Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Going Postal

La posteImage by Guillaume Brialon via Flickr

Today's visit to La Poste should have been simple. I just needed to mail some checks to my US bank for deposit. Mary Ann even helped me practice what to saw at the window. After announcing "je voudrais envoyer des cheques aux étas unis," it was all down hill.

My troubles started innocently: I didn't know synonyms for "envelope." Then things got more complex as the teller explained the difference between regular mail and the 2-day express. Since the checks were time sensitive, the 2-day express sounded like a good idea. I filled out the address, but left blank the telephone number. This turned out to be a mistake.

I was informed that the number was mandatory. I tried to explain that the bank didn't really have a number that the post office could call. OK, but what about my number. Oh no, I couldn't remember than either. We turned off all our American cell phones in favor of a local number. I haven't committed that to memory yet.

As this conversation become more complex, I understood less and less. Eventually the teller asked if any of her colleagues spoke English. I was in luck. The other lady tried to explain the situation to me and, after some back and forth, realized that we could look up my landlord's number in the phone book. That seemed to resolve the entire situation - much better than me having to call the post office back with the numbers; I can only imagine how well that would have gone over the phone.

Finally, it was time to pay. Cinquante seis Euro. It didn't register at first. 56€, that's outrageous. However, by this point, I didn't want to go back and restart the whole process. I guess I should consider that the cost of a French lesson.
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