Improbable Phrases

Who says that?

Mail

Anytime I moved to a new apartment in Chicago, one of the first things that I would look for in each new neighborhood was the closest post office. I would sometimes need to mail things, and also apartment mailboxes were so small that I would occasionally need to go to the post office to pick up packages. Generally, the post offices would be within easy walking distance of wherever I was living.

When I moved to Indonesia in 2012, the first thing that I noticed was that no one had mailboxes. It turns out that Indonesia does not have much of a postal system. Most people do not receive or send letters. In my first apartment here in Indonesia, my landlord would text the electric bill information, which would include a bank account number preset with the bill amount, which you would transfer the money to at an ATM. At my new place I at least get a paper bill slipped into the apartment under my door. This is the preferred method of “mailing” things, throwing them into the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. But the electric bill and various flyers from shops in the apartment complex that are scattered on the floor just inside the front door when I get home are the only “mail” I receive. I have no idea what an Indonesian stamp even looks like.

Earlier this week I got a notice that the package that my parents had sent me for Christmas had arrived. But it hadn’t come to the school, I would need to pick it up at the local post office. Apparently postal laws have changed since the last time they sent me a box, and now all international packages are opened, inspected, closed, bagged, and then kept at the nearest post office. I would need to go to Kelapa Gading’s Kantor Pos Indonesia and pay to retrieve it. The fees are figured by a combination of the value of the contents and the overall weight of the package. I had to pay 7,000 rupiah (about 60 cents) for my Christmas box.

I got in line for the package retrieval counter (Loket 14) and stood there for about 90 minutes. I shuffled very slowly forward during that time. Since the post office in general is an underused commodity, there are very few people working there. There was only one guy working the package retrieval line. He spent between 5 and 10 minutes on each of the 12 people in front of me. It was perhaps the slowest line I have ever been in outside of an amusement park. And there was no rollercoaster at the front of the line either, just a surly guy who clearly hated his job.

When he came out with the box, I double checked that it was mine and then had to sign two different forms in three different places verifying that I had picked up the correct box. The ziptied bag that they put the resealed box in actually made it easier to carry, so that was nice at least.

I sort of hope to never need to go to the post office here again.

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