DON’T SEND ME ANYTHING BY POST!
From June 2014 – a customs odyssey
So a mate of mine in Texas posts me a pair of sunglasses as a gift in January and a few days later he asks me if they’ve arrived yet.
That was the funny part.
Having almost given up on them by March, I ride down to the main postal centre in Buenos Aires and queue up for an hour with everyone else, only to be told no dice without an advice note from the postman.
I also zoom down to the local post office, but their system is down….again.
So I phone Correo Argentino customer service and they say it’s in the sorting room with all the other international parcels and that I should just wait for the postman.
By May, I had definitely given up all hope and resigned myself to the inevitable. In fact, I had blotted all thoughts of hi-tech sunglasses completely from my mind.
Last week, the postman arrived when we weren’t in and left an advice note saying that a telegram had arrived and he would try again the next day. Which he did.
A telegram? Had I inherited a fortune or was I being summoned for a speeding fine? Or being deported?
The three page A4 telegram on quality paper from Correo Argentino informs me that a package was awaiting collection at Ezeiza international airport and I would need to undertake a series of insane paper-chase exercises, including an online customs declaration (known rather scarily as a sworn statement) that the value of the goods doesn’t exceed US$25 and then present myself at a disused aircraft hangar somewhere in the Argentine hinterland. Oh, and if the parcel is not collected within 5 days, storage will be charged and after 15 days, returned to sender. All this after waiting nearly six months.
So, armed with my sheaf of sworn statements, I zoom 50kms down the motorway and join a thousand other souls, some of whom are collecting gifts sent to them last October.
Of course, no Argentine paper chase is free of charge, I knew that anyway as I handed over my $40, which I was told, was to cover admin costs for handling my parcel.
Miraculously, my number was called almost immediately and I was ushered forth through the secret door leading to the hallowed customs area, whereupon a man dressed as a scientist placed a parcel in front of me, opened it with a sharp knife and asked me if I was satisfied that the contents were indeed what I was expecting.
So, just as well it wasn’t a fucking vibrator for my girlfriend then?
At which I say to the scientist “This is one of the most bizarre experiences I’ve had in my entire life you know”, and as soon as the words came out of mouth, I knew it was a path to nowhere, but you’ve got to try haven’t you?
With that, and in perfect English, he replied ‘Well, that’s the way it is’, without a hint of empathy whatsoever.
Yes, quite. That’s exactly the way it is and sadly, I now expect nothing more and nothing less from state employees.
On leaving the sanctified and highly secret customs area I then had to check out through a security area and sign my name once again for a parcel that should have been in my hot sticky hands some six months previously, without having money extorted out of me, without the ignominy of having the contents opened in front of others as if I were a delinquent convict, without having to spend half a day travelling to God knows where, without spending my hard earned cash on petrol the price of aviation fuel and without having to justify to this corrupt and mendacious government why I should have the brazen temerity to expect the civil right of receiving an item in the post which, in any other sane country would happen in the blink of an eye.
And so, on firing up the bike, I took a look back at hangar number 3, gave it a “fuck you!” and burned some rubber in a generally easterly direction, hoping it would be the last brain numbing exercise I would have to go through and knowing that it wouldn’t be.