Monday, September 29, 2008

The Heat's on & the Post Office 9/29/08

The Heat's on & the Post Office 
Weather Report: This morning, 3.1 c (38 f)
Currently @ 10:51 pm4.4 c (41 f)
The forecast is for -1c tonight (29 f)

In the apartment, that is. We have been using plug-in space heaters to take the chill off the apartment for the past few weeks. To improve efficiency, I experimented with a small fan turned up toward the ceiling to circulate the cold air on the floor up to the ceiling and get a better mix of heated air down to the floor. I found that I could raise the temperature at table top height 2 degrees Celsius in this way which is almost 4 degrees without an additional heat source. It also tickles the wind chime that I found in the storage, Cabo, sun-room and put up in the parlor during the good weather in August.

We received our first real refrigerator magnet today in a birthday card from Herb and Carol Shouse. Cindy was really excited to have her first magnet on the new fridge so I took her picture with it. It reads, "Friends like you are Heaven sent." What a nice inauguration of the fridge. Maybe some of our other friends will send us magnets and we can have a collection.

I looked at the names of those who have registered as followers of this blog and found a new friend. Hi Emily! I had no idea you were reading "me". I knew Kathy and Steph where readers, but you are a surprise; welcome. Oh, I hope you are enjoying your new baby and getting some sleep. You sure have a nice sized family now. Good for you!

Thanks also to Scott, Shannon, Trisha, Marilyn, and Grandma (Barbara) Walker for signing up as followers. It is so fun to see your names and in some cases pictures as a reminder of who I'm sharing with. Thank you so much for making the time to register. That few minutes of your time means a lot to me. Thx.

I had a small adventure today; I went to the post office. Yep, Sister Simmons gave me the assignment along with the Church's real estate agent who looks for property for our chapels. His name is Ivan, pronounced "Evon", but his nickname (everyone has a nickname) is Vanya. With President Gushin on vacation for a month, the "pickup slips" were piling up on Sister Simmons' desk and she was afraid they might start returning some of the packages because they weren't picked up, so off we went to get them.

To pickup a piece of mail addressed to another person, we had to have a power-of-attorney printed up, stamped officially in our office, and signed by the person who was authorizing the pickup along with the courier (Vanya).

We drove just a few minutes to the post office, took our place in line at what we believed was the right window, and waited to do our business. When it was our turn, Vanya introduced himself as the authorized courier, gave the clerk his document and showed her his passport for identification. Up to this point, it was all pretty reasonable, even in the states. Now it starts to get interesting.

We gave her the 9 pickup slips and she scowled. Why did we wait so long? This is going to disrupt the whole post office. I think Vanya apologized and looked appropriately chastened as she looked through the slips, which helped her disposition a little.

The clerk pulled out two slips and said that we would have to go to another window, less than 10 feet down the line of closed windows to get the other items. She then went into the back room grumbling in Russian and began bringing out the same heavy plastic bags that Elder Lunt's box (contents) came in a month or so earlier. Each bag was made of that stiff plastic like the cheap, blue tarps are made of except they were limp and a beige color. Each was the size of a large gunny-sack and clamped off at the neck with a heavy purple plastic cable tie with a big manilla tag attached.

She checked each tag against the pickup slip and cut the plastic tie. She then turned each bag up-side-down in succession on a counter and dumped out the box it held. Most of them were the U.S. Postal Service Flat Rate boxes, but two were not.

One of them was a simple, grocery store cardboard box, originally closed with multiple layers of packing tape that now hung limp from every side and corner of the box. At first, I thought the box looked peculiarly dark, sort of a milk chocolate color and obviously in sad shape. As she dumped it out, it made a definitely wet plop sound as it hit the counter. When she picked it up to locate the customs slip in its now ragged plastic pouch hanging from one corner of it's formerly sticky adhesive backing she drew back her hand, looked at it and muttered something in Russian as she looked for a rag.

Vanya signed for it and as it was slid across the counter toward us, it left a trail like a giant snail on the formica. As I grabbed it to set it aside, it oozed like a soaked sponge, but it was not water; it was oil. The best we can discover is that some package above it in some truck or container leaked cooking oil on it and it soaked up all it would hold. Nothing stuck to the cardboard, and when I lifted it up, and away from my clothes, it sort of sagged and threatened to disgorge its contents right there on the post office floor.

We signed for the rest of the items, went to the other window to pick up two padded envelopes and headed or the office. The"oily mystery box" was captivating to the office staff and missionaries present and we didn't have to open it to discover that it contained about 10 bags of "Hot" Cheetos snacks. Unfortunately, the mailing label came off somewhere between clean and oily and we didn't know who the lucky recipient might be. A couple of the missionaries volunteered to take it off our hands, but Cindy and Olga were determined to get it to the right elder.

As a stroke of pure genius, and a little dumb luck, I discovered the customs slip in my shirt pocket when I was changing clothes later in our apartment. It contained the recipient's name and the return address in Wyoming. That elder's mother or sister had spent a lot of money sending him bags of, I suppose, his favorite snack. What loyalty. What love. What a mess it turned out to be.

When we got back to the office, we discovered that the mail man had just left more pickup slips at the office and after some sleuthing, we determined that these were new packages still at the post office. Vanya couldn't make another trip so I was attached to another driver, brother Drachev, the CES Director who was temporarily housed in our office while his was being remodeled.

Armed with another "document", we made another trip to the post office with me as the courier this time. Brother Drachev did not have his passport with him, so I was elected to carry the document. After the same greeting by the same clerk, she made the same determination that several slips had to be presented at another window where the clerk wanted our "documents". Drachev said the other clerk had it, to which this clerk said that we would have to bring the "document" to HER window with the slips before she could release the mail. So, back to the office, another "document" was prepared, and back to the post office to pick up the two, count them, two, bills with postage due of 100 rubles.

It was a waste of several hours in my day, but it was a cultural experience. These folks seem to love rubber stamps and they stamp with vigor and even ferocity at times, maybe for emphasis or maybe just to impress the peasants. They also seem to love "documents" and your papers MUST be in order to get what you came for. The officialness of anything worth being official is often determined by the stamping technique of the person on the other side of the window and the volume of documents needed to get your business done. What ever the motivation or the reason, the Russians I have met know how to do "official" with aplomb and near abandon.

What a country.


Marilyn said...

What a country! I can hardly wait until you have to go to the Post Office to get your 7 boxes of food. You better take several elders to help you and go in a car otherwise you'll never get all the pieces/contents back to your "home". It appears that all pkgs get opened. Why do we have to list the contents, when they look at it all? Marilyn

StevieW said...

I finally figured out how to sign on as a follower. I want you to know that I check in with you almost every day. We are on Maui with laptop. Isn't the internet the greatest? Sending my love and two are awesome! --Stevie