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Russian postal clerks and local deliverers are women.
There’s the easy way, and then the Russian way...
Larissa observed when we were living in the United States, that ‘Everything is for the people.’ meaning that the convenience and comfort of Americans is often considered and provided for... easy dealings with the bank, free coffee samples at the supermarket, lots of clean restrooms wherever you are.
What could be simpler than having my wife stop at the local post office to get a book for me? Now, in late January, it’s too cold in Russia for me to make the walk, minus 10 to 16 degrees centigrade. Larissa brought along our Internal Passports, and the package arrival notice she found in our topsy-turvey mailbox.
We have new apartment post boxes since last summer. Unfortunately someone painted numbers upside down, and put the boxes up so that when you open your box your mail naturally falls, even often when you carefully slide your hand in the box to catch the mail. To fix this would be to admit the management had supervised something done wrong.
Unexpected bureaucracy strikes!
Larissa has collected some books before but this time the post mistress refused to release my package without a handwritten power of attorney. The lady explained it was from across the border, and maybe I didn’t want my wife to see the mail I was sent. They had a problem with a divorced spouse before... but that was their mistake as current married status is clearly stated on internal passports.
Is delivery possible?
I was going to wait until the temperature improved but the long range forecast had no warmer weather for the next two weeks.
Sometimes the post office has occasionally delivered book packages straight to our apartment landing, so I decided to call to ask them to deliver what they had refused to release.
My Russian works!
Larissa printed what to say in Russian. Using these notes, I scanned and ad-libbed. I enunciated clearly and distinctly, and was happy to be understood with no problem.
I said, Прошу пожалуйста. Доставить пакет на дом. Я не могу придти, болен... which means... Please deliver my package to my home address. I can not come there. I am sick.
The clerk I spoke with (after maybe twemnty rings) said they would deliver the package, and a second book that had just arrived, that very night or the next day.
I handed the phone to Larissa to make sure everything was clear, and then we relaxed and felt happy with anticipation.
Within a few minutes we got another call saying they couldn’t deliver without a do-vear-en-noct delivered by hand first with this stipulated phrasing ...
доверенность Power of Attorney
I, –name-, (internal passport numbers and dates) address, give permission to get all my correspondence which comes to this post office branch to my wife, (her passport information).
Signature Postal Supervisor Counter signed in my presence.
The post office is open 10 am to 8 pm, so Larissa figured she would go after 5 pm in the bitter cold and solid dark to deliver the dovearennoct. She said they were pleasant about it . Later, at supper, I asked Larissa (before thinking what country I was in)...
Were they sorry about the inconvenience we experienced... Did they apologize?
Larissa look at me and said in a flat voice,
Robert, people in Russia never apologize.
Especially true when it is some type of official problem!
This story is typical of Russian bureaucracy, which is more burdensome than what I’ve heard about France. Still, confronted with such situations, you can survive with patience, a level temper, and persistence.
But yes, I sure miss the friendly flexibility of the average American bureaucrat!
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