Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Has anyone seen a pink shoe?
Truly this mail thing is something that all of us “Westerners” take for granted. In the States, your mail is delivered to you “through rain and shine, or sleet and snow” six days a week – and Sunday delivery is available through the Express service at additional cost. And, but for the RARE exception, it is delivered to you in the very same, exact condition it was when originally placed in the mail by the sender… Living here in Saudi has given me the opportunity to reflect upon, consider the functions of, and become truly appreciative of what I once thought was just another rather excessive, overly-indulgent and over-bloated albeit mostly financially, self-sufficient branch of Government , the United States Postal Service. I miss mail…
It – this whole “mail” thing – is something I really didn’t contemplate a great deal about before we moved from the States to Saudi Arabia. I very, very naively and innocently presumed that “mail” was something that took place all over the world. I should have known better right from the start when I went to our local Post Office branch that fateful day in the summer of 2003 and said, “I’d like to fill out a change of address / mail forwarding card, please. Is there a special form for International change of address / mail forwarding?” “Oh. No?” “No, I didn’t realize that mail could not be forwarded internationally.”
So we move to Saudi Arabia – after making arrangements for our mail to be delivered elsewhere and forwarded to us, privately. It’s no big deal that there is no actual “mail delivery” to your door, and that I have to actually go and get our mail at one of the building’s in the center of our compound. At least I can actually drive myself there, and hey, it gives me a reason to get out of the house every few days – over and above the daily post-dawn walk with the “kids.” And, I’d walk the “kids” there and back every day but for the fact that they would not be welcome inside the building once we got there…
Only just now are the Powers that Be [PTB] starting to experiment with this concept in Riyadh – and have gone so far as to install mailboxes, mailboxes that are being vandalized and stolen. Until such time as the logistical nightmare of delivering mail to “non-existent” mailboxes is worked out… And, of course, until there is some new official Government Department and Commission set up with a relative of someone who is “a pretty high up there official” duly appointed as Director of the Ministry of Lost and Confused – or whatever it is they decide to call this – mail delivery cannot officially begin… Lost and Confused. Hmm… Has just the “right ring” to it, doesn’t it? And, yes, it would be quite apt!
Not that delivery would make much of a difference to us. We rarely get mail. And when we do, it is far from being in its very same, exact condition that it was when it was originally placed in the mail by the sender… It is SOOOOO frustrating. And it makes me SOOOOO angry!!! I want SOOOOO badly to write a very nice, gentle, letter to the Editor of one – or both – of our local papers, here [Arab News and Saudi Gazette], just simply asking why? Why? Why??? But I am not allowed to… Much like this woman* who was recently suppressed by a male force, I, too, am being suppressed by a male force – my husband – who seems to think that if I am even the slightest bit outspoken on this issue – or any other – that he will be instantly relieved from the duties of the position for which he is currently employed and we will be sent back to the States where job prospects in the aviation industry are few and far between.
I recently ordered some things for our two “four-legged kids” from the States – things that cannot be found, readily or easily, by me, anyway, here in Saudi [and let’s not even get me started with the “if I could just drive myself …” that might allow me the freedom to search out seller’s of these products]. The shipment contained two bottles of a special “tacky, sticky” ear powder I need to use so that I can remove the dead hair from the ears of our Poodle [if you own a Poodle or Cocker Spaniel – this has to be done], ear cleaning solution, two new dog toothbrushes, some beef toothpaste, a pound of bone meal, a pound of brewer’s yeast, and a couple of furry, squeaky dog toys. I make the food our two “kids” eat, rather than feed them commercially available food – the selection here being poor to marginal – and need the bone meal and brewer’s yeast as a necessary ingredient for the dogs’ food.
Okay, so I’m not complaining about the fact that the PTB, here, in The Sandbox, seem to think all packages have to be thoroughly, dutifully inspected, lest some sort of item that might be construed as excitable, harmful, or illegal slip through and make it into this Country where mankind would certainly be led on a straight downhill path of instant deterioration and destruction. My complaint is that the method used to inspect all of the packages is so callous and negligent, and that absolutely no regard whatsoever is given to even remotely respecting things and items that belong to the recipient of the package.
I went to our on-camp post office to collect this box of things – the post office here sends an e-mail to my husband’s company e-mail to let you know that a package has arrived for you, as you have to go to the counter to collect it and sign for it. I brought the box home – no need to find a knife or cutter to open the box with – just need a simple pull of the masking tape that Customs uses to reseal the box after their inspection and the box is opened. And when I saw the condition inside the box – I was furious! Customs took a knife to the package of brewer’s yeast – punched a hole right into the center of it and just threw the package back in the box without even bothering to reseal it. Ditto for the bone meal. The foil packages that were originally one-pound each were almost half that, and this box, with some other items in it, along with wadded up newspaper used as packing material, is filled with bone meal and brewer’s yeast that has covered EVERYTHING, but is no longer of any use to me.
