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Berlin

I beat the German PO

I had been waiting with knitted brow for ages on a replacement video camera for the one that was stolen in Barcelona  I decided that the perfect place to wait for this article to arrive was Germany. I thought that if there was a place in Germany that the post was going to work with utmost efficiency it was going to be Germany.  I was staying with relations of my ex which made them ex cousin in laws. Hans Peter and Sabin Loeffler; nicer people would be hard to imagin. The Loeffler  mailman has to enter the building as there is no mail slots downstairs. It’s the same in nearly all buildings in Berlin. Mailmen in Germany have strong legs. Thing is that the door is often locked. When I ask about this. I’m told that there is always someone home. Hmmmm I thinks and don’t say another word, quietly wondering how this could possibly work. The other thing is that the buzzer in the apartment is very quiet. So yesterday when the courier did come we didn’t hear him. We found the slip of paper under the door. No worries I think they will have sent it to the obviously efficient German Post office.

With Hans Peter in tow we set off for the Post office. (he is on holidays and is needing the distraction from house work) First worrying sign is that they have sent it to a distant post office. This is dealt with in due course with a series of dead ends and the street continuing on the other side of a monument and then a park and then we find it tucked into a distant corner of a huge car park.
Once inside I step up to the counter and we hand over the notices from the courier. The woman serving has a very distinct walk. In fact she has a distinct head movement and a distinctive blink. She appears to be consistently running over something very complex in her head. She twitches when she looks at the notice and then walks with the two quick steps one slow into a door and appears on the other side of a glass box with what must be the package. Yes I see that it’s an old LG media writer box as you had described. It’s so close. She places it on a conveyer belt that leads back to our side of the room and then comes back to the counter with a ticket. It’s number fifty seven. We are directed into a waiting room full of tables and alarmingly a person fast asleep on the nearest table.  There’s about ten people in the room. I adjust my expectation, what could possible go wrong. Hans Peter follows one person as their number is called and waits by the door and watches what happens, perhaps he knows something. Indeed he does as he sent a rug from Israel a couple of years ago and had to pay a hefty import tax. He comes back and informs me that the procedure is that you are handed a box knife and asked to open the package in front of the post officials. Inwardly I retract in automatic reaction gleaned from watching the moment in Nazi movies when the protagonist comes close to discovery. I stop this line of thought as I’m beginning to scare myself.

Time drags on with the completely random series of numbers called. Hans Peter says he must move the car but not to worry as he tells me what to listen out for. “It’s crazy” he says “, but in Germany we do the numbers as they are not looked at you see. It’s siebenundfuenfzig Oh that’s alright I practice and he goes and suddenly the place springs to life.  Numbers are being called out all over the place. They are speaking so fast with what I recognize are numbers but with all sorts of other information.  I decide not to worry as it’s become surreal. Before long however he has returned and he says that’s our number. We head to the counter.

It’s the same weird woman. She hands me the cutting knife and I tear open the box. Yes it’s all good. She asks me to hand over the papers. Against my better judgement I also hand over the receipt. This is a big mistake.  She scans it and hurriedly opens a series of books with complex tables and works furiously on a calculator. That will be 150 euros she quietly states with an air of an confused Aunty giving you a push bike to an invalid child. What I say, this is wrong all wrong. She looks at me aghast then at Hans Peter for explanation.  Hans Peter is a councilor at a special needs school. He is master at tact and he speaks like butter going onto burnt toast. She now looks very confused and re consults her tables, no it’s correct you must pay. I shake my head furiously trying not to appear too crazed. Thing is that I sense that my insistence that this is wrong with the combination of Hans Peters big friendly face have totally confused her. She called for reinforcements. The next woman is far more together, she has no facial tics and quickly gathers the facts. I keep insisting that I have paid an import tax in Australia and I should not have to pay it twice. More furiously reading of fat folders of rules and ever more furious wielding of fingers onto calculators results in exactly the same result. Either I pay the fee or I send it back to Australia.  No I insist although I’m beginning to loose Hans Peter. He has been down this road before and had to pay an import duty on a second hand rug. They all throw up their hands it’s an EU rule what can they do it’s Brussles fault. Me I don’t care I just have the Australian sense of public service and fairness. No I insist this is a private camera bought in Australia and then posted to me here. I’m not an importer. Another woman is brought into the fuss. She has a kind face and a calm manner. She reviews all the information. She gets on the phone. This goes on for quite a time. There is a conference and the woman I started with is clearly confused and she starts to pull out sticky taps that she just holds with al it’s potential to make things stick. Another round of calculator action and I have given up clearly they are powerless to alter the dictates of the rule books.  She comes to the table with the package and smiles and talks in quiet friendly german laced with happy tones. I’m gathering something good has happened. Indeed the boss has decided that  I’m a hapless Australian who has no intention of selling this camera without a license and it is going to be treated as luggage posted to a careless tourist.  I am numb with lost anxiety, expectant with soon to be felt triumph and sensing that I will in time believe that I have beaten the power of the mighty German Post.