An old entry written way back in February.
Kirsti v. Pochta Rossii (Russian postal system) remains 1 – 8. (It would still have been 0 – 8, but I awarded myself a condolence point for endurance.) A few days ago, the rug was brutally ripped out from under my tapochkeed (slippered) feet when I innocently tried to mail a package to friends back home. Well! Little did yours truly know about the War and Peace of a regulations manual of mailing things to the US!
We got off on the wrong foot right away. First, under no circumstances are you allowed to mail fish from Russia to the US. That was unfortunate, because that’s the first item she pulled out of my bag of lucky charms to be mailed. Absolutely no fish. Even if they’re in a plastic bag? No! Even if they’re as a souvenir? No!! Even if… NO.
Next item of dispute was a lovely gift bag featuring a streamlined, elegant, sensual bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka against a background of glitter, fireworks, Christmas tree tinsel, and diamonds. That gift bag is guaranteed fancier than anything I could think up to put in it; I couldn’t resist getting it for a friend of mine. That’s when rule #2 made itself known: no mailing things that advertise Russian products on them. But it’s not an advertisement!, I stutter, as my jaw freezes up from anger. She glares at me with that lingering, fire-and-ice glare that all Pochta Rossii agents have mastered. My eyelids lower to an equally cruel half-mast, both of us having a power stare-down. It’s a gift bag. I bought it in a gift store, I growl. She purses her lips and flips through the 30-lb manual. She skims with the concentration and patience of an ancient chess champion. It’s all very ritualistic, this procedure. Ten grueling minutes pass. Others in line are frighteningly impatient, pushing and stabbing at whatever lies ahead of them. She makes an obvious move to put the bag aside… for now.
Next, she pulls out a little military pin – some shameless copy of what people once had to earn and would wear with pride. She looks at me with disgust. No souvenirs, she says. I imagine her spitting a wad of chewing tobacco into a tin spittoon to emphasize her point. A postal service cowboy, of sorts. I didn’t know how to argue that one, so I silently let it pass.
Then she manhandles my tiny gem-encrusted plastic turtle. EY, SASH, WHADDYA THINK, IS THIS A SOUVENIR OR WHAT? Sasha shrugs with indifference. My woman paws through the manual futilely. At this point, I think the manual plays the same role of intimidation as Doberman pinchers guarding a front door. Sasha reenters the dispute, Naah, that’s not a souvenir, there’s nothing Russian on it. Ok, my woman concedes, unexpectedly easily.
The rest, little notebooks with silly images and goofy translations, are allowed. Now comes the breakdown: the gift bag. To permit would mean to suffer defeat, to acquiesce to this foreigner’s requests. However, after ten minutes of scouring through the manual, there was no mention of gift bags. Apparently, her desire to make my mailing experience miserable was no match to her compulsive need to follow the rules! It’s a bingo!!!!
Yet, despite that sweet victory, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth, as 2/3 of the things I had intended to send were forbidden.