June 29, 2014

The USPS Adventure

Yesterday, I had a classic pre-major-trip adventure at the Flagstaff post office. Picture this: I'm driving a loaned 1996 Honda accord with no a/c. I've spent hours carefully packing and re-packing 3 large boxes to ship to my mom. They are filled with wedding gifts shipped to us in Flagstaff and little treasures of mine that I'm not ready to part with. They also contain a few clothes that I didn't have room for in my suitcase, or that my current figure doesn't accommodate. They also contain two partial bottles of perfume given to me by close friends from Saudi Arabia. I'm very attached to scents, as I hear all human beings are, so I hoped to keep these bottles around for future years to bring back my fondest memories of volleyball here in Flagstaff.

In any case, I've also spend lots of time arranging textbooks from my master's degree into boxes ready to ship to Turkey as reference materials, or at the very least, some kind of proof that I actually learned something during the past three years.

So there I am, pulling up to the post office, alone. Alan was checking on Walter, his yellow lab who incurred a traumatic attack at the kennel just a few days ago.

Before unloading my large packages, I check inside for some type of cart. I see a mail cart, and despite my usual inclination NOT to use things that aren't clearly designated for my use, I take the cart out to the Honda and load it up, sure that if anyone questions me, I can ask for forgiveness.

A fellow post-office goer reluctantly holds the doors for me, and I make it inside. I look for the old-school customs forms, and there are two options. One smaller form, and one larger one that has some extra words in the title. I choose the shorter one and fill out two, one for each international box.

"Next please."

"Hi, I've got a lot to ship... I'd like to ship these pa..."

"Ok, do they contain any hazardous or flammable materials, including lithium batteries or perfume?"

Oh crap. "Um, yes, I packed some perfume."

"You'll have to pack it separately. It's flammable."

"Oh, I didn't realize that. Sorry, I think it's in this one."

"You can pack it separately."

"Oh no, I'll just throw it away." What? This is a most valuable possession! Why did I say that?

"Find it, take it out, and go to the next available counter." She directed me back to the long counter that guides the waiting line with a pair of old scissors and large packing tape.

Luckily, I cut through the packing tape (and shipping label) on the correct box, and pulled out the ziplock with my perfume. I slipped them into my purse and reloaded the borrowed cart. I then pushed my overloaded cart to the last counter where a pleasant clerk helped my ship the domestic packages to my mom.

The international packages were up next.

"Well, this will be $80," the clerk said after weighing my shoebox full of textbooks. "If you use one of our flat rate boxes, I could get the price down a little, maybe around $60. It's over the 4-pound limit." No kidding, It's a bunch of heavy books! My other box was bigger and had even more books, so I figured I'd be repacking that, too.

"Oh, and you've filled out the wrong customs declarations." Dang. There were only two choices, and I filled out the wrong one.

For the next thirty minutes, I played a diabolical game of book-tetras while other customers passed through the line, sending packets to Norway, letter across town, and everywhere in between. An older guy even made small talk with me about Turkey. I flipped and stacked, re-ordered, and even eliminated a few books from the boxes, in order to fit my small library into two large flat-rate boxes.  I taped the up the boxes, and then went to worked on the customs forms. Round two.

$161 dollars later, I left the post office exhausted. I carried the four books that were rejected from the overpacked boxes and the dangerous flammable perfume.

On the drive home, I felt empowered. If I can keep my cool while repacking three of my five boxes, I can do anything. I know that's not sound logic, but sometimes it feels good to stick with your task to the end. Bring it on, Turkey!