Thursday, December 04, 2003

The China Post

Coming from a country where, “Going Postal!” means freaking out and turning on your co-workers in a murderous way, I’m thinking China must be the exact opposite.

The Postal Service here leaves a LOT to the imagination.

Honest to god I’m trying really hard not to be negative about my China experience, but dammit, it’s not my fault my native culture spoiled me!

The China Post, as its called here, is an interesting organization. It handles the massive amount of snail mail that is generated both in-country and out and serves the billions of Chinese citizens present here in this huge, overpopulated country.

In America, the U.S. Postal service, when its not creating murderous, seriously disgruntled employees, is par for the course regarding efficiency. Organization is its claim to fame and its motto, something to the effect that neither rain, nor snow, nor fog, nor any other inclement weather will stop the delivery of the U.S. mail.

China….well,………….suffice it to say it’s different here.

The China Post is a sketchy organization that does pretty much as it pleases. They open mail at will, take what they want, deliver what they want – when they want to deliver it, IF they deliver it.

When I first arrived here, my first contact with the China Post was at the selling center in Phoenix City. I had a letter to send. I had no envelopes or stamps, so I went to the China Post (with a Mandarin and Cantonese speaking friend) to mail it.

“No envelopes!” we were told. So I tried to purchase some stamps. “No stamps!” we were told.

Jesus Christ.

In the months to follow, I discovered that this particular office of the China Post opens when they decide it is convenient to open.

Too many times I’ve showed up at ten in the morning, one in the afternoon, four in the afternoon and so on….only to find the damn place closed.

When they ARE open, it is an experience in-and-of itself.

I bring a sealed envelope into the office, give it to the clerk and he weighs it. After weighing it, he peers at a sign in the lobby that’s virtually impossible for him to read unless he’s equipped with binoculars for glasses. Then he makes a split decision as to whether I need extra postage or not. Suddenly he points to a 2 Yuan stamp and holds out his hand.

Well, I began taking careful notice of this. I carefully counted the pages I inserted into a letter. Six pages was typically 6.80 Yuan. So, one day I showed up and gave the clerk a letter containing four pages and I was charged 8.80 Yuan.

Go figure.

What was I going to do? Argue with him in English?

I don’t think so.

But, the real nutcracker lately was the time I showed up to mail a letter and was told to wait while the clerk went to his motorcycle, removed his saddlebags of mail, fished out at least ten various size envelopes and handed them to me.

I looked at them, recognizing two of them. One was mine and the other was for the other foreign teacher here at the school, mailed from Seattle, Washington. The rest of them were addressed in Chinese.

At first I didn’t get it. Then the clerk sticks a sheet of paper in front of me and asks me to sign for these letters.

What the fuck?

Finally, I get it.

I’m a little slow in my old age, but finally I figured it out. These letters were for the school and this lazy ass wanted me to deliver them so he wouldn’t have to drive all the way out on East Guang Yuan road in Phoenix City.

Jeeem the Postman.

Gotta admit I felt important that day. I wonder what that clerk would have thought if I’d pulled out a gun and wiped out all the administrative staff when I got back to the school?

(Things that make you go….”Hummmmm.”)



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