Fourteen people waiting, only one line open. That was how the morning began at the post office. When it was my turn, the postal worker looked at me with a soured face, looked at the box said something under her breath, then looked back at me. It wasn't a good sign.
Though I had carefully printed the address on the box, with a thick black tip marker, the Red Headed postal work wasn't impressed. "You must write the address on a sheet of white paper and attached it to the box." She said blankly. I asked her, "Do you have a piece of blank paper I could use, please?" The reply she gave without uttering a word: "Don't-bother-me."
With a quick glance, I found a stack of advertisements. Blank on the back side and white. Happy day! I quickly printed out the address, then asked the postal worker if she had any tape, par chance? She looked at me like I was stepping on her nerves. One word is all she gave, "No."
I wondered what she had for breakfast?
On my tiptoes I peered into her cubicle, I spotted air mail tape. "How about that tape?" I pointed. She barely looked at me when she said, "Mais non, we do not use airmail tape for that...(she might as well have added dumb head.)
With my box in hand, I walked to the store around the corner and bought some tape to fix my newly white make shift address label. The clock overhead said, 11:45. Quickly while juggling my box on my hip, I taped the label to it. Then raced back to the post office before it closed.
Entering the post office, I couldn't believe my luck, not a soul in the place. I chuckled because I am easily entertained.
The Red Head dropped her cell phone, and barked, "*Merde-Merde-Merde!! It is not possible (The most famous French expression of all time.)! I am closing! You cannot do this at this time--- OUT! OUT! OUT!" I calmly pointed to the clock as my witness. She stomped her foot, took my box, and locked the door behind me.
The Red Head snickered at my box, "This box is going to the United States of America? It will cost you a fortune to send. Are you sure you want to mail it?" I thought of saying, No, I am just here to bug you." I also wanted to add, "It is cheaper then an airline ticket." Instead I shook my head yes.
I filled out the declaration (custom paper), then handed it back to the Red Head. Before my eyes she took the declaration, placed it over the address label I had created, then torn a sheet of wide clear plastic tape, and plastered it over the declaration form AND MY WHITE PAPER ADDRESS LABEL!
Taped it! Counting to ten is a lesson that has helped me stay calm many of times. I counted to a hundred in record speed.
She smiled with a twist of bitter lemon that I am sure she had for breakfast.
Then she took the box and put it on the scale to weigh. With a tilt of her head and notes of sheer joy in her voice she sang, "Too bad! Too bad! Your box weighs too much! The postal scales are too small they only go to 250 grams, so you will have to go the butcher shop to have this package weighed-- if you want to mail it that is?"
I blinked my eyes in disbelief and could only utter, "What?" Then I started to count out loud..."One..., two..., three..., four... with a very bad word in between each number said.
At the butcher shop, with sides of beef, chickens plucked with their heads still attached, rabbits in full fur, and sausage strung like Christmas lights. I looked at the butcher, and before stating my weird and wacky history of how I came to be in his shop, I began by saying, "Excuse me. The reason I have never been in your shop before, is because I am a vegetarian..."
He had a hearty laugh!
I liked him instantly.
He took my box, "How much did Red Head say her scales went to?" Innocently I added, "250 grams." The butcher marked the box:
"251 grams signed, Monsieur Butcher."
The box weighed at least five pounds. I looked at him as if he just gave me sliced ham. "This package is at least five pounds?" The butcher laughed, "Not by my scales."
At 3:00 pm I was first in line at the post office. Red Head unlocked the door. She smiled, "Oh you are here again. Is everything ready to go? Viola! C'est bon!" She didn't even flinch at 251 grams! What did she have for lunch?
p.s. Not all post clerks in France are like the Red Head.