I recently came across a highly amusing post from the folks at Global Voices, a project whose stated goal is to serve as a "guide to the most interesting conversations, information, and ideas appearing around the world on various forms of participatory media such as blogs." For reasons still unclear to me, they consider my blog deserving of inclusion in this illustrious collection, and have been kind enough to link to several of my posts. I can only imagine they'll realize their mistake within a couple of days and rectify the situation...
Nevertheless, this aforementioned post hit close to home with a recent experience of mine. The post provides a humorous analysis of the structural reasons behind the inefficiency of the Russian postal system:
"The logos of these two organizations provide a clear reflection of the way they work:
It becomes obvious right away why it takes three days for a package from the States to reach Russia, and then a month to reach the addressee in Moscow."
Shortly after I had departed for Moscow, the Mrs. sent a care package to me via airmail from the States. Not having high hopes of ever seeing the contents, I was pleasantly surprised when, almost 4 weeks later, host fam handed me the notice slip indicating that the package could be picked up at the local post office.
What I found so amusing was the fact that the slip was dated almost 3 weeks prior. This meant that it took the package a little over one week to cross the Atlantic, enter the Russian postal system, and make its way to our local post office. Unfortunately it took another 3 weeks for the delivery notice to travel the 3 city blocks between the post office and our apartment. Bravo, comrade postman! It also appears that Russia's double-headed eagle had its way with the package in the meantime, as its exterior was rather beaten and bruised by the time I saved it from the schizophrenic raptor's nest.
I appeared at the post office with my slip in hand and timidly asked a woman at the first open window where I should pick up the package. She thrust her nubby sausage fingers toward the left and mumbled "window 5."
I went to window 5 and was greeted by a woman with a decidedly more pleasant demeanor and much slimmer fingers. Knowing I was a foreigner, she kindly spoke slowly and explained that I was to exit the building and walk around to the back of the building, where I would find an attendant in the receiving office. I thanked her, exited the building, and easily found the required office.
Much to my delight the attendant in the receiving office was the same slender-fingered angel that had assisted me in the main building. Ruling out the possibility of a secret teleportal technology allowing the attendant to travel through walls, I concluded that a much more primitive technology, the door, was at work here. However, it also seems that some sort of force field prevents the transferrence of packages through the doorway, requiring one to manually circumvent the barrier, as it is physically impossible for the package to appear at window 5.
She handed me the claim slim to fill out which immediately puzzled me. While I usually don't have problems filling out basic forms in Russian, this one was an alphabet soup of abbreviations, few of which I understood. Seeing the helpless look of a 5 year-old on my face, she took my passport and began filling out the form for me. The perplexing question of where my passport was issued warrented a brief discussion and analysis of the offending document from the other person occupying the office. When I pointed out that it was issued at the "National Passport Center," they didn't seem impressed, as that hardly counts as a real "place." So then I just told them Washington D.C. (isn't that where everything national is?), which they dutifully noted on the slip.
Nevertheless, I draw several general conclusions from this experience:
1. Russian paper is significantly heavier than American paper, explaining the difficulty in transporting the delivery notice to our apartment. It's a wonder the mailbox didn't rip the bolts out of the wall given the strain it must have been under.
2. Women with slender fingers are highly preferable to those with nubs.
3. Russia posseses powerful force field technology blocking the passage of inanimate objects across its field. Given this important discovery, I do not understand why Russia is so worked up over U.S. plans to put missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe. If they can block packages, why can't they block our missiles? After all, isn't a warhead basically a package with rather unpleasant contents?
4. The schizophrenic eagle has a sweet tooth, as its bruising interest in my package could only have been due to the chocolates it smelled inside. However, its claws and beak are not very sharp at the current moment, likely due to wage arrears in the 90s, as it was unable to gain access to the contents of the package.
5. For some reason the point of origin of one's passport is a vital piece of information, without which it is forbidden to deliver packages to their rightful owners. It's the law, you know...