you serious?”

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  They had the box, but I hadn’t paid yet.  Did they realize I hadn’t paid?  Should I say, “Okay, mail it the way it is?” and hope they didn’t notice.  Or should I explain just as I needed them earlier, now they needed me.  What if they kept the box but didn’t mail it?  Maybe they didn’t need me.

“I want my box.”  I said.  I wouldn’t try to trick them into mailing it without me paying, but with both my money and my box, all the cards would be in my hands.  I would be free of her power.  I could go to another post office and mail everything from there.

The far door in the cell opened up and the box was placed in the cell.  The far door closed and the near door opened.  I took out my box.

They wanted me to pay four euro for it, so I did.

They wanted the box back, to take off the stickers.  The stickers claimed the box had a certain weight, and I had added contents to the box.

“No, you can’t have it.  It’s my box.  But I’ll give you your stickers back.”  The box was power.

The box rested on a shelf on my side of the glass.  A tall wide shouldered Italian behind me picked it up and walked towards the glass security cell.

The near door was open and he placed my box in the cell.  I was right behind him, and put my hand on the box.

“You can’t have it.  It’s my box.”  I used my I’m In Charge Here voice.

For a moment, both of our hands rested on the box and we stared into each other.

If I had to, I would use my years of martial arts training to remove the box from the security cell and create a safe personal space around me.

He let go and I took the box.

I put it down on the shelf and removed most of the stickers.  I let go of the box to slide them under the glass to the waiting bureaucrat.  He grabbed it and removed the last sticker.  He relinquished my box.

I took it and went to another post office where I had no troubles.

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  1. Yes, good for you! The arbitrariness and despotism so frequently encountered in such situations is just galling.