Mediterranean Cycopaths

Egypt: Post Mortem

26th February 2007 

Having waited eagerly in Cairo for some badly needed bicycle supplies (new rack, new tyre) Jon and I were thrilled to be informed our parcel was ready for collection at the Main Post Office.  Although not daring to imagine an extremely efficient system, the Parcel Collection Protocol to which we were subjected seemed a little over the top – even to these two jaded cycopaths. It went a little like this:

  • Employee A-D greet Customer’s 1 & 2 at door and direct them to appropriate floor
  • Employee E, accompanying Customer’s in lift, asks to see collection slip
  • Employee F, of superior rank, casually dismisses Employee E, taking collection slip and escorting Customer’s to Employee G
  • Employee G then escorts customers further into Postal HQ where she meets Employee H and they proceed to have a 5 minute conversation
  • Employee G informs Customer’s that they cannot collect parcel today
  • After an interaction that fails to scale the language barrier, Employee G confirms that parcel is indeed in this very same room
  • Customer’s 1 & 2 strongly assert their desire to collect parcel now (relating their taxi ride across town and plan to leave Cairo the following morning)
  • Employee G returns Customer’s to Employee F where protracted, multilateral dialogue commences
  • Employees I & J, quasi-English speakers, join negotiations, gleaning the basic facts and explaining that the man who needs to facilitate the collection (Employee MIA) is not availiable for the rest of the day and then request the registration no. and drivers license for Customer’s motorcycle
  • Customer’s explain to Employee’s F-J (minus H) that they do not posess a motorcycle, merely a humble bicycle
  • Employee I nods in understanding and then requests the registration no. and drivers license for Customer’s motorcycle
  • Customer’s explain to Employee’s F-J (minus H) that they do not posess a motorcycle, merely a humble bicycle
  • Employee I nods in understanding and then requests the registration no. and drivers license for Customer’s motorcycle
  • Customer’s (in exasperation) explain to Employee’s F-J (minus H) that they do not posess a motorcycle, merely a humble bicycle
  • Employee I both nods and understands
  • Customer’s asks what would happen in the circumstance of Employee MIA suddenly dying
  • Employee’s F-J (minus H) stare at Customer’s blankly
  • Employee F finally yields, agreeing to make some arrangements
  • Employee I & J furnish the delay with small talk, alternating between depicting everyday life in Egypt with passionately arguing between themselves over this very depiction (Customer’s percieve this to be an extremely accurate depiction)
  • Employee I learns of Customer 1’s occupation as a Physiotherapist and ties him down to a 15 minute consultation
  • Parcel arrives (from across the room) and Employee G opens with relish (eagerly assisted by Employee I – K) to examine contents
  • Customer 2 dutifully explains the role of posted goods via the medium of photograph
  • Meanwhile Customer 1 is led by Employee I to Employee L who inspects passport and hands it to a youth who proceeds to leave via the fire escape (On questioning it is clarified that youth is in fact Employee M who will copy and return passport)
  • Employee G conscientiously completes a spreadsheet the size of a table cloth before having Customer 1 fill out his Passport details
  • Employee G takes spreadsheet to Employee N who tabulates taxation – at the meagre rate of 74% the cost of goods
  • Customer 1 is speechless
  • Customer 2 suffers an involuntary shock reflex which causes a pen to be released in a manner that allegedly could be interpreted as a throw
  • Given sufficient duration to overcome their sudden-onset ailments, Customer 2 benches himself to prevent further aggravation of the situation; Customer 1 calls on all his last reserves of patience to work through the calculations that led to said figure
  • Customer 1 recieves simultaneous and competing explanations from Employee I & J whilst madly performing calulations on mobile to yield a figure of 24% cost of goods
  • Employee J explains this discrepancy simply as “This is Egypt”
  • Employee N stares defiantly and is not questioned by Employees A-M
  • Customer 1 repeats calculations under simultaneous and competing explanations from Employee I & J – the figure of 24% is again produced
  • Again, Employee J explains this discrepancy simply as “This is Egypt”
  • Again, Employee N stares defiantly and is not questioned by Employees A-M
  • This cycle is repeated perhaps 5 times at which point Customer’s 1 & 2 are threatened with being kicked out as the office is closing; Employee I explains “All of these people are here for you” (Employee A-N, Employees O&P – yet to be utilised, and Employees Q-T who held some undefined yet presumably vital backroom roles)
  • Customer’s have no alternative but to accept the mysterious workings of Egyptian mathematics
  • Employee N has Customer 1 fill out passport details
  • Employee O leads Customer’s to Employee P who has Customer 1 fill out passport details
  • Customers leave Main Post Office 2 hours later (but many years older) with parcel in hand

And that folks, is how it’s done – pure and simple!

Sean

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/46593233@N00/ 

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March 1, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. smee, i just wet myself. right at that bit where you mention the “involuntary shock reflex”. i think my work mates are a bit worried right now.

    Comment by Sprigga | March 3, 2007 | Reply


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