Sunday, October 24, 2010

On Phobias, Procrastination and Strawberry Jam

I procrastinate. Not about everything although Mon Mari would probably disagree. The things that I put off are likely the same things you do, if you do; buying kid birthday presents for parties, cleaning out the file cabinet, sorting and sending the mountain of paperwork the French government requires for subsidized health care. I also procrastinate sending things by mail. I never have stamps, always have addressed envelopes floating around in my bag getting dogeared and wrinkled. This is because I have an irrational fear of the post office. Why?  I felt this way in Texas too; putting off sending that ill fitting JCrew sweater back or the baby gift to a friend far away. Thank goodness for internet shopping and shipping. It's saved me more than a few times.

To add teeth to this phobia my post office in Ireland was robbed at gunpoint more than once and now, here in France, there's the language issue. I am loathe to ever step foot in one. Have I filled out the paperwork properly? Have I packaged the parcel appropriately? Why do I feel guilty when they ask what's inside?

As you know my lovely friend Teresa sent me a big box of Texas love a few weeks ago. I felt it only right to send her one back. I bought some French stuff for her--things I thought she might like to try. I filled the box, wrapped the breakables in bubble wrap and the box sat open on the hall table, mocking me. I couldn't find the address, couldn't find the tape, the kids got into it and opened the strawberry jam, ate it on their toast. I bought more to replace it. The strike slowed things down. I bought paper to wrap the box when I bought a birthday present two hours before a birthday party last week.

So it was that I finally got myself and the box to the post office last Thursday; package full, wrapped, hideously over-taped and appropriately addressed. I juggled the box and the Littlest as I waited for my turn. When it came, I pushed the box through the big parcel window. The post office lady, POL, gave me the form to fill out. I did but did something wrong so she took it from me, ripped it up and gave me another.

She asked me what I was sending. I told her food. She rattled off that the Etats-Unis doesn't accept food from other countries...even showing  me the paper with FDA printed on it. This got the attention of post office man, POM, at the next window. And the attention of his customers; an elderly couple who I had seen and heard arguing about something in the parking lot. All eyes on la Americaine. This won't be the typically boring afternoon errand to the post office, oooo la la.

POM: "If you send food to Etats-Unis they will open it and eat it."
POL: "No, they will open it and send it back. And you will have to pay for the return shipping."
POM: "Why are you sending food? Do they not have food in America?"
Americaine, ingratiatingly: "Yes, of course. But they don't have French food. They don't have Bonne Maman strawberry jam for example."
POM & POL & elderly couple, nodding and smiling: "Oh, yes. It is very good jam. Very good."

They asked  me what else I was sending. More out of curiosity rather than official interest. And they made suggestions. Is there any saucisson sec? "Mmmmm. Oui, oui. Cassoulet is very good.," the elderly couple joined in.
It was suggested that I could lie on the form and put soap and hopefully the FDA customs goons would buy it. POL wasn't thrilled with that idea because she said they would probably open a 2 kg box marked soap and then where would I be?
We all decided that I should take my box and put the contents into smaller boxes sending things separately so as to not draw any unwanted FDA heat. Clever.

I took my box home. And now it is sitting on the hall table again. I'm not as afraid of the post office but now I have to find some small boxes to contain the goodies. Teresa, I'm working on it. Maybe some day you'll get the post office approved confiture fraise.

I don't have to keep telling you that these conversations happened in French. Do I? Assume it to be the case. And therefore, assume that I've gotten about 1/3 of it right.

1 comment:

  1. I love how they told you to lie, so very typical.

    And I'm scared of La Poste too (this has nothing to do with them being my nemesis). It's the language. I'll go for stamps, but that's it.
    Maybe we should go together some day. Strength in numbers :-)


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