Being a reasonably intelligent woman, I do understand that the PTB believed they required inspection of two packages that were in that super-duper, heavy paper-covered foil, with virtually tamperproof seals [obviously machine sealed!], containing “powdery substances” so as to ascertain that they really did NOT contain any other type of “powdery substances” that are so illegal the punishment is being beheaded should one be caught with something of this nature.
The toys are not ruined, thankfully. [And, as you can see from a previous post, a picture of my “kids” at the toy box shows that it is practically empty, and that the poor “kids” are in dire need of some new toys!] I was able to put them in the washer, and but for some matting to the furry toys, they’re fine. This would have happened, the matting, in short order anyway, just from normal wear and tear [read: dog slobber]. The bottles of ear powder and solution I was able to clean up. The toothpaste container has too many little ridges in it to ever be “clean,” but the toothpaste is useable, so I don’t care. Toothbrushes were the only items that were not thoroughly covered in the talc-like dust of bone meal and brewer’s yeast – and this is because they were in sealed cellophane wrapping. I tried to salvage as much of the two packages of bone meal and brewer’s yeast as possible, and used baggies to transfer what I could from the “knifed” packages. I have a little over a half-pound of each. And, yes, I should probably be thankful I have that much. Certainly, the masking tape was readily available so that the PTB could easily have taped up the packages they knifed, after all, the box THEY opened for inspection THEY taped shut!
If this was the only instance of mail or a package I’ve received with some damage, I’d simply just shrug my shoulders, utter an “oh well…” and just write it off. Sadly, it is just par for the course and not a one-time occurrence. My favorites are the ones where the PTB affix a sticker that says [shown, above], in both English and Arabic,
Your enclosed item is partially damaged during the handling in our service.
With our awareness of the importance of keeping your mail safe, yet some of this mail is subject to damage during the handling process either due to misuse of the postal devices, or because the packing does not suit the nature of contents of the item or its weight.
Such mishaps are frequently expected to happen especially that we are handling millions of items daily.
With full regret to what has happened to your mail, we repaired the damage, hoping that in future such discrepancies will be minimized if not totally eliminated.
Your cooperation & assistance are highly appreciated.
With the best regards
of the Directorate General
of Posts . K.S.A.”
Yep, I have received a few of these. [I’ve saved one of the stickers. I had to. It’s just one of those “things” that no one would believe you actually received unless you had it as proof.] Just the sticker’s language… “With our awareness … of keeping your mail safe … subject to damage …” That “Such mishaps are frequently expected to happen,” just makes me shake my head in utter amazement, although after being here for almost three years now, you’d think I’d be more immune to this “amazement” by now… But the best part is, “With full regret to what has happened to your mail, we repaired the damage…”
Really? You can’t possibly be serious, because it doesn’t look like that pair of Nine West blue leather, alligator embossed mules that has the knife slice through the toe of the right shoe has been repaired at all, or even look as though an attempt has been made to repair it! It would have been even more laughable if the shoe would have had a piece of masking tape covering the “slice” made in the toe, but it didn’t, and actually, it wasn’t funny at all. [My mistake. They were shoes I’d forgotten at a friend’s house in the States when I was there a couple months ago and asked her to send them to me, here. I should have waited and just packed them in my suitcase when we are there in July.]
And, that carton of plastic storage boxes that my parents sent to me so that I could store “clothes under the bed” in a townhouse that sorely lacks closet space was yet another total loss. An entire end of the box that contained these three special “under bed” plastic cartons with covers was totally crushed. I would have been happier never even receiving this package as the “we repaired the damage” obviously didn’t apply in this instance. It was damage far beyond repair they could possibly have tried. [Perhaps, had workers of the PTB not driven a fork-lift over this box I would have received usable storage containers.] To the credit of the PTB, they did do a really, really good job of wrapping masking tape around and around and around this carton and it’s contents regardless of the fact that it was about unrecognizable by the time it got to me.
I’d probably be a more satisfied “Customer” of the Directorate General of Posts K.S.A. if I had received ALL of my mail over the past few years. I haven’t. It’s been confiscated. Yeah, I know, I know… And, I should know better, but guess sometimes I just try to look for the good of people – or a system – and I just cross my fingers and hope…
Last spring I ordered a half dozen pairs of shoes from Nordstrom’s [yes, shoes are kind of a “thing” for me – you can NEVER have too many pairs!]. Nordstrom’s does not ship internationally so I had the shoes sent to my parents, and asked them to ship them to me here. I’d done this quite a few times in the past, and I thought I was so smart with a clever little system I’d designed, that I originally thought was fool proof so that the PTB or whoever couldn’t and wouldn’t have the opportunity to decide that the pair of gold Michael Kors slides I ordered in a size 8 ½ would look better on their wife [sister, mother, daughter – or hey – maybe they, themselves – after the man that bought the make-up mirror…] than on me. I would have all of the shoes sent to my parents; they would then open the boxes and mix up the shoes so that in each box would be two totally mismatched shoes – but both for the same foot – two left shoes in one box – one from each of two pairs, and two right shoes in another box – the matches to the left shoes, etc., and then, I would have my Mom send them to me one shoebox at a time over a staggered period so that hopefully in no one period of time would a “match” be in the hands of the PTB.
