09 August 2012

Going Postal, Swiss Style

In Switzerland, generally, the civil servants are civil and then some. Some of you may remember when I wrote about the amazingly helpful lady in the drivers license bureau.

But of course there are exceptions.

Our regular mailman looks a little like Heidi's grandfather, but with no beard, just the bushy gray mustache. Nor does his uniform include liederhosen. But he's always gentle, helpful and friendly. When he found out I'm American he asked if I'd been to Utah. He and Madame are Mormon and go to Salt Lake City about once a year.

When he's away on a pilgrimage, we get various replacement postmen, one of whom has been less than friendly.

The first time Monsieur Pickle-Up-His-Butt delivered to us I met him at the door and he complained that our box was not standard. I explained that it had seemed to work fine for our regular postman for the past two years. He said some other things too in rapid guttural French, which I didn't understand. Fortunately, we didn't see him again for several months.

Then, a few weeks ago, from my office window, I saw the postal car arrive. Monsieur Pickle Butt got out, delivered mail to our next-door neighbors, then walked back to his truck with another envelope in his hand. I recognized the envelope as being from the DVD rental service we use. But Monsieur did not deliver our envelope. He flung it back in his truck and drove off.

I knew he would drive back down our road in another 15 minutes, so I went out and waved him down when he approached. In French I asked if he didn't perhaps have something to deliver to us. The envelope was right on the seat next to him. He picked it up, and handed it to me with a shrug. I confirmed that he knew our address, he shrugged again and drove off.

We wrote a letter to the central post office in Bern, describing the event and asking whether it is legal for a postal worker to choose not to deliver a piece of mail. We received a phone call from the central post office the very next day after we mailed the letter. The nice lady asked Maïf to confirm the details of what had happened, then she apologized and said she would speak to the postman.

A couple days later we received a brochure from the post office explaining mailbox requirements. The Swiss love standardization. Remember, we even have to buy a certain kind of obscenely expensive garbage bag. The brochure mentioned that exceptions to the strict standards were sometimes made for various reasons. So, I -- being a liberty-loving, one-size-does-NOT-fit-all American -- have applied for an exemption, milking to the max the possible reasons for exceptions (historic house, no room on the roadside, ease for the postman). The day after we mailed the application, we received a letter from the postal service saying they'd received it and were moving it upstairs for consideration. No word yet.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Monsieur Grumpy delivered our mail again, and was very friendly in that AK way.

No comments:

Post a Comment