Gentle readers. Pride goeth before a fall. So says the old saw, and its accuracy was once more demonstrated this morning, when I trooped along to the "Correos" office, bearing the first of my packages to be shipped home. As I waited on line (an entirely civilized experience at the Spanish post office, as in Spanish railway stations, as you just take a number when you first arrive, and wait to be called, thereby sparing everyone the agony of trying to figure out which line moves fastest), I noticed that the lady next to me had a "caja verde" just like the one I had assembled at home. To my chagrin, I noticed that her final assembled version did NOT look just like mine. Further comparison with the assembled model in the display case verified that I had indeed managed to screw things up, ending up with two external cardboard flaps that were evidently meant to have been tucked inside the box itself. What an idiot I felt!
Now, had we been in Germany, things could only have gone from bad to worse at that point. Rejection, public ridicule, probably even a fine for misuse of state-issued property. At the very least, I would have been forced to buy another box, cast out on the street to attempt to repack things there (because obviously packing a box on government property would contravene at least one by-law), then forced to stand in line all over again, as the bovine bourgeois Germans looked on in amused contempt.
Fortunately, here in Spain they do things a little differently. The fine postal employee behind the counter could not have been more helpful*. Once he diagnosed the problem, he made it abundantly clear that this was not just my problem, but his - and promptly went about solving it, with oodles of sticky tape and plenty of reassurance that lots of people made the same mistake (which I very much doubt, but I really appreciated his kindness in saying it). Three minutes later, we were done, and I was on my way. (Still trying to imagine any German bureaucrat even loaning me so much as a pen to write with, let alone half a roll of packing tape).
So, my first 7 kilograms of books are winging their way homeward. For a mere 50 euros. To put this in perspective, recall that it cost me 450 euros to ship 15 kilos by DHL last spring. And though it will take 10 days by post, it's not as if I will be needing any of those books any time soon. And yes, my next 7 kilograms are packed, in a correctly assembled box, ready to ship out tomorrow.
*: On the four or five occasions when I have visited the post office here in Madrid this visit, each of the employees I dealt with has been not only helpful, but friendly and genuinely determined to solve whatever issue concerned me. So this post is dedicated to those good folks. They really managed to make a difference in this visitor's day, something I don't take for granted.