Saturday, December 17, 2016

How the Blisses Saved Christmas

I got a slip in the mail yesterday telling me that I had a document to pick up at the local post office.  I had been waiting for this slip for weeks now.  I diligently checked the mailbox every day.  I even leafed through every flier to make sure the slip was not hidden inside it.  We were expecting a package and we wanted to be sure to pick it up promptly lest it be returned to the sender or we be forced to pay a fine.

I took the slip down to the post office after I dropped the kids off at school.  After waiting in line behind two other postal customers, I finally got my chance.  I presented the post office the slip and was in return given a second slip of paper telling me that that package was waiting for me a the Central Customs Agency.

It has been years since we have had to take a trip to the Customs Agency near the train station in Sofia.  For a while now we have been able to call the Agency and have them deliver packages directly to our door, so it came as a bit of an unpleasant surprise that this time there was no option for home delivery.

We wasted no time.  Sasha and I walked down to the subway station and rode the five stops to the train station.  We then walked two blocks to the Customs Agency.  As we walked there, Sasha reminded me that it was Friday and the slip of paper directed us to go to window number 13.  It’s a good thing we are not superstitious.

We entered the large hall of windows with a beautiful Christmas tree on display in the middle and a large glass-ceiling overhead.  We approached the window where again I found myself in line behind two people.  When it was my turn I handed over the slip of paper and my ID card.  I was then asked the question, “What’s in the package?”

Sasha and I had been expecting this question and had rehearsed several answers.  We were fairly certain that the package was from my folks back in Illinois, but we could not be totally sure yet as we had not seen the package.  The best answer we came up with while waiting was, “I don’t know.  Ask Santa.”

We did not give the lady this answer.  Instead I chickened out and just said, “I don’t know.  I think its gifts.”  This was probably a wise move as any sarcastic responses might have caused her to return the package to America.

She had me fill out a form and then handed me some documentation with the instructions, “Go to window 28 and pay a 4 Leva import tax.”

“Right!” I thought, “Go to window 24 and pay a 8 Leva import tax . . . or was it window 21?”

“Sasha, where were we supposed to go again?”  (It’s nice to have a Bulgarian with you in such circumstances.)

We wound our way through the bowels of the building until we found a wonderfully ancient set of yellow windows.  We were so happy that we had made it in just a few hours from the time we got the slip of paper to the time we got our package.  We went to window 28 to pay the 4 Leva tax.

Upon taking our money, the lady at window 28 handed us a new clump of documents and told me to go to window 30 to pick up our package.  Fortunately window 28 was just two windows down from window 30.  (Amazing concept, I know.)

We went to window 30 ready to pick up our package that we had hurried to get since we had received that slip of paper in the mail just a few hours before.  The lady at window 30 looked at our documents.  Then she looked at her book listing off the packages.  Then she looked at me.  Then she asked me my name.  I smiled and refrained from pointing out that it was on the slip of paper in front of her.  Instead I just said, “David Bliss.”  She found my name and had me sign the ledger.

She then informed me that there was a 2.10 Leva fine for being late picking it up.  I smiled and said, “No problem.”  As she left to get the package, I pulled out the three small coins necessary to pay the fine.  Meanwhile Sasha began to get a little ticked off.

“We just got the slip today!  How can we be late?”

I smiled through my teeth and said, “We don’t have the package yet.  You catch more flies with honey.  After we get it you can tell her off.”

Fortunately the lady took so long getting her package that Sasha and I were laughing by the time she came back.

Window lady 30 placed the package directly in front of me.  I reached out to grab it and she rather sharply declared, “Wait a moment!”  I smiled again as I withdrew my arm from the window.

Window lady 30 then went over to window 29 to get some important documents.  She then handed us our new wad of documents and our package.

We rejoiced at our success.  Package received!  It was Christmas presents from my Dad and Mom.  We had just saved Christmas!

Me with the package in the central customs building.  Mission accomplished!

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