Monday, October 22, 2012

Malaysian Moments: Post Office Edition

Those times when there is no explanation for what is happening other than the fact that I'm a foreigner living in a different land. (In case you missed them, you can find other examples in my post from August here!)

Today I went to the post office to mail a letter to my sister. The task was simple..... until I remembered that I live in Asia where there is no such thing. I wrote the card, addressed the envelope, and went to seal it when I realized that there was no adhesive on the envelope for sealing. No big deal, I thought to myself, I'll just ask them if I can have some tape when I get to the desk. Since 5:00pm on a Monday is obviously everyone's favorite time to go to the post office, I got my ticket and waited for about 10 minutes before my number was called. I gave the card to the lady, she weighed it, calculated the postage, and gave me what I needed. I asked for tape and she said, "Don't have. Glue can?" while motioning that I could put a tiny dot of glue on the lip of the envelope to seal it. Easy enough, that'll be perfect, I thought as I nodded in agreement. She opened the glue, appeared to test it out and handed it to me. I tried to squeeze a tiny drop (as she had indicated) onto the envelope. Nothing. Tried again. Nothing. Clearly the top is dried up, so I need to unclog it. Messed with it for a little while until I thought I had created a small hole and tried again. Since I figured a little pressure would help the glue burst through the tiny hole I'd created, I squeezed.
Now, I'm not a rocket scientist, I'm a school teacher... and an American. I use Elmer's glue and when it gets clogged, a little peeling and a little extra pressure makes the glue come out. This was not the case. Before I could blink, the entire top of the glue had shot 3 feet away and glue was pouring all over the counter, floor, and envelope.
Remember when I said the Post Office was hopping? Yeah, that hadn't changed. So, there I stand, at the counter, trying to seal shut a letter to my sister with glue all over everything and 15+ Asians STARING at me. I panicked and had no idea what to do, so I started wiping up the glue on the counter with my hand and wiping it onto a plastic grocery bag I had (thankfully!). After about 30 seconds (felt like 3 hours) of doing this, a fellow patron saw my despair and casually grabbed a roll of toilet paper that was sitting on the counter 20 feet away, set it on the counter beside me, smiled compassionately, and walked away. At this point the employee at the counter finally looked up, realized that her "tiny dot of glue" trick hadn't worked out so well and started helping me wipe up the remaining mess... with TOILET PAPER. Have you ever tried to clean up a spill with Asian toilet paper (known by some in America as tissue paper)? How about a GLUE spill? While the worker finished wiping off my letter (good luck opening that one, Molly!), I started wiping up the two huge glue puddles on the ground. I came across the evil top of the glue and handed it back to her, she stared at it in bewilderment.
So much for getting points on presentation. Consider these toilet paper shreds your Malaysian souvenir?
 After about a minute of my best efforts (while I continued to be on display for all the ever-so-discreet and helpful Asians watching), the lady said "Ok" and motioned for me to leave. I profusely apologized, grabbed my backpack and high-tailed it out of there. I spent about a minute peeling dried glue and toilet paper bits off my hand before dropping the card in the mailbox and walking promptly to the $0.30 ice cream cone shop to help soothe the pain.
I think the saddest part of this story is that as I was leaving school today, I contemplated bringing tape in case the envelopes didn't seal. A) I've been in Asia too long for that thought even cross my mind. B) Why didn't I listen to my instincts?!

On an unrelated note, Malaysia has beautiful, but unnecessarily large stamps!
The two inch long stamp cost 50 Malaysian cents, the star fruit one costs 2 ringgit. Go figure!?

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