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Peril at the Post Office

“As I approached the desk with my palms sweating and a tight knot in the pit of my stomach, I dreaded the worst. Never knowing the outcome of my decisions was an anxiety that I wasn’t sure I could live with much longer…”

One would be forgiven for thinking that I had well and truly lost the plot by starting this week’s column with such a dramatic opening, given both the title and the fact that I’m not trying to get a job in the Mills & Boon’s offices just yet. However, the truth is that whenever a package arrives from abroad and is held up at Customs for whatever reason, I’m inevitably left feeling like I’m an unwanted extra in Midnight Express.

The format is pretty much always the same: the dreaded paper arrives and I’m summoned to the KGB’s offices, that is, the main post office in Qormi. No one ever really tells me what’s going on until after a queue wait that could last anything from five minutes to an hour, and then I am taken to the tiny cubicle where the fate of my package will be decided depending on how respectable the packaging (and I) look.

…she’s the expert and my bag was being held hostage so it wasn’t the time for me to be clever

In one of the latest will-they, won’t-they moments, I was summoned so that a designer bag that I had recently purchased could be authenticated. The lovely lady serving me, undoubtedly an expert in luxury goods, refused to release it based on the fact that according to her, I hadn’t paid enough for it. Indeed, despite the fact the bag had a serial number and I had all the necessary documentation, it took a further 10 days for it to be verified as authentic and God only knows how that conclusion was reached.

Even more laughable was the fact that when I asked about who would be verifying it and what kind of experience they had (this was me stupidly trying to understand on what grounds my bag might be destroyed if wrongly determined to be a fake), I was curtly informed that there was someone who had been doing this for almost 20 years and he would just know.

The clincher of the conversation was a very kind suggestion that if I didn’t want the unnecessary hassle of worrying about whether or not my bag would be sent back, I should buy local. I’m not sure from where she expected me to get a Vuitton bag on Maltese soil, but then again, she’s the expert and my bag was being held hostage so it wasn’t the time for me to be clever.

The truth is that despite the monopoly and the fact that you can find a post office every 10 or so streets, the Maltese postal system leaves much to be desired. Not only are many packages delivered late (if at all), but this wonderful habit that post people have of leaving notes instead of just knocking and handing over the goods has left me and my sisters in cold furies more times than I can count.

And the buck doesn’t stop there. Doesn’t everyone just love queuing for their packages after the postman didn’t knock once, let alone twice, behind 20 old ladies who are there to loudly pay their water bills?

Believe me, Madame Postwoman, if we didn’t all have to deal with exorbitant local pricing or the actual fact that many things which I like simply don’t exist in Malta, I wouldn’t be the only one shopping local; we all would.

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