Somewhere in Lonely Planet's guidebook to Romania (2010) it says that all you need to do to experience communist times in this country is to step inside a local post office branch. I've had my fair share of experience with the Romanian Postal Service and I can say with certainty (unlike some of my students) that we are better off living in the modern day.
The majority of my post office immersion has occured at the international office located way over there on THAT side of the city. Two metros, a bus, and a 500 meter walk later, you find yourself at what looks like a normal post office branch. The difference, my friends, is that it holds the key to happiness in the form of external package pickup. I've gotten quite a few packages during my time here, all very appreciated and even needed. But I should say that I steel myself against the experience. Usually going after school is the best option, because I'm out anyway and there is no way I can convince myself to actually leave the comforts of home to go through THAT ordeal.
Okay, maybe I'm painting too harsh a picture. It's not awful... just how it is here. I've learned about going RIGHT to the window, even if it means pushing that old woman out of the way. I've learned to stare at the postal employees so that they have no choice but to notice me (5 minutes later), and then to apologize when they see my passport from the USA. "I'm sorry, I only speak a little Romanian." Oh... not that much apparently. "I don't understand. I don't understand. (change accent slightly) I don't understand." Ahh- good. They now understand that I don't understand. Please stop looking at me like I'm an idiot. I'm really sorry, I am. I wish I was better at this but I'm not and you don't have to give me the eyes of hate and shame. Between 15 and 45 minutes later, I'm usually called back behind the counter to receive the package. More talking in Romanian and awkward head shaking, and I've signed and I'm out of there. Unless, oh wait- why am I paying money for this package? Ummm... I didn't do that last time. Okay. No, I don't have anything smaller than a 10 RON note. Please don't hate me... Oh shoot- my passport! I need my passport! Thanks, and please try to kill me from behind where I won't see you for forgetting to take my passport EVERY SINGLE TIME.
It's really not too awful... to pick something up.
I don't know if it is my own personal failures that cause such immense problems when I'm trying to send something, but I can say with great certainty that I'd rather pick something up from the post office, and not just because there is a box of goodies waiting for me. I cannot, to save my own LIFE, tell you why it takes such an absurdly long time to mail a card. I know it would be easier if I spoke Romanian... I know this. But all those other poor buggers speak Romanian, and they are behind me in line (that's right, more old-lady pushing). I've started playing a game while I wait that involves not looking at any clocks in an attempt to avoid the deep frustration experienced with the THIRTY FIVE minutes it took for the THREE attendants to help the FOUR people in front of me. Okay, I did look at the time.
It's fun, in a way...