Because if you do, please tell me. To this day, Hay Post, the “official national postal operator of the Republic of Armenia,” remains a big mystery. Sometimes I get my mail from Canada, sometimes I don’t (though it always seems the mail I send to Canada is received). And don’t ask me why.
Earlier this month, I went to the post office just to check if the two cards I’m expecting from friends in Canada (good thing they told me they sent me mail!) had arrived. Both friends had sent their cards in December and two weeks had passed. Alas, no mail, but the woman behind the counter asked me to leave my phone number so that they could call me when they get my mail. (For those not in the know, in Armenia we don’t actually have mailboxes outside our homes so any mail you get is delivered to your nearest post office.)
So I began to give her my mobile phone number only to be interrupted and asked for my landline number at home. Now, call me unreasonable, but if I’m at work all day and out of the house (and it should be said answering machines are also not widespread in the country), how am I supposed to get her call? If she’s going to go to the trouble to call me, wouldn’t it be better if I give her my mobile number instead? But I assume she was calling from the post office’s own landline number and, as we all know, calls to mobile phones are more expensive than those to landlines (and sometimes offices will block this option). So a landline number it is — or no call at all.
It was no surprise at all then that the next time I walked into the post office, she told me she tried to call but there was no answer. So how did I know I had mail? By the other system of informing residents: a piece of paper stuck not to my apartment door but to the front door of the building — a single standard form addressed to me AND my neighbor to come pick up our mail. Luckily the wind didn’t blow that piece of paper (then two people wouldn’t have known they had mail) and I did the good neighborly thing of bringing it in and up to my neighbor’s flat to let her know she too had mail waiting for her at the post office.
The next day, I walk into the post office and by now the woman (it always seems to be a woman and always one person who’s assigned to your apartment, eh?) recognized me and immediately went to the back to get my card. She then asked me while I’m at it couldn’t I possibly give my neighbor’s letter to her too? What?! Isn’t this a criminal offense? Perhaps it’s not an offense to have someone else’s mail in your possession, but what if I opened it? That’s a crime, right? Needless to say, Post Office Woman didn’t bat an eye.
And though she knew who I was and which apartment I lived in, we don’t really know each other that well (contrary to the way this story is being told, I don’t go into the post office that often) and I figured she’d have to check my ID (passport, check). But no. So she not only didn’t check that I am who I am and live at the address for which I’m picking up mail, but also gave me my neighbor’s mail to pass on to her.
Oh, and at the end of the work day when I returned to the apartment and finally delivered my neighbor’s mail to her, didn’t she tell me what I feared — that she went to the post office that day to pick up her mail and was told I had picked it for her instead. Sheesh.
As for mail that goes missing (remember I’m still waiting for a card!), when I inquired how this might happen, the lovely Hay Post staff informed me that mail (just like airlines, it seems) doesn’t arrive direct to Armenia but goes to a processing center in Russia first — at least mail coming from North America does. And anything that goes wrong of course isn’t Hay Post’s fault, but that of Russian postal services. How could I argue with that?
Whether it’s the fault of Russian Post or Hay Post (or even Canada Post), it goes without saying that the more drop-off points mail has, the more the margin of error increases. Error would be less likely if mail sent from Canada was received directly by Hay Post. Anyone know why this isn’t the case?
At the end of the day, I have to say it’s still a thrill to receive snail mail from friends and family abroad, and in Armenia, it’s all the more special, because I know that it was just as likely I might never have received it…
(And in case you thought postal service woes were limited to Armenia, I recommend you read this lovely rant about the inefficiency of France’s La Poste by fellow blogger Sion Dayson — I remember reading it at the time and thinking, so it’s not just me? *sigh*)