14 December 2005

Going postal

I went back to the Post Office for the 10 millionth time today. OK, maybe it hasn't been quite that many trips, but I'm beginning to feel like I live there. Until Tuesday, however, I didn't really mind it. The people there were always courteous, patient, and helpful, and I always left feeling good about my limited French.

On Tuesday, however, I met a Parisite at La Poste. (By the way, that's what we're calling rude Parisians now, instead of Monsieur/Madame Rude.) This woman mumbled her words so quietly that I couldn't understand her sheerly because I couldn't hear her! I spent half of my time saying, "Repetez-vous, s.v.p." or "Encore une fois, s.v.p." which no doubt annoyed her as much as it annoyed me.

Anyway, on that particular day, I wanted one simple thing: fifty 90-centime stamps to use on letters to the US. (I was preparing to address Christmas cards, so I knew I'd need a lot.) The Mumbler quietly confirmed that I said 50, and then went to her accordian file of stamps to fill my order.

She only had thirteen 90-centime stamps.

No, she didn't go to the back room to look for more stamps. No, she didn't ask her colleagues sitting right next to her for more. She only had 13, and that's all I could have. I acquiesced, resigning myself to the fact that I would have to come back later. (As a side note, I tried to buy my stamps from the automatic dispenser instead, but it wouldn't take my credit card.) Fortunately, I managed to play dumb long enough to get The Mumbler to print postage for the letters that I had with me.

So, I went back to the post office today for more stamps. This was also a big trip because I had to mail our boxes of Christmas presents for the family. Fortunately, I had already bought pre-paid boxes during a previous trip, so all I really needed was confirmation that I filled out the forms correctly. After that, it was just a matter of getting the stamps that I didn't get on Tuesday.

There were three registers open, but I KNEW from the moment I got in the long line that I was going to get The Mumbler again. When I finally got to the counter, she was quick to make it abundantly clear that I was annoying her because I was missing the customs form (which I didn't know until that moment). No matter: I wasn't going anywhere. I just filled out the forms and handed them back to her.

Then, it was back to getting the stamps I needed. Instead of going to her accordian folder, she just started the tedious process of hand-printing stamps for my Christmas cards. (I had about 20 envelopes today!) Well, who was I to argue? It was her idea to print off the stamps instead of getting out pre-printed ones for me to use. But get this: while she going through this self-inflicted torture, she actually had the nerve to tell me, "Next time, you should buy your stamps in advance." ARGH!

When she was nearly finished with my Christmas cards, she put up her "window closed" sign. I chuckled at this and said, "Felicitations" (congratulations) in a rather sarcastic voice ... and I'll be damned if she didn't smile at me! I couldn't believe it. I finally gave up and fired off a smart remark, and that's what won her over.

As I left, I made sure to give her a sugary sweet "Je vous remercie" (a super-polite way of saying thank you). She wished me a good day in return. Go figure.


At 16/12/05 22:05, Blogger Lazy Susan said...

Hi Amy,

I just love reading your blog. Sabra's mom sent me the link. I love it because I am also a midwestern American, because I have been to Paris, because I would love to live in France, because I am married to a Frenchman. Anyway, keep it up; I really enjoy it.

Your experience with the postal worker made me think of the book Almost French. Have you read it? It is about an Australian who moves to Paris. She felt that she had to turn into a rude smart-aleck to fit in.

I remember you from when you were in high school here but I can't remember if or where we met. The animal shelter comes to mind. Here is my blog if you are wondering about life in your childhood home: http://lazysusie.blogspot.com/

Not that we are typical.

Have a great day!
Susan--or as they say in Paris--Suzan


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