Another weekly contribution by the one and only Tim Straight!
The postal system in Armenia went into really low gear with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The neat row of postboxes in the first floor of each apartment stairway fell into disrepair and started to be used as garbage bins, to tack carpet cleaning ads to, and yes, to post that very public list of electrical bills on each month. I have even seen some that have weeds growing out of them- don’t ask me how the dirt got there…
For years I was hearing ‘brilliant’ ideas (OK, most of the ideas were my own…remember, I am the weirdo!) of what an abandoned row of postboxes could be used for if taken home, fixed up a bit and hung on the wall: A letter organizer, a hat and mittens rack, even a picture mounted behind each door to make a quirky line of picture frames. If mounted lower on the wall, it would make a great shoe rack. I have yet to see any one of these ideas actually put into action, partly because they are quite possibly really stupid ideas, and partly because one can probably get lynched by the neighbors for stealing their postboxes.
All this means that the mailman has to deliver my mail to my door. I live in the top floor of a five story building. My mailman is about 80 years old.
This does not bode well.
He is one of the most cheerful people I know in Yerevan, always smiling from ear to ear when he knocks on my door. He greets me politely and crisply hands over my mail like some military flag handover.
Years back, he politely suggested that I get a mailbox installed in the first floor. I sympathized with his request for obvious reasons as he stood quaking and panting at my door, yet another pesky pizza home delivery menu in hand. But the challenge was to find a mailbox in Armenia. They simply didn’t exist. Nobody sold postboxes…not the hardware store, and not the post office. So, I tried to have one made by hand. The cost was going to be something obscene, and in the end they said they couldn’t do it. This begs the question ‘why?’ or perhaps ‘huh?’ or ‘vay?’, which I shall get back to in a later blog to be called ‘I am a Master’.
Then a few years back the post office started offering postboxes for sale. They were kind of nice ones, but again, what local Armenian with a national average monthly salary of USD 248 (that’s the official figure today, but ask any villager and you will get a different answer) would prioritize buying a USD 80 postbox? Not many.
So, last year I asked my good friend Harald from Norway (not the king, though the name is the same) to bring me a Norwegian postbox. He went down to the hardware store in Oslo and bought me a very nice, white postbox with a crown and a trumpet on it…right out of Nutcracker Sweet. I strongly suspect it is Swedish, but being socially liberal to the core, I can live with that.
Howeeeever, the Swedish postbox hand-Harald-carried to Armenia to serve the Norwegian and Finnish honorary consulate (don’t even ask, but yes, it is really complicated) does not have a lock on it. Now that is a huge compliment to Scandinavia where one does not need a lock on one’s mailbox. But in Armenia? Crisis. Or rather: Crisis? I fear installing that postbox in the first floor of my apartment building. Somebody might steal my mail. Heck, they might steal my mailbox. After all, it has a horn and a crown on it. Still, I am not sure, to be honest, whether these fears are well founded. Maybe Armenians don’t rummage through other people’s mail like they do in almost all other countries (except Scandinavia)?
So, I have a dilemma that I have blatantly ignored. I have unilaterally bolted the Swedish mailbox to my door, and the mail man religiously climbs all the way up to the fifth floor to… no, not to put the pizza home delivery menus in the mailbox. He rings the doorbell first to see if I am at home in order to do the flag handover routine, big smile included. Only if I am not at home does he use the Swedish mailbox on my door, then turns and quite disappointedly shuffles back down the stairs, denied of his daily ceremony.
Now all of this is, as always, MY problem. But this one affects my mail man. Still chewing on it. A nice Christmas bonus is in order, if he lives that long, the sweet old man.