Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day 3Orsago. At the Post Office

‘Can you help me Marina? I need to post two large books back to Australia.’

 I have knocked on the door of the Orsago Municipio before opening hours.                                                                                              

‘Oooh. Do you have another plan? The postage in Italy is very expensive.’ she says.

I can’t leave them behind. They are the Perin family history - in Italian and English and Spanish. Lorenzo and Maria grace their pages. They are beautiful books.  I am on a special mission. Antonio Perin has devoted twenty years of his life compiling these and he has donated a copy to the Capelin/Perin display at the New Italy Museum. They weigh a ton. I can’t possibly carry them across Europe.

This family double name thing is still pretty fresh for me. I still resist being a Perin though the evidence is incontrovertible. As I tell people the story they invariable say ‘Yes, Perin is definitely from around here. It’s a typical Veneto name.’ And then add, ‘This is the first I have heard of Capelin’
What gives? Were we the last of a dying breed? Did every last one of us flee the country in 1880?

Marina has dropped everything and is running around trying to find boxes, cardboard, paper. She rushes from room to room despairing and then finally returns with two A4 paper boxes. She’s planning to put them both, and another book I don’t want to carry, into one parco, one package.
‘But first, let’s go to the post office and get some information’. Marina is a mind reader. I actually knocked on her door in the Municipio hoping to ask her to simply help get me through the Italian language challenge in the post office. But she’s taken on the project totally. Thank god.

In the Post Office she and the clerk discuss the problem. ‘We talk in local dialect to each other’ she tells me as If she expected I was confused by the subtle change in her communication. Hell, I only understand that this might be harder than I expected.  There is a second clerk at the adjacent window. ‘Ooooh, Australia is very expensive’ he says helpfully.

Marina’s plan to send them as a parcel is about to be tested. We pass the books through a security system  –  a compartment which can only open one side at a time. We open the doors, put the books in, close the doors; the clerk opens the doors on the other side and takes them out. They must get some really aggressive customers in here. That or the glass cabinet acts as some sort of protection from anthrax or letter bombs.
The original clerk puts the three books on the scales and I watch her entering some figures into her computer  along with some sighs and comments to Marina which don’t seem to auger well. Marina looks at me; I look at the screen and nearly fall over. It will cost 125Euro to send them regular parcel post to Australia. That’s nearly two hundred dollars. I didn’t ask for an adult guardian travel with them.

More dialect and Marina and the clerk have a new plan. ‘If we split them into two parcels we can send them by regular mail as if they were letters’ she says. This will halve the cost. I look puzzled. She shrugs her shoulders and we head back to the wrapping room. It will still be two books (I’ve decided to carry the smaller third one) and they will still look very much like parcels. Now two parcels. Two parcels are cheaper than one. Is that an old Italian saying? I should point out at this time that these are no ordinary books. They are coffee table size and printed on glossy art quality paper.

If we can keep the weight of each parcel less than two kilos we’ll get the cheap rate. We figure we have some margin for error. Now Marina really takes control. She and her colleague, who has joined the quest, gather boxes, heavy brown paper, scissors, packing tape. I watch her skillfully cut up the boxes and reconfigure them to the size we need. I apologize for distracting her from her work. ‘I love this’ she says. She’s usually processing migrant papers and compiling records so perhaps this feels like a fresh new project where she can really use her problem solving skills. Or maybe there’s a sense of really making a difference here.

The cardboard fitted. We secure it with packing tape. Then a layer of industrial strength brown paper and further tape. Each looks pretty schmick - all addressed and ready to go. My details are in large print and Marina has added hers as a return address in case something goes wrong.

Back at the Post office the magic cabinet accepts the two new letters/parcels and the clerk puts the first on the scales. She is a well-trained Italian bureaucrat who knows the rules and, thus, there is no pity only matter of factness when she tells us the weight is 50 gm over the allowable two kilo limit. Marina looks at the clerk. I look at Marina. I’m waiting for the “lets just turn a blind eye” to this minor infringement but it doesn’t come. We collect the two packages through the infuriating double lock security device and head back to the Municipio Office.

Luckily Orsago is a small village where every service fronts the main square. The Municipio sits beside the Post Office, itself a former Municipio building which in turns sits beside the hotel in which I am staying , another former Municipio, and opposite them is the church, the historic monument, a coffee shop, a corner store (Italian style)and a trattoria/coffee shop. Each trip between any two of these is only a fifty metre walk.
With scissors in hand Marina shreds the wrapping paper, cuts the masking tape and unwraps the books from their handcrafted boxes. She then calls her mother for advice and miraculously two large padded envelopes appear from nowhere. I don’t understand the connection between the phone call and the appearance of the envelopes, but there is one. Perhaps Marina’s mother spends her days hiding in the back room waiting to be asked for advice and harboring an array of useful items?

Two books, two envelopes, two protective book covers courtesy of the author. It all fits. I’m not sure that we’ve lost our 50 gm but Marina is supremely confident. One last adjustment before we head back to the Post office. The A3 envelopes will be too big. Though they are letters, they are oversize letters and will not be accepted for the regular letter price. Luckily the books are less than A3 in size so Marina folds up the excess and tapes the truncated letter to a less than A3 size. They do bear a resemblance to letters, albeit largish and bulky but …

We head back to the Post Office. We repeat all the steps.  The parcels arrive on the clerk’s side without mishap. She puts them on the scales one at a time. We hold our breath. She types some more information into her computer and smiles. What a bargain. I will now only be paying thirty-four Euro for each book (about $50). Perhaps I should have bought them through Amazon. Their freight doesn’t seem to be as expensive as this,. But this is Italy.

The final twist is I have to pay cash. I can buy a postage stamp with my credit/debit/EFPTOS card but can’t use it for this much larger transaction. It goes into another account or some such.
It’s taken an hour and a half. I’d been planning that I’d be leaving early for Treviso this morning. I’d allowed about 40 minutes for this and thought I’d have the full afternoon to explore the town. I have learnt another travel lesson which will come in handy during this next week. Allow plenty of time for unexpected things to happen because they probably will.

The pay-off has been the opportunity to have a laugh with Marina which feels good after a gap of twenty five years. My bond with Orsago is renewed. It’s the crazy moments that are memorable.

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