Have I ever told you how much I hate La Poste? That it is the bane of my existence? (Well, that and laundry).
My virulent loathing of the institution might seem a bit overstated, but I think in some ways it’s a good solution for dealing with my frustrations living in France. I simply channel all my ill feelings into this one receptacle – no need to get upset about everything.
Sure, I suppose I could choose someplace with a bit more power – the prefecture, say- as the singular object of my wrath. (You’ve seen my absolute terror in facing the prefecture here).
However, the prefecture is not a place I have to deal with often (usually just the annual trial suffices).
La Poste, on the other hand, is a fact of daily life. Inefficiency, surly customer service, long lines – all of these traits find their way here. All of France’s woes in one convenient location, in other words.
What has set off this tirade?
Well, a small thing, really. (Isn’t it always?)
I went to make photocopies and then mail off my US taxes and some health forms to my Mutuelle (June 15 is the filing date for us folks abroad, for those of you who think I’ve woefully missed the April 15 tax deadline. A Mutuelle is a complimentary health insurance for you same US folks who might not know.)
Sounds like a simple task, right? Only in France, no small task goes unpunished.
Go to my nearest post office. Copier only takes exact change (10 centimes). Machine that makes changes is out of order. Postal workers will not give me change because, well, they don’t like giving change.
Exit post office and go to nearest photocopy place. Stand in line. My turn. First 2 pages copy. Then machine stops copying. The guy working there (very nice, I will say) tries to figure out the problem. To no avail. Woman behind me exclaims, “this place is worse than the post office!”
Ok, next post office. Great! Their change machine works! Many 10 cent coins in hand. Go to their photocopier. En panne. (Out of service).
Back to original post office. One of the copiers has managed to fall en panne, too, in the interceding time, but one still works. I make all of my copies. Hooray!
After I finish, the woman behind me tries the machine. “It doesn’t work!” she cries. Break out another en panne sign.
Not a huge deal, I know. Believe me, I still have perspective. But a quick errand (I had assumed – hah!) turned into half a day. While I’m pretty laid-back, sometimes you just want things to be straightforward. Like mailing an envelope could – in an ideal world – take about 30 seconds. (But then this blog post wouldn’t have happened).
I’m sure there were other ways. Should I have gone to corner café, ordered a glass of wine and gotten some change that way? Maybe. Might have been more fun.
But no harm done. So onto something more evil.
The post office steals my care packages. Yes. They steal.
It’s wrong to jump to conclusions, right? But after the third or fourth missing package, you start to wonder. Especially when you go inquiring after your missing package, witness their entirely haphazard tracking system (consisting of the postal worker scanning a crumpled sheet with names scrawled in horrible handwriting with no other identifying information) to then inform you that the package has never passed through. To also hear other people complaining of their missing packages. To also know this has happened at two of your Paris addresses already.
I’ve told friends and family back home to stop sending me care packages. Do you know how sad this is? Do any of you realize how vital small gifts from home are to the long-term expat? But I am a strong girl. No, it’s ok, I say, lips quivering. I’d rather you not send it. No need to waste your money, mom. It probably won’t get here.
So ok post office, you steal my stuff. Fine. Can you please at least install a working photocopier? Or give me change? Thanks.
This is how it should be: