Israel Stories

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Post Office

There are certain places in Israel you avoid like the plague if you are in a hurry. Prime candidates for the label of ‘in a rush, avoid’ or IRA establishments are a certain chain of pharmacies, any bank, any shop, government office, Friday mornings and any road between six and ten in the morning and three and eight at night. In fact for a nation with the patience and demeanor of any woman who can’t get into last years dresses, and I think the boys know what I mean; this country seems to be made of millions of people rushing around very slowly.

Of course chief among its peers is the post office. Now as far as I can gather (my market research was made up of an international cross section of Israeli society working in my office) Post Offices across the globe are notoriously slow. Apparently post workers even get nose bleeds from their high octane sport of watching paint dry.

“That’s not funny at all,” the teller barked, “this is a very complicated and involved job”.

I turned to the stranger I had been sympathizing with. Half an hour queuing (that’s English for standing in line) and he still hadn’t been served. I was behind him wishing that I didn’t have to be here.

I was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. It was my wife’s birthday and she had received a card informing her that a package had arrived in the post office. So you see I had no choice, to return to my wife on her birthday without this package would have meant banishment to the basement but waiting in line at the post office was as painful as forgetting to buy an anniversary card, which incidentally I pay for on a daily basis.

Finally, my turn. I slid the card under the glass window.

“Whats this?” the teller asked. Confused I told him it was a notification that a parcel had arrived. “I know that, I’m not stupid, just wait.” Thinking he was going to take the card and look for the package I turned my back to talk to a friend who had just walked in.

When I turned back again my teller was still seated and looking intensely at a sheet of stamps.

“Er, excuse me, but aren’t you going to look for the package? I have been waiting a long time.”

“Shhhh,” he sprayed, “I am counting stamps. Its post office regulations, I have to count these stamps.” I noticed he had five or six identical sheets of stamps.

“Can you not do this later?”

“You think I have nothing to all all day. I have barely time for my coffee breaks and lunch. We open at the crack of dawn (8:30pm) and close late (4:30pm). I am doing it now and you’ll have to be patient”.

“I have a suggestion that may make it quicker for you to count your stamps. Each sheet is identical. Why don’t you count one and multiply it by six. You also don’t need to count every stamp just multiply the rows by the columns.”

I thought he was going to leap through the glass and throttle me. The look in is eyes I haven’t seen since the day I forgot to buy and anniversary card.

“Post office regulations state that I have to count every stamp!”

“Is that every stamp or every stamp? Surely you don’t need to count every individual stamp,” I asked, in desperation.

“Now I’ve lost count and will have to start again.”

I watched him, slowly counting his stamps, the line behind me reaching out of the building onto the street. I calculated that the last guy in line wouldn’t get served until Pesach.

Finally, finally he finished and slowly got up with my card. He slowly and meticulously looked through each and every package until he found mine. Then he slowly, and I swear he was grinning, returned to the window. It wasn’t a very big package in fact it was a registered letter. I recognized the logo on the envelope, thanked him for his help and grinding my teeth, left.

At home I presented all my wife’s birthday cards and presents to her and slipped the letter amongst them.

When she saw it she went red and opened it very quietly. Then she beamed a radiant beam, the sort of beam that all men should avoid.

“Its actually for you dear,” she growled (that’s the growl that always follows a radiant beam)

I looked at the letter, and looked up at her.

“It’s a mistake;” I cried “I promise you I wasn’t there and never drive that fast!”

See me in the Jerusalem Post online edition and in the Jerusalem Post, In Jerusalem print edition


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