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An exercise in absurdity

My afternoon, that is. I should have sent off my entry to the Pre-Raphaelite Society's poetry contest well before today, since I'm now crossing my fingers that it will arrive by the October 31 deadline, but, well, no room in the brain for non-Macbeth things.

Regardless, I expected to make a quick stop at the post office to buy an international money order for the £1.50 entry fee ($2.40 at today's exchange rate) and a 95-cent stamp, drop the letter in the mailbox, and be done with it.

Instead, I discovered that, although I am absolutely positive I remember buying at least one UK-bound money order from the USPS and/or Western Union some 10-12 years ago (before online transactions became the norm for such things), the lady at the post office looked over the available list on her computer several times (and looked under UK, Great Britain and England), then called her supervisor over to confirm that no, they couldn't sell me a money order that could be cashed in the UK. Practically anywhere else (including the British Virgin Islands!), but not jolly old England.

At the Meijer customer service counter (which includes both USPS and Western Union services) the girl couldn't even figure out what I was talking about, and her manager (with what I'm fairly certain was a Swedish accent) regretfully confirmed that no, they couldn't help me.

The bank, as is to be expected in this age of electronic everything, was deserted but for half a dozen employees who gathered around trying to think of a way to solve the problem that wouldn't involve a $40 fee for an international draft. They didn't manage it, but I got the feeling it was the most excitement they had all day.

In the end, I pulled £1.50 in coins from the leftovers of last year's trip (having exchanged my remaining paper money at the airport but forgotten the change), taped them to a card, and put everything into a small padded envelope to make it less obvious. Halfway to the (different) post office, I realized that this meant it was now a package and would require a customs declaration. The very sympathetic postal clerk shook her head at my account of the afternoon up to that point, then asked if I had tried a currency exchange. *headdesk* D'oh! Of course not. And it was a little late to think of it now. But it'll definitely be what I try next time.

If I were feeling cleverer, and didn't need to render my house something resembling hygienic ahead of my parents' arrival tomorrow, I would have attempted to render this tale in the style of Lizzie's letter from Nice. It would only be appropriate, after all. Plus ça change...

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
studiesinlight
Oct. 25th, 2012 01:16 am (UTC)
I am far behind on everything, but I wanted to let you know that I read your post just now, and you made me smile enormously with sympathy, and wry humor, and admiration, and you taught me something I didn't know.

You're pretty great, and I am so glad to get to hang around you. :-)
wiliqueen
Oct. 25th, 2012 01:50 am (UTC)
Thank you! I realized not far into today's adventure that it would be much more worth it if it could entertain others. Blogs are lovely things. :-D

You're mighty nice to have around yourself.
maiac
Oct. 25th, 2012 11:02 am (UTC)
Sympathy for the currency exchange runaround. Good luck with the poetry contest.

In these parts, I know where the Currency Exchange businesses are in Windsor, but not on this side of the border.
wiliqueen
Oct. 25th, 2012 02:45 pm (UTC)
They're an odd hybrid institution around here, providing lots of services unrelated (or not directly related) to foreign currency, like regular old check cashing, paying bills, buying city parking stickers, etc. And money orders.

I always forget about them, even after nine years in the area, and I really shouldn't because they're often the most convenient option.

I think it probably started with the concentration of immigrants in Chicagoland, in the suburbs as well as the city, and the services just naturally evolved from sending money home to the array of other things people need that aren't always easy to do in cash. They're pretty much the hub of financial anything for people who live paycheck to paycheck and might not have bank accounts.
yeopard
Oct. 25th, 2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
Wow...that is totally ridiculous! Amazing that one post office looked at you like you were a Martian when the other actully knew what you needed. Wow. Love the consistency...not.
wiliqueen
Oct. 25th, 2012 11:00 pm (UTC)
To be fair, the Villa Park post office (stop #1, near work) knew what I needed. It's just that they were as surprised as I was that they didn't have it! Not a high-demand item, I'm sure. *shrug*

The clerk at the Elgin post office (final stop, near home) was the first person at any of the stops to come up with the currency exchange idea, because that's where she buys money orders to send home to India.

Edited at 2012-10-25 11:03 pm (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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