Posted by: 4initalia | February 12, 2009

Buzz Off

My sister emails that she has sent me a package. Calenders, for the kids. She’s sent it FedEx, and expects delivery by Friday. I laugh in the face of FedEx: I DO NOT RECEIVE PACKAGES. Perhaps the Italian postal service has been reading my blog and is taking revenge for certain mean things someone may have said, entirely in jest, here.

Or maybe the mime spilled the beans after he heard me muttering outside the post office. Never trust a mime.

To recap a long and insane saga: On December 29, my bank cancelled my debit card, and sent a new one to my Colorado address. Never mind that I had told my bank I’d be out of the country after December 31st, and they mailed the card without even telling me. We all make mistakes, and $900 billion in a taxypayer bailout for the banking system shouldn’t provoke anyone into an interest in customer service.

For six weeks, ever since the day my debit card stopped working in a Modena grocery store and was sucked into an ATM of death moments later, I’ve been trying to get my debit card replaced.

Soon after we left, but before the debit card debacle, a friend in Colorado put together a package of our home mail. She sent the package through the US Postal Service. The US Postal Service has some interest in fostering the delivery of mail, but not necessarily in ensuring the receipt of mail. There are 800 different options for the delivery of packages. All but two of them provide a means to track delivery. My friend chose an impressive sounding option, something like “International Premium Priority Delivery She’ll Get This You Betcha.” But not knowing there was a bank card inside, she didn’t choose an option that added: “She’ll Get This You Betcha We Double Dog Promise.” By the time we both knew my bank card was in the package, it had already gone. Aaand – a month and a half later, it’s still not here.

Not that we haven’t received other mail. Andy orders books, and days later, snug little packages are nestled comfortably in his hand. The kids ordered enough Legos to build a plastic metropolis – it was delivered so fast you could hear the wind whistling inside the box. But no mail for me. Why don’t I get mail?

I am seriously considering having a talk with that mime.

Not that I’m having trouble adjusting, but mail delivery is a frustrating enigma. We have a little mail box that opens with a key. Fair enough. Theoretically, if you receive something too big to fit in the mailbox, il Postino rings the buzzer on the outside of the building, and you can go down to pick it up. The buzzer is attached to a phone on the wall. The first time the buzzer rang, I was here alone and had no idea what it was for. It sounded like the angry cry of a thousand rabid mosquitos, and I was afraid of what that meant. The buzzer rang for the first time many moons ago. Was that my package? I’ll never know.

The second time the buzzer rang, we realized that we needed to answer the buzzer using the phone. We lifted the reciever, said “Pronto” – making huge strides, here – and…OH – the buzzer means there’s someone at the outer door. But the door is seven flights down; by the time you get to the mailbox, whoever has buzzed is long gone. This is an excellent system.

Another day, a distant buzz. Giovanna knocked. The postino had given her a package for Andy. Books, that he ordered by phone – life is so easy for him. Another time, there is a buzz, I don’t get there in time, but there is a receipt in the mailbox that says there is a package that you can pick up at the main post office in Modena. Andy brings the slip, gets another box of books. I think he knows more about this mime than he is saying.

Some days there are buzzes, and receipts. But there is no slip in the mailbox, no package for me. After a month, I think my bank owes me something. Like a bank card. So I call and ask if they can cancel the old card and FedEx me a new one. The bank is very sorry for the mixup. No, the Customer Service person is very snippy, like the banking crisis was my fault and this missing debit card business is just another of my messes that they have to clean up. With my tax money. No remorse here.

I ask for a new bank card, and she says the bank will FedEx it, but I have to be here to sign for it or Fed Ex will just send it back to the United States. I am determined, this time, to actually receive the bank card. So I ask her to send me the FedEx tracking number so that I know when the card will arrive. If I know when it will be there, I can be there to sign….is this not a reasonable request?

“No, I can’t give you the tracking number.”

“Why not?” I say in a clipped British accent. I keep hoping this is a Monty Python episode, but it isn’t.

“That’s not my department. I just ask for the card, but the ATM department orders it, and they don’t give me the tracking number.” Oh, what a delightfully reasonable explanation.

“Where is the ATM department?” I inquire, trying to help this process along.

“Across the room. But she’s not here.”

“Can you leave her a note?”

“We work different hours.”

Really, I’m going to grind my molars into dust, to keep myself from uttering a piercing scream. “Would it be possible for you to email the ATM department, with a cc to me, so I know that you have asked for the tracking number, and then she can email it to me directly?”

“No, I’ll just ask her on Monday. You’ll have to call back.”

How could I ask for an email? It was an outrageous plan, an audacious attempt to throw myself into the gaping jaws of finance and stop its relentless consumption of the expensive and limited minutes left on my phone card.

Of course I had to call back on Monday, and my voice on this call was so high and so tense that I sounded like I had inhaled a tank of helium. I asked again, as patiently as erosion grinds a continent into sand, whether the tracking information for the FedEx delivery of my bank card could be emailed to me. And Ryan, my customer service representative du jour, promised that he would. And he did. The tracking information stated that delivery would occur on Wednesday, February 12 by 8 p.m.

That morning, a horde of mosquitos shook the buzzer phone: It’s Postino time. I grabbed the phone, said “Un momento,” flew down the steps. There was no time to grab keys, or shoes, so I left the apartment door open, threw on a coat – and when I got down the seven flights, Mr. Postman was already across the street. On his motorscooter, with his little basket of mail.

I called to him: “Postino?!” then realized the door to the building was closing, which would leave me outside without shoes. I ran back to prop it open. He scooted over, but I had no idea what to say, so I pointed to our nameplate on the outer door. He replied: “Dadododoaodososdsoda sododoeieiododsoidosiodileralla.” Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

I thought he was saying that he didn’t have the package, but he left a receipt in the box and we could take that to the post office. That made sense, he drives a little motorbike and there’s no room for packages. But when I got back inside and opened the mail box, it was empty. No package, no receipt. Fortunately, that little encounter didn’t leave me standing on the sidewalk in my socks. But I have no idea what the hell he buzzed me for, unless it was just to ensure that I get locked out of our building.

And FedEx? No FedEx. Yes, dear God yes, I did leave the apartment. I practically ran to the grocery store, ran back with three heavy bags: Elvis left the building. For forty five minutes. It was wrong, but I had no food.

In that forty five minutes, FedEx most likely tried to deliver the bank card, got no response to the evil buzzer, and sent my card back to the United States. When it lands with a plastic “thwip” on the desk of the ATM Department, Customer Servers will shake their heads and say: “We knew she was a bad seed.” They will shred my card and use my bailout money on a luxe retreat to celebrate their dedication to the art of customer service.

Or perhaps FedEx has delivered my card to the mime. All day he stands on his wooden box, in the same position, never takes a break, and no one suspects that he is also an informant for the post office.

My sister has sent me calenders, and I hope she has sent them for 2010. 2009 isn’t looking good for package delivery.


  1. Andrea – I have your card.

  2. It’s good that you had a good sense of humour about it! I used to have the same problem with the postal system, but now i’m used to it. It’s amazing anything seems to work in this country and that it’s a part of the G8. What a joke!

    • I thought it was all funny – I couldn’t even buy a staaaaamp – because the woman wanted to weigh the letter. “But how much is one piece of paper and one envelope?” “I have to weigh it….” So crazy, but I loved every minute of it. And whren I wanted to scream in frustration, there was always gelato.

      Are you still there?

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