The system wasn’t fool proof; it failed me. I am still missing ONE pink Carlos Santana Platform braided thong. I have the left one – it came in a box with the left black Rockport – just a plain flat “sandal,” really pretty boring and unlike most of what I order. I got the black Rockport’s solely to walk in the morning so that I wouldn’t have that “awkward” tan line from wearing sneakers when walking three and a half miles every morning with the Great Dane [before he got a “Baby” sister]. Some weeks later, as I anxiously await receipt of another box of these dozen shoes all being sent in split up pairs, I finally received the last box of what clearly said TWO SHOES on the required customs form dutifully filled out by my Mom in the States and affixed to the outside of the box; this box contained ONE shoe. It has now been over a year since the one Pink Carlos Santana thong went missing. The PTB must have caught on to my fool proof system and someone is holding on to that right shoe, hopeful that the next box of shoes will contain its “left” mate. Lesson learned. The hard way. Rather expensively, I might add.
In July of last year I sent to myself here, from the States, thirteen books. Each of the books was mailed individually in one of those padded envelopes. I was hopeful, that by sending the books individually that they would all make it. Figured I had a fifty-fifty shot of them getting through if I sent them all together or if I sent them separately, and I opted for separate. [During our move of household contents, from the States to The Sandbox, the PTB confiscated 122 of my books. We got a form that told us what had been confiscated – it did not list each individual book, but it did specify the “items” that had been removed, i.e., “board games,” “leather covered bottle” – it was a flask, “bullets” – this, no doubt, was the reason for such a thorough inspection with a fine tooth comb of every single item we owned, and they were packed, erroneously – there was no gun – the clip of bullets would have been useless to us by itself, “122 books,” “picture” – it was a Picaso print and I really thought was abstract enough not to be considered “pornography”, etc.. This is another saga, for another day…]
I received ten of the thirteen books I shipped to myself here. The post office, here on our compound, did what they could to try to find the other three. It is, but of course, a mistake on the post office from the State’s end that these three did not make it, as I was repeatedly told, and I was told that I must take it up with the post office I sent the books from. Just not particularly convenient, being on the other side of the world, to do this, and at the time, “Global Express” mail was not an option – there was no way to send anything here through the post office that could be “tracked,” or insured. The books were never sent back to me at the “return” address I used when I sent them to myself – the same address our mail continues to go before being forwarded to us from there to here. I’m more inclined to believe that they are somewhere in the offices of the PTB and I should have known better. [The three that did not make it: American Soldier by Tommy Franks; Blood and Oil by Michael Klare, and Sleeping with the Devil by Robert Baer. Gee… Big surprise that these three didn’t make it through. Yeah. Exactly. What was I thinking!?!]
Somewhere there are half a dozen issues of the National Review out there in censorship land. Okay, so yet another mistake on my part. It is probably just a bit too far to the right for being considered acceptable “printed material” here. I have since cancelled my subscription to the print edition of this magazine and instead subscribe to the on-line version. It is less expensive and includes everything and more than the print edition. It’s just not as convenient to read in bed – with the monitor and keyboard on top of you [no, I don’t read it in bed – and sure a laptop would be the perfect solution – but this is a whole separate issue having to do with how many outlets they can put in and where, etc., and I’ve been around and around and around on this, and quite frankly, I’m just tired making whoever it is here at our compound understand the simplicity of moving an outlet from a room on the other side of our bedroom – close the outlet in that room – no wires have to be messed with – but open it to be an outlet in our bedroom instead – never mind… And, sure, my husband is a “handy” guy that way, he could do it, but – and this too is an issue – if there are ANY changes made to the premises which have not been approved by something like eight or nine different departments – community, housing, communications, electrical, plumbing, air conditioning, waste treatment, you get the idea…].
In January of this year I subscribed to Lucky magazine. It’s a women’s magazine that is covers the art of shopping! I’ve received ONE issue. Just one. No doubt the first issue of this subscription sent to me here in The Kingdom contained an article reviewing the different styles and brands of brassieres and that issue is now in the personal possession of one of the PTB. I’m merely speculating. I don’t know whether there was ever such an article or not – like I said, I’ve only received ONE issue.
