Saturday, September 27, 2008

Logistical Issues (II) : at the DHL Office

As we know, this blogger has a definite problem when it comes to books. It's not enough to read them, I have to own them as well. And, as documented in previous posts, Buenos Aires has the potential to be any biblophile's downfall.

So it was that, yesterday morning, I made a trip to the DHL office on Avenida Córdoba to take care of the ritual pre-shipping of the books.* By now I have this routine pretty much down - for instance, my mental estimate of the weight of the package to be shipped was remarkably accurate - I guessed 15 kg, as against an actual weight of 14.6 kg. The charge for such a shipment is too outrageous to be specified here, but this is one specific luxury I allow myself when travelling - the peace of mind is well worth the exorbitant fees. There seems little point in fretting and risking some kind of cardiac event, and the Argentine economy needs my dollars.

Anyway, the inventory for yesterday's shipment was as follows:

49 books
30 CDs
27 decorative refrigerator magnets

If I recall correctly, my shipment from Mexico (also DHL) included 28 books, based on a 4-week stay. From which a tentative estimate emerges, that of a book acquisition rate of one per day. In my defense, I would just like to add that, in the first four months of the year, I believe my total number of books read (it's tallied on somewhere) was 110, which is pretty close to one a day. Of course, between Mexico and Argentina, my total for the year has stalled out somewhere around the 160 mark, something I fully intend to remedy in October.

The package is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco on Wednesday, one day after I get home on Tuesday evening.

It's always such a relief to get the books thing squared away that I was sitting in the DHL office feeling quite pleased with myself. I should know by now that even the slightest temptation to feel smug about any aspect of one's travel is generally a cue for a little life lesson of some kind. Yesterday's lesson arrived in the form of two French cyclists, both in their late 40s, at a guess. They strode in to the DHL office, calf muscles bulging, each with a racing bike, and proceeded to take out screwdrivers and start to dismantle the bikes, to ship them back to France.

Let's just say, gentle readers, that cycling around Argentina, only then to dismantle a racing bike for shipping home via DHL is not something that I am ever going to accomplish in this incarnation. My jaw dropped in frank amazement as I watched them - it obviously wasn't the first time they had done this either - and it hasn't really reattained its normal position since.

To the two unknown French cyclists in the DHL office - I take off my chapeau in respect and awe. Compared to you guys, I'm just a piker when it comes to travel.

*: An earlier reconnaissance mission to the official Argentine CORREO office proved fruitless and irritating; the privatization of the postal service during the YETA years obviously has had little effect on the demeanor of its employees, who treated me to a song-and-dance routine to the effect that packages up to 500 grams had to be handed in at one type of office, from 500 grams to 5 kilos at a different kind, and packages from 10 kilos upwards could only be received at the Retiro office, which had very restricted hours, and no they couldn't look up the rates for me, despite having a computer terminal right there, and have a nice day, and - in response to my remark that the only thing that was obvious here was that they had not the slightest interest in helping me and what kind of hijo de puta would sit at his terminal and deny the ability to look something up on the web and that this was the kind of behavior more fitting to a banana republic - that I hadn't understood correctly, that this was a post office, not somewhere from which one could send parcels, that I obviously didn't understand the meaning of the word CORREO, after which it is best to draw a veil over the conversation because this is a family blog, though I will note that my parting volley of abuse, begun in Spanish and continued in English, drew rousing applause from the other customers, and I'd better stop before this aside degenerates into a kind of ungrammatical tribute to DFW.

1 comment:

Hieronymous said...

For some perspective on your experience, here's a story I ran across some time ago, written by an Englishman in Mumbai (as you shall see in the URL) trying to ship a package home.

In England, I like sometimes to send a parcel of T-shirts and books to my nephews in Italy. I put the stuff in a small cardboard box, wrap it in brown paper, take it to any post office, sign a small customs chit, and pay the postage. From home and back again the operation takes ten minutes.

But here in India, it’s different. Here, on my first occasion of trying, it took me half a day…I kid you not.