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Friday, December 15, 2006

Chiang Mai: Stamps at Last!

Beautiful stamps aren't dead. They are just temporarily missing. The personnel at the Thai post office went out of their way to find some for me.

The whole process started with the long walk to the post office. I went in and took a laminated number card. I saw by the number on the monitor that there are about twenty people ahead of me. That's fine, because the post office is air-conditioned.

I wandered around a bit, then sat. Fortunately the Thai post office is organized by the 'one stop shopping' method. I hate post offices that have a line for stamps, a line to send packages, a line to pick up packages, a line to do registered and insured mail. In addition to being frustrating and time-consuming, it is usually an indication that the clerks aren't too bright and are only capable of performing one simple task. They therefore are not capable of handling any questions.

Eventually my number was called, in Thai. It flashed on a screen, and my pilgrimage started. I hope everyone that received a holiday card enjoyed the stamps, and can appreciate the trouble the Thai postal service went to. They could have just said they were out.

Instead, I learned I just had to go to the packaging window to get them. Except the man there says they are out. He sent me to talk to another clerk. I followed that clerk's directions to the offices in back of the counter. There I got to talk to some of the staff who don't speak English. I looked foolish as I mimed stamp licking and pasting, complete with the pounding fist that guarantees the stamp will really stick.

Of course I eventually ended up back at the first counter. There the original clerk checked with all the other clerks. Finally he explained that they are out of the latest stamps because they were very beautiful and very popular. He digs in a bag and comes up with some nice stamps in small denominations. I can use them for part of the postage on my holiday cards, and get the rest of the postage metered. I go for that option. I even get to lick and stick and peel things. Very satisfying on the whole, especially the pounding part.

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