Normally my view of my adventure in Andalucia is fairly romantic. Kind words about the country, its friendly People, the tasty food, the unbeatable weather. Well. I take it all back!! Yesterday afternoon, after a day of niggling irritating problems, I had to go to Correos, the Spanish post office to collect a letter. I had the "aviso" in my mail box – maybe an item to big to fit, or a letter without sufficient postage or something I have to sign for – the usual stuff.
Marbella, no small town, only has one past office – with the other in the Port, in the El Corte Ingles department store in Puerto Banus. After my experience yesterday I understand why the post office is so unpopular!
I walked into the large, bright building in the centre of town. I was greeted by a stony silence – all around me people with glazed, sombre expressions sat or leant against the wall, waiting. They looked resigned to receiving bad news. The only sound I heard was the sudden outburst from an elderly lady in the corner, "es siempre igual".- clearly disappointed at the service from the slow-moving, miserable, unmotivated staff.
I walked towards the ticket dispenser; bi-lingual instructions explained which ticket to take – for collections and money orders etc., press here; for stamps etc., press here. I selected collections. I was awarded number 346. I glanced up at the red diodes blinking from the signs above the desks. Number 321 had just been called.
"Okay, only 23 people ahead of me – that’s 60 – 90 seconds per person, that manageable". Half an hour later, and I was ready to lose-it. The collections desk was still negotiating with the irate old lady who insisted that the parcel was there, waiting for her to collect it. The collections member of staff had called over his supervisor, who was the only person serving on the stamps and sales desk, so progress there ground to a halt. The other collections staff member had served only 4 people as she had been continually distracted by the conflict to her left. Around me no one said anything – they just gazed towards to the ceiling or watched the unfolding story of the missing parcel.
In the UK there would have been a riot by now. Yet here, patience and time seem in abundance. After a further 5 minutes I couldn’t face any more – my nerves were a wreck, I theatrically screwed up my ticket 346, threw it on the floor and stormed out – no one looked up.
When I explain my dilemma to others this morning I was told that the Correos is marvelous – so much better than before. Supposedly it’s managed by Deutche Bank now and efficiency is improving. Goodness know what it must have been like before. For a town as big as Marbella to only have one past office and maybe 10 post boxes is a sad indication of the value of the post office. In Spain there are very few stores selling greetings cards. I am told it is a cultural issue as the Spanish like to see people face-to-face rather than write a message. Personally I think it’s because they know the card will never get to its destination!