You see, re-entering the working world pales significantly in comparison with my greatest achievement of this past week (heck, probably of this past year): I have successfully freed a package from the post office.
This was not the usual post office. In fact, I just picked up a different package yesterday from the local, Village post office, and the interaction went like this:
Me: [handing over the paper to say I'd missed a delivery] Dobry den. Doufam ze, mam balik tady. (I hope I have a package here).
Friendly young man: Hm, Expatova? [Quick rummage] Tady. [Hands over package]. Potrebujeme pas. (We need your passport).
And that was it. I handed over my passport, he typed in a few numbers, handed it back, and we said goodbye. Estimated time spent: 4 minutes.
No, this was a very different experience. I was recently sent some very lovely items that were flagged up by the authorities as being over the limit of 30 EUROS.
As a result, instead of going to our local post office, the package went to the post office that specialises in imported packages and I was sent a letter informing me that I would need to fill in forms and pay a few fees.
|The building even looks like an awkward pile of paper|
My first attempt was right after my first day of teaching. I made it to the lobby and nearly to the correct floor before I gave up in despair.
The second attempt went better. It went something like this:
First, after a phone consultation with L. where he encouraged my to stop reading him the signs on the door, which he had helpfully translated as 'Office hours', and just go in, I went through a small, bland door. I found myself in a room with counter areas and what seemed to be a package handover area. I went to a randomly-chosen window and handed over the letter I had received about the package.
The lady typed in a few details, found another piece of paper in her file, stamped it, and gave me some directions in Czech. When it became clear I didn't understand fully, she commanded, 'Right!' Unsure of whether she meant the other window to our right or some other place to the right, I hung about desperately until she took pity on me and, with the assistance of another prospective package obtainee, shooed my out of the room with choruses of 'Doprava! Right!'
The second stage of my quest seemed to involve waiting outside another door until a light turned green. There were several lights and one was green when I got there, so I went in. This time, I had another lady, who explained in Czech that I would have to pay some money to free the package. I was expecting this and nodded bravely when she wrote down the amount. I fished out my wallet, but was instructed (still in Czech) that I would need to wait for some papers and pay at a different window. She printed, stamped, and had me sign three documents. Then I sat in nearby chair until she signalled that she had finished the final paper. It was stamped vigorously and then I was directed to the next station, a whole 2 metres away, to pay.
The man at the next window looked through all my papers, printed a few extra for good measure, took my money, and sent me back to the other women. She looked through the papers he gave me, and then printed and stamped yet another one for my stack.
Weighed down by an ever-increasing pile of well-stamped papers, I staggered across the hall to the original room and stood in the queue for the second window. The woman at this window looked through the stack of papers, scornfully discarding some of the papers seemingly at whim, and then informed me I needed to pay something. Picturing another series of offices, I pleaded, 'Ale, uz jsem platila!' ('But I already paid!'). However, this second fee was both smaller - and surprisingly - could be processed by her, no other counters needed.
And, thus, finally, the glorious moment came when I could stand at the package pick-up area, armed with a sea of papers, and demand my rightful package.
Estimated time: 46 minutes of my life that have been lost forever.
Also worth mentioning: the many trees that died so that my package could be free.
I expect Homer would have found rich material in the bowels of the Czech postal system.