For a number of years when we lived in Virginia, I worked at Northern Virginia Community College. I followed a school schedule. The last exam was usually about the 18th or 20th of December. But my responsibilities normally finished before then. So depending on Ben’s schedule we would be off to Florida about the 15th or so to visit my parents. That always forced me into a mad rush to get all the present buying, mailing and baking done before we took off. I guess that schedule is hard wired into me. I am happy to say that by the end of today I will be able to say that I am done with Christmas. And usually by this time I am ready to be done with it.
As we were buying presents and things to send people I tried to focus on things that will fit in an envelope. I would stand and consider something and discuss it with Ben and then dismiss it because I would have to send it in a box. Ben knew that would be difficult but just thought it was not a big deal.
I started the search for envelopes in early November. My favorite card shop in town sells padded envelopes at the EACH price. No break if you want 10 or 12. While Ben was still in Spain I went to Arezzo one day to try to find Jumbo Office. With a name like that surely they would sell office supplies. But noooo. Only furniture. And no one there could tell me a place that would sell envelopes. Back home I searched the online yellow pages again and found Buffetti. Yeah, people with a buffet will sell me padded envelopes. On one of our grocery trips to Arezzo we searched out Buffetti. It is very near the Vet that we take Siena to and had a parking lot. Not that we could find a space in the lot. Always handy to have Ben. He lurks in the car while I double park and run in. Indeed, padded envelopes and a better price than my favorite card store. Now I love the merchants and shop owners in MSS and will use them at every opportunity. If we did not make weekly trips to Arezzo to hit a big grocery store which we combine other shopping with, then everything we needed could be purchased in MSS. And if we lived in town and it was a big deal to get the car out that would make things different too. But now, by the time we drive 15 minutes or so down to MSS we might as well drive 15 minutes more to Arezzo. Anyway we got envelopes.
Then we came to the wrapping dilemma. I really haven’t seen any paper. But I have not made a huge search like I did for the envelopes. I’m sure it’s here. Sometimes I need to simplify things. Not wrapping simplifies a lot. Into the big envelopes the gifts go. Last week I made the trip to stand in line at the post office two different times. Sending away 6 big padded envelopes. That left me with my brother’s present and a few others. No way, was his going in an envelope or even a collection of envelopes. So we started the box search. That took about 5 days but I finally found one, filled it, sealed it and went off to the Post Office today.
MSS has 2 post offices. One in the heart of town and one in the ‘burbs at the bottom of the hill. To get to the one in town you have to hunt for a parking space, usually outside the town walls and then walk in and up the hill to it. And of course stand in line. In addition to being post offices, they are also banks. Acting like a regular bank in the states and also accepting payments for just about everything. This is where I go to pay for trash collection, TV tax, traffic fines and anything else that might come up. Most of the customers are conducting banking business. Very few buy stamps. Why, what do they need stamps for? They pay all their bills at the post office and see everybody they know in line at the post office so there is no need to mail letters.
Today is market day in MSS and it is RAINING! I didn’t want to fool with the PO in town and walking around in the rain carrying a package. I decided to go to the ‘burb PO. I drove past and could see that the lobby was filled with people and the the parking lot was filled with cars. But I was able to park in a curb area, not block traffic and not too illegally. Ben had not been brave enough to come down with me. I was suspicious when I was so lucky. There was no one in the line for the stamp lady. (prodotti postale) Everyone was waiting for the bank lady. (prodotti banco) Fortunately it was one of the clerks who is very patient at the postal window. I stood there and watched while she totaled up and closed out for the day all the postal transactions she had handled. The person who picks up outgoing mail comes at noon. So she has to have ready an accounting and have all the different types of mail organized for this person to pick up. This pretty much met that my mail was not going anywhere today. All her end of the day accounting doesn’t take too long and the window stays open until 1:00. So I could get my packages in the system even if they end up spending the night in the PO in MSS.
First we did the envelopes and post cards. No problems. The padded envelopes can be as bulky and stuffed as they can be. Doesn’t matter as long as the clerk thinks they will get there in one piece, no questions are asked. All the while she is eyeing the box. Finally she takes it. Weights it, and starts to look for forms. She finds the first one where I have to list the contents. I have anticipated this and have prepared a note in Italian about the contents. I am thinking this is going well. Then she starts asking for more documentation. Well I have not brought every piece of paper I have ever owned with me. Horrors! I need my codice fiscale. (similar to a social security number) Yes, I need this to mail a package. Fortunately this number is also on the health card and I have that. Now she needs my brother’s phone number. I am not one of those people who memorizes phone numbers. I have no idea what my brother’s phone number is. I can’t get my cell phone to work to ask Ben. The clerk is still filling out forms and asking for a phone number. Finally I remember the phone number for my friends in North Carolina. I give her that one. She has no idea that I have given her a phone number in North Carolina for a package going to Mississippi. Well I’m in to lying now and I have decided I will just answer anyway possible to get this package moving. A line has started to form behind me. Some guy is literally breathing down my neck. The clerk says, ‘this dolce (sweet), what is it in American?’ I say cookies (biscotti) and spell cookies for her. She says ‘fato in casa?’ Are they home made? Perfectly straight face, I respond, yes! Now I make good cookies but my brother doesn’t really want those. He wants the specialty Italian cookies that only appear at Christmas. And that is what I have bought him. Finally, no more difficult questions and 1 more form later, I part with a vast sum of money and the package is on it’s way, at least to the back room of the MSS post office for the night.
I am already planning for next year. Either we bring presents with us in June and leave them with someone to mail, buy things online from US companies and have them shipped there in the US or it fits in a padded envelope! But for now, for me, I have done my best for Christmas. Ben is still stuffing envelopes, dithering over gift selection and other issues. So if you are more directly related to Ben than you are to me…well don’t be running to the mailbox anytime soon. I announced several times that I will not stand in line at the post office again until January.
Otherwise it has been a rainy day. If I had not planed to go to the Post Office I swear I would probably still be in bed. It was just that kind of day. So no sunsets here. But Christmas is done! Now I think I will just sit back and enjoy the rest of it. Tomorrow, the COOP, not always known for good prices, puts Moet Chandon Champagne on sale for 19 Euros a bottle. I usually will not spend that amount for a bottle of wine but for this special New Year’s I will. Maybe there will be pictures of us at New Year’s.
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