And speaking of brassieres… I can, and often do, shop on-line at Victoria’s Secret. Found a way to get there one day, completely by accident, and have to get there with this “special” link that I found, which I immediately saved into my favorite places. I was sure that after this one-time, completely by accident visit to the Victoria’s Secret website that I’d never be able to get to it again, but so far I’ve lucked out. It’s the only way I can get there, however. If I type in Victoria’s Secret, I am blocked. The e-mails that Victoria’s Secret sends me confirming my order, and to confirm shipping are blocked. The “from” line of my e-mail account clearly shows that I’ve received mail from Victoria’s Secret, but I am prevented from opening it – it is blocked. Until this “back door,” as I call it, is discovered, I can “secretly” shop at Victoria’s Secret and they ship internationally! There are small things to be ever so thankful for. I can’t order on-line – that gets blocked – but I have the long-distance telephone number – not the “800” number, that doesn’t work from here – and I can call and order the items I want from my “secret” on-line shopping. [Ooohh, it all just feels so terribly naughty, and I guess I think I’m getting away with something – just one small little thing – but still…]
Everybody knows that when you place an order with Victoria’s Secret that the package will automatically contain copies of their current catalog and copies of their current sale catalog. I have ordered from Victoria’s Secret many times during my few years here. Just once – just one time – I would like to receive one of the Victoria’s Secret catalogs included in the package containing my order prior to its leaving the States. Just once… It’s not happened yet, and I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen. Whether they know it or not at the time the PTB are pawing through my “personal undergarments,” clothing, shoes and bathing suits, when they remove these catalogs, they also remove all of the shipping information, and the return forms that I need to use to return and/or exchange merchandise. As many times as this has caused more than a few problems when I have wanted or needed to return or exchange items, the ONLY saving grace is that at least the forms don’t show my credit card information! The last time I received one of my Victoria’s Secret orders I made the UPS driver go back to customs to claim the packing slip and return forms and would not accept the box until he had done so. Begrudgingly, the poor little driver left with my merchandise and had to return the next day with it – but he did have the packing slip and the return/exchange forms – and, no, he wasn’t able to get any of the catalogs.
I spent quite a bit of time this morning doing some on-line shopping from Boston Proper. I only just found out they deliver internationally! We’ll see what condition that box arrives in, whether or not I get a catalog in the box, and if I get the shipping information along with the return/exchange forms…
Sure, wouldn’t shopping just be so much easier by going to the mall? Just for a minute consider what is entailed in going to the mall:
1) I have to have a driver, take a bus, or beg and plead with my husband to get him to take me [he would much rather crawl across hot pavement covered with shards of glass on his knees than go shopping with me];
2) Shopping time is very, very limited. Mornings only. From about nine o’clock to eleven-thirty or so. Everything closes then, for Prayer time, and does not reopen until late afternoon. So, I could go late afternoon, but then, everything closes again, for Prayer, and reopens, only to close a short time later for the last Prayer, and then the malls are open until midnight. If you are going to stay at the mall, through Prayer, you have to be in a coffee shop, for restaurant, and BEFORE Prayer starts. The doors get locked and you can’t get in. And, once you’re in, and its Prayer time, you have to stay there, again, the doors are locked. [And, in this regard, why isn’t EVERYONE praying??? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing!?! And, not sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant…]
3) Although I can handle this – the sizes are so different – in most stores they are European sizes, in some stores they are something else – no clue – but I did finally, smarten up and now have a little list I carry in my wallet that shows what sizes I wear depending on the “size” system and even depending on some stores.
4) You are NOT allowed to try clothes on here. There are NO dressing rooms. Nope. It is just not done. There are a couple stores – and they are few and far between – that have a broom closet or something that they will let you use to try on clothes – but this too, has a list of conditions – if there are a lot of locals in the shop – or any men – no, you cannot use their closet; if the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice are anywhere to be seen – no, you definitely will not be trying anything on; or if the “big” boss [a local] happens to be in the shop instead of just the imported sales assistants – nope, you are out of luck… A lot of women buy what it is they want and then find a ladies room to try it on so they can return it right away if it doesn’t fit. [I refuse to do this. And for good reason. I’ll cover the topic of the restroom situation one of these days, and you’ll understand why I refuse.]
5) Many of the shops have incredibly rigid “return” policies. Some you can return to – if something doesn’t fit – and get your riyals [cash] back and at a small handful of shops you will be allowed a week, most are only a few days – like three. Others don’t allow you to return an item and get your money back – you are allowed only an even exchange. Some do not allow returns at all [and I will no longer purchase items in these shops, just on general principles!]. So, if something I buy and it doesn’t fit, then I must repeat these steps again …
Wish me luck with my Boston Proper order!
*If you check out this woman’s website, you’ll notice in the top right hand corner the picture of the feet… This isn’t there for nothing. She is making a statement. Here, in The Sandbox, you “Never show the bottom of your foot to an Arab; this is considered offensive.” See No. 15 of these culture tips.