Last year around the holidays we were pretty down on the Dutch postal service. Sending gifts in both directions was too costly, and the timelines were too unpredictable. Gifts took literally months to arrive at their destinations. One arrived having clearly been sorted through in customs; the others just I guess hung out in some mysterious mailroom vortex.
This year, things went a lot smoother. We refrained, for the most part, from sending items to the US—we planned ahead and brought most of our gifts in November, wrapped them, and left them. The things we shipped later we kept small and close to flat, because if something is in the ballpark of flat, you can call it a brief/letter here, and then it ships faster and cheaper (win/win).
Then a couple weeks ago we hit a minor snafu. I answered the door to see our package mailman holding a box from the US—but as he showed me on an invoice that this box had been subject to import tax, and I had to pay €22 to receive it. Cash only. Well, I ran all around our apartment but could only scrounge up about €15 cash. At this point, the mailman and I had exhausted our shared vocabulary, and I couldn’t communicate that I didn’t have enough cash. He kept pointing to my name on the box—“You”—and then pointing to “€22.” Finally I opened my wallet and showed him: not enough. Then we understood each other and he said I could go pick up the package later at a postal service point (quite convenient, actually). Then he drove off with my package, leaving me with Christmas sadness.
Anyway, not to brag, but we’re pretty popular with the post this time of year. And it’s always the same package mailman (regular mail comes via a different guy, also always the same, with a very distinctive whistle). So, the package guy and I have crossed paths probably six or eight times in the past couple weeks. Now each time I answer the door he begins by assuring me I don’t owe him any money! Awesome.
So, the kicker is, this afternoon I was walking home from running errands, and about two blocks from our house, I hear a truck honk, and look just out of habit to make sure I’m not about to get flattened. To my surprise, the driver is waving to ME, and it’s our package mailman! I zipped over and he told me he had just been to our house, but since I wasn’t home, he left the package with a neighbor (since retrieved). When they leave the package with a neighbor they leave you a slip, so I would have learned this when I got home—but this experience amused me greatly.