By Vyt Karazija
So the postman comes round to the villa and hands me a slip of paper, which tells me that I have to go somewhere to collect a parcel – a gift from my daughter in Australia. It says that I must pay when I collect it, apparently because it could not be delivered to my villa. I look at the postman, whose bike panniers are loaded with parcels.
“Why didn’t you just bring the parcel, instead of a note saying that I have received a parcel?” I ask reasonably. He shuffles a bit, and says, “You not here when I come before.” He can’t seem to meet my eyes. “When did you come before?” I enquire innocently. A long pause ensues; he recognises the trap. “Ah … I not come before,” comes the reluctant admission. Naturally, I enquire why not. “I think maybe you not be home?” he offers diffidently.
He is clearly uncomfortable, so taking pity on him I suggest that maybe the parcel was too heavy. “No, no – parcel not heavy now.” The “now” should have alerted me that he knew more than he was letting on, but in fairness it was before midday, so I wasn’t the sharpest bule in the gang. I tell him to bring it next time. He is shocked to the core. “No, no, no! Already make paper!” he says, agitatedly pointing to the delivery slip.
I sigh, but recognise defeat. When parked at the confluence of Bali bureaucracy and the passive aggression of its employees, there is no escape. I ask him which post office I should go to. He helpfully waves his hand through 270 degrees and tells me “over there.” I suspect that if his back wasn’t so stiff from lugging everyone’s parcels around except mine, the arc of his gesture would have encompassed 360 degrees, if not more.
So the next day I’m standing at the counter of my local post office branch. The man behind the counter is swamped with piles of letters, parcels, envelopes and several forests worth of tacky postcards. When he claps eyes on my proffered slip of paper, his face breaks out in a huge smile. I am impressed with his customer-service attitude, until he says, with evident relief, “No, no! Not here! Go to Tuban!” Oh great, I think – here comes a 40-minute trip to the airport area. Fortunately, being of a devilishly cunning bent as well as lazy, I talk my friend’s driver into picking it up for me when he is the area. He comes back empty-handed. Apparently I neglected to sign the back of the slip, an act which evidently would have authorised the bearer to pick up things on my behalf.
I duly sign, and the next day the driver again goes to the post office. He comes back empty-handed again. “Need to show passport,” he informs me. I do what I should have done to start with – jump on the bike and go looking for the post office. I quickly find out my driver buddy has been more than a little cavalier with his directions. The post office is not next to Supernova; it’s not even in the same block.
Twenty minutes later, I find a sign: “Post Office 50m” pointing up a narrow lane. I comb the entire lane and find nothing that even resembles a letter box, much less a post office. I ask a local, who says: “Go back, next to bank.” I find nothing that resembles a bank either. “Where’s the bank?” I ask another local. “Go back – next to post office” he says. Right. I forgot about The Great Bali Circular Directions Trap.
A parking guy finally sets me straight, pointing to a semi-demolished structure (or maybe half-built – it’s hard to tell in Bali) displaying no signs of human habitation or activity. He obviously senses my disbelief, saying: “No problem – go to back.” I pick my way through builders’ detritus and trash, hurdle deep trenches and climb over plant and equipment to get to a small, crowded room which is a scene of utter chaos. Waving my slip at anyone who looks interested (which turns out to be nobody), I finally buttonhole a chap who wanders off for 10 minutes and returns with my parcel.
“Passport,” he demands. I tell him that my passport is at the Immigration Office, and give him my KITAS residency permit. “No good,” he says, “Must have passport.” I think fast – unusual for me, but vital today. “Your boss in there says KITAS OK,” I say with false authority. He hesitates. I press on with the bluff: “Go ask him if you like – but he seems, er, a little angry today…”
I’ve said the magic words. He accepts my KITAS, gives me my parcel and I get out of there as fast as I can. Back at the villa, I look at the Customs Declaration that came with the parcel. It says: Cans x 2; Book x 1. But when I open the parcel, it contains one can and one book. Damn. That was good Nestlé’s condensed milk in there and now I’m going to have to ration it.
Thanks, Bali Post Office, and a pox upon your sweet-toothed, light-fingered employees. But as Meatloaf used to say, I guess two out of three ain’t bad…
Vyt Karazija writes a blog at http://borborigmus.wordpress.com and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org