A Post Office Story

“We keep each other company.”

As well as shopping on trips to the UK, one of the other ways of getting supplies is ordering over the internet. However, with any package bigger than a standard letter, the postal service cannot deliver it to our door (or 99% of Israeli homes, I guess) because we have a teensy weensy mailbox down in the building lobby. So, the service deliver a red and white postcard to the mailbox, inviting you to pickup your delivery from the local Post Office. Receiving such a card is a very pleasant, uplifting experience. Collecting the item concerned isn’t always as fun…

One day last week when I was working from home, I found two delivery cards in the mailbox.

[Aside: because of the delay between ordering and receiving stuff, combined with the number of items ordered, it’s an added bonus that I rarely know what I am going to pick up.  Book? Game? Bike kit? Computer kit?  Fun, fun, fun.]

I decided I would pick up the items; I knew the Post Office closed at 12.30pm that day, and thought if I got there about noon that would be perfect. However, when I arrived, the place was queued out of the door. I joined the end of the queue and waited in the mid-day sun. The two ladies serving were doing their best, but it seemed a slow moving queue.

Detail 1: this Post Office does not operate a ticket system. You wait in line. However…

Detail 2: it’s a long established Israeli practice for people to come to a queue, ask who is last, tell that person “I’m after you” and then go away to do something else. They will return later (sometimes) to reclaim their spot in the queue. I hate this practice. It is very annoying to find your place in the queue to be at a standstill, because the people ahead are being supplemented by practitioners of this practice. I hate this practice. Yes, I know I am repeating myself. But I still hate this practice.

By the time I had waited for 10 minutes, I was further back in the queue because of people returning to “claim their place”.

After 15 minutes, I was back where I had started. (My tan was progressing nicely, though.)

After 25 minutes, I had progressed as far as just inside the doorway.

After 35 minutes, I was about fourth in the queue, but the place should have closed five minutes before. This was new territory. What did they do? They told everyone in the queue to come into the office and close the door. No more people could join the queue. (Allegedly.) However, instead of being fourth in a nice (relatively) straight line queue, I was now in a scrum of twenty or so, crammed into the office. In fairness, people did seem to take their proper place. Indeed, the fellow who had been behind me, prompted me when it was my turn ahead of him.

Success! I had reached the counter.

So, I handed over my two red and white cards and waited to claim my prizes. The clerkess went to find my goodies in the back office. She came back to tell me that there were five sacks of parcles unopened, and that my stuff was in them, and that I should come back later.

Later? Later? Later?

I was not a happy bunny, I was a very unhappy bunny. I guess the clerkess could tell I was not happy from the steam coming out my ears and nostrils and my twisted grimace. I was ready to do…something!

I told her I had been waiting for a while – though she obviously knew that. I offered to go and look for the items. (This raised a laugh from the crowd in the office, though I still don’t understand why.) I stood my ground. The clerkess went on to serve the next person. I had a vision of everyone else being served, the staff going home, and me being left in the office. But I decided to stay.

At this point, another postal employee appeared from the back office, held a machine gun, rapid fire conversation with “my” clerkess, and went back into the back office. I could see her opening sacks. Five or ten minutes later – with the queue down to the last half-dozen – she found my stuff and handed it over. My stubborn stand had got me what I wanted. Should I be proud of that, or resentful at the amateur nature of the postal service? Or should I pretend it was all a bad dream?

Next time, I’m asking Susan to go for me!

Detail 3: what really irritates me most about the episode is how needless it was. All it would have taken, would have been a bit of thought on the part of the postal service.