I like France. I love France! I’m glad I had a chance to visit France a few times to visit my friends Ralph and Deborah when I was stationed in Germany. France is a charming, beautiful country.
The French people are very nice, no matter what you’ve heard about them. Nice. Except for those in positions of minor authority. Like postal clerks, one of whom figures in today’s blog. I hope I remember the details correctly. It’s been 22 years…!
Back in America, I wrote my European friends often, always posting packages and letters with the latest US commemoratives. It was my way of waving the flag, I suppose, of proselytizing in the name of the United States of America. Besides, they were pretty, historic, folkloric, and loaded with razzle-dazzle. I believe my friend Ralph gave them to his godson.
Similarly, I carefully soaked stamps off letters from abroad so I could give them to the son of a friend at work, a boy who had a stamp collection.
For the most part, the French stamps my friend used at the time were definitives, that is, regular every day stamps, not particularly interesting, that featured Marianne or the French cock crowing. The US equivalent would be any of a dozen US flag issues or dull US Presidents. Yeah.
So, the day I got a letter from Ralph with this spectacular château commemorative on it, I thought he’d really hit a home run! What a thing of beauty. How French! How unique in size and presentation! Except…the stamp had at least half a dozen big, blobby postmarks all over it and, when I soaked it off the envelope, I discovered the cancellations had ripped it in several places. The stamp was worthless as something to give to a young philatelist. Besides, you barely could make out the design, it was smeared so badly with black ink from the cancellation stamp.
I was disappointed, disgusted, sad, and mad that this best stamp I’d ever seen, any country, was vandalized by the French post office! Didn’t they realize the letter was going abroad and that it was meant to show something very good about their country?!
In the spirit of full disclosure, I note one local post office clerk drives me crazy every time I try to do anything outside of her sense of what’s reasonable. The US Postal Service issued a international “Forever” stamp that featured a hologram picture of the earth. The stamp is circular. I wanted to send a package to England using commemoratives, including this stamp. She refused to sell me any because I wanted all she had left. I couldn’t talk her out of selling me even one!
Here’s a link to the USPS announcement for that international “Forever” stamp. The stamp is pretty cool, so you can imagine why I might want to use that instead of a postal meter postage label:
When I filled out the customs and “I haven’t put a damn bomb in this package, as though I’d tell you if I did” declarations, I noted the country to which the package was going was England. She couldn’t pull it up on her computer. She insisted there was no such place as “England”.
I showed her the address label from the package from England that I was using to address the package to England, noting that perhaps it was listed as the United Kingdom or Great Britain in her computer, though the package address label, written out by a citizen of this fantasy land that didn’t exist, stated the country was “England”…! But what did a citizen of that kingdom know? Damn English arrogance!
Seriously, I wanted to tell her that, but bit my tongue and suggested she try Great Britain, which, I think, was the way it showed up in her computer.
Jeez! You’d think someone working for years in the post office would know other possible ways to possibly bring up customs and other postal details for packages to Sussex, England!
I eventually settled for a metered postage strip, no commemoratives, and I changed the customs and “I haven’t put a damn bomb in this package, as though I’d tell you if I did” declarations to reflect whichever name the US Postal Service computer preferred for a Sussex, England address.
Now, if I want anything special, I don’t ask for it if she’s at the window, and, mostly, I send away to the US Postal Service’s Stamp Fulfillment Service if I want stinking special issues that one should be able to buy at the local post office no matter how many the clerk is willing to sell.
Then there was that clerk in the post office in Strasbourg who had a cow when I walked in with my camera around my neck. But that’s another time and place. I’m sick of postal clerks for today! That had something to do with it being illegal to take photos inside French post offices, something that generally is pretty difficult to do when the lens cap is on.