Of the Argentine postPosted: May 11, 2011
I would describe my recent attempt to send a few postcards back to the states as a vain effort to communicate to the outside world via a vast and and confounding network, the workings of which I am sure are controlled by corporate and governmental conspiracies working to prevent the conveyance of any and all meaning.* For your amusement, I detail the experience below:
First, of course, I had to buy the postcards. I did so at a typical tourist shop on Calle Florida. Nothing too thrilling, but I picked out a few functional cards. I inquired if indeed they had the stamps to facilitate the travel of the cards I selected. The answer: ‘Yes, of course. Special stamps for international service.’ Great. Lovely. I purchased the appropriate number, spent the evening scribbling out messages to a few of my loved-ones back home, and the next day set out to slip them into an appropriate mail box.
I first stopped at an OCA office down the block from my apartment. I was under the mistaken impression that ‘OCA’ was an acronym for ‘oficial correo argentino,’ but alas. Not so. I have no idea what OCA really does stand for, nor am I sure any longer that it is an acronym for anything. (I might have payed a bit more attention to the fact that ‘oficial‘ as an adjective should follow, not precede, the noun it modifies). The friendly folks at the OCA office, however, were happy to tell me that they only send packages and only within the country. They were also kind enough to direct me to the actual and truly official post office, which by then was closed.
Another day passes and I head to the real post office. Post offices in Buenos Aires, as it turns out, are like DMV offices in Los Angeles. The lines are very long, the workers grumpy, the posted information inevitably inaccurate or entirely unhelpful. I grab a number and wait an hour. Yes. An hour. No one in the office appears to be sending or receiving any mail, but large quantities of cash are exchanged and everyone seems to be filling out paperwork.** I also notice that many people come in, take a number, and depart. The locals, I assume, have a better sense of the waiting time than idiot tourists like myself.
When lucky number 71 is finally called I go up to show my cards to the extremely irritable young woman behind what appears to be bullet-proof glass. She explains to me that no, these stamps won’t work at the official post office but that I can send the cards from a kiosko down the block. In order not to have wasted an entire hour in the office I use my unpleasant face-time with the office worker to buy more, different, but apparently official postcard stamps. If I apply those to a card, I’m told, I can send it from the office.
Feeling somewhat defeated, I proceed to the kiosko and slip my cards into a metal box that sits under the postcard rack and appears never to have been used at all, much less frequently-opened. The lock on the thing looks to be so rusted as to bar even the bearer of its corresponding key from entry. The kioskero assures me, however, that I am indeed depositing my epistles in the appropriate place.
If you never receive a postcard from itinerant me, my dearest readers, please attribute that fact not to my neglect but to the labyrinthine network of competing mail services of Buenos Aires and to the unseen but omniscient forces that are trying, as usual, to destroy me.
*Come to think of it, I would describe pretty much all of my attempts to communicate to anyone as vain efforts made via a vast and and confounding network, the workings of which I am sure are controlled by corporate and governmental conspiracies working to prevent the conveyance of any and all meaning.
**I suspect the folks at the post-office are paying debts owed for services rendered. Bill-paying in Argentina has very often struck me as an extremely complicated process. People line up outside nondescript office buildings that must house various arms of the governmental bureaucracy, and they stand in those lines for hours. Or at least that’s what appears to be happening. I’ve never directly inquired, but the irritated look on the faces of those waiting along with the stacks of complicated-looking paperwork suggest as much. You should see the indecipherable three-page-long water and electricity bills. Amazing. Apparently the check is not very often in the mail (and, having visited the post office, I think I understand why).