Not liking to have to wait long time in line as well as avoiding the heat of the day, I usually make it an early morning activity to visit the post office.
Arriving there this morning at 7:45 I found all doors still locked. The slight disappointment of not even being able to enter the P.O. boxes section (it turned out to be empty any way), was more than made up for by the knowledge that for once I would be the first one in line.
And so it happened, that is, well, sure enough the people arriving after me turned out to be there for different reasons and were instantly served, where as I had to wait for the employee involved with the stamps.
His uneasy way of dealing with all on the desk and his unfamiliar face instantly give me the feeling he’s new… He has been turning the balance around and around before finally realizing that it would be clever to place it in a way so that he could actually read the display. Turning it on and weighing the letters brings on new challenges. And even though I tell him that all nine envelopes have exactly the same content, all of them are weighed and yes, they do have the same weight, he happily confirms me. It only took him over 10 minutes to figure that out.
Next on the list is to figure out the costs involved for sending those letters overseas. That I have two for Canada and seven for Europe, not including France, makes it more complicated.
‘You see’, the young man explains ‘Canada is listed as an 80-country, Europe is 70, and France is 60.’
‘But France is in Europe too, isn’t it?, I ask him.
‘Yes, but you know, we were colonized by France’, he adds.
‘And all Malians just love the French so much, that they still give them all the advantages of the colonial time?’ I joke, making him laugh, and taking away my own irritation of already being there for over 30 minutes not even yet knowing the costs for sending out the letters.
Finally the man who’s in charge of the post office jumps in, explaining the boy how to calculate the costs. And sure enough that turns out to be more than I’m carrying in my wallet at that moment.
Whaaaaa, I’ll have to go all over it, I instantly realize and am not too excited by that.
‘No worries’, the young man says, ‘let’s wait a minute for the supervisor and see if he’s willing to make it cheaper.’ This can’t be true, I think, even at the post office prices are negotiable..???
After another wait it’s clear that at least the post has fixed prices. What a relieve! That being clear, and me not carrying enough money to send out all nine letters, the young man suggests to only send out the two to Canada and leave the European for a later moment. I agree and am blown away with disbelieve when it turns out that the stamps are still locked in the safe and that it is the supervisor only who has the right to take them out. Sure enough he’s helping another customer.
I’m done with it, my patience is wearing thin and state that I do have another appointment and that I’ll return some other day.
‘No, no,’ the young man says and instantly leaves to get the supervisor to open up the safe and take out the stamps.
After another whole lot of calculating, using two different calculators, they have it figured out: every envelop needs 17 stamps X, 1 Y and 1 Z. I’m handed the first 19 stamps and end up covering almost every single bit of white that’s left of the front side of the envelop, Malian stamps being quite big.
You already figured it out..? They didn’t have enough stamps left for the second one…
It’s okay, I just want to get out of there as soon as possible. Handing over the money, they conclude there’s not yet any change. But, there’s nothing to worry about, they assure me, the youngster and I will go for a walk to get the change with one of the nearby shops. And so happens. Shop 1 no change, shop 2 no change, shop 3 no change, same for 4 and 5 and 6. Shop 7 manages to change into smaller bills and shop 8 into some coins.
In between the shops the young man had asked for my phone number several times, saying that he would like to come to my place to visit and talk a bit and that he’d love to read some of the books that I for sure have at the house. Telling him that I do not have any French books blows him away for a second. But he quickly recovers:
‘Oh, but we can still talk, can’t we, and you can translate the book for me, can’t you?’
‘Listen’, I say to him ‘I was at the post office to post some letters not to find new contacts!’ I have reached the point where I don’t even feel like trying to be nice anymore. Honestly I’m getting very annoyed with him.
‘Oh, that’s really clear’, he says with a happy smile ‘yes, it’s true, you were at the post office to send some letters. Yes, and I am so sorry that I am disturbing you with all of this. And it’s really taking a lot of time. You know, it’s not easy, it’s not easy, it’s not easy at all…’
He enters shop 9 and returns asking me how much he still has to refund me. 880 cfa? He had managed to get a 500 and 2 250’s. I decide to grab the 500 and one of the 250’s just wanting to go home to my own safe environment and to calm down again after what was obviously too short a night for the post office experience.
1,5 hours for sending out one letter…
The other eight recipients will have to wait for their signed copy of my book.
Patience is a virtue…