“Is that in Europe?”—going postal, part 2
In the early 2000s the Swedish postal service closed down most
post offices and farmed out regular mail services to places like
grocery stores and gas stations.
In November 2008 I was sending a birthday present to my grand-
mother. I went to the gas station that serves as our post office.
I take a padded envelope, address it, insert my gift and fill in a
customs declaration. The glue on the envelope is all dried out, so
I take the envelope and the customs declaration to the girl at
the counter and ask for package tape. She gives me a
stapler. Um... okay, that ought to work. I staple the envelope
and she puts it on the scale, consults the postage table and punches in a price in the
register. I notice she hasn't taken the customs declaration, so I push it across the
counter toward her.
She looks at me in confusion. “So you don't need stamps?”
“Well, yes, I do, this is just the customs declaration.”
“But it says, ‘Value of postage: 50 crowns’.”
“It says ‘Value excluding postage.’ It's the value of the item inside.”
“Okay,” she says doubtfully. “That's 40 crowns for the stamps.”
“I don't think so,” I say. “To the United States?”
“Oh, is it to the United States? I didn't see that!” She goes back to consult the table again.
Looking at me for confirmation, she says, “Is that in Europe?”
Believe it or not, I’ve had that question before... probably from the same girl.
“No,” I confirmed, “it’s in the ‘Outside of Europe’ table.”
She squints at the table. “I think it says 80 crowns. Or maybe it’s 30.”
“No, it’s definitely not 30,” I say. That would be less than the domestic postage, stupid. “It must
“Okay,” she says and charges me 80 crowns. “Have a nice day.”
“Um, I need my copy of the customs declaration.”
She starts poking at it, trying to figure out which copy she’s supposed to give me. She starts
peeling off the adhesive backing. “Oh, what funny glue!”
I reach out to feel the adhesive on the customs form. It's all dried out. “Well,” I say, “That’s not
“Oh, I’ll put some tape on it,” she says cheerfully.
I leave the gas station wondering if the package is ever going to get there. Is a taped-on
customs declaration even valid? How much is “some” tape? Was 80 kronor really enough for the
package? Will she remember to tape the declaration on? Hmm...
Actually the box did arrive unscathed. It took more than the usual week, but there’s no real
reason to think that’s the fault of Idiot Girl, as I dubbed her. She was their evenings-and-
weekends person, so I wound up dealing with her quite a bit because I can’t manage to get
there during working hours. Beggars can’t be choosers!