Friday, December 30, 2022

don't freak them out with new words

When I mailed my package off yesterday, I had to fill out the Korean forms that would be stuck to the envelope. The Korean post office insists on using its own packaging for your small parcels, so even though I had put my item (a tiny manual on how to officiate weddings) into my own padded envelope and had written the destination address on it, along with my return address, I nevertheless had to write everything all over again on the Korean form, and my parcel was stuck into two shipping envelopes, turning the whole thing into a 3-layered Russian nesting doll. A stupid waste of paper and plastic, but Koreans tend to over-package everything, anyway. (You see it all the time in grocery stores.)

The Korean shipping form had a space in which to write about the contents being sent as well as the approximate worth of the contents. I shrugged and wrote "$5," which was just a guess. In the blank where I was to name the contents, I wrote "booklet" in English, thinking nothing of it. (For these international deliveries, the post office insists that you not write in Korean.)

When the time came to process the package and pay for postage, the lady helping me was brought up short by the word "booklet," which she had apparently never seen before. I explained that a booklet was simply a small book, and she huffily wrote "BOOK," surrounded by parentheses on the form, directly below what I'd written. Do the Korean letter carriers need to see this added explanation? They're not going to care what the English says, I should think, unless they're really anal retentive. And once the package is overseas, the American letter carriers will know exactly what a booklet is, so they don't need the explanation, either. I can't read minds, but I think the staffer was just expelling some of her own frustration in a typically bureaucratic way, adding unnecessary curlicues to a straightforward process.

Booklet. Is that word irritating? I didn't mean to fart in the lady's Cheerios.

"New vocabulary," I joked obliquely.

"This is a new word?" the staffer asked.

"No," I said, grinning to myself. What I'd meant was, "This is a new word to you." But I didn't explain what I'd meant, so the lame joke just hung in the air, like a warm and humid fart cloud over an unsuspecting bowl of Cheerios, and dissipated.

After that, processing the package was a perfunctory affair, although it seemed to take an awfully long time for such a little, simple thing. The post office should distribute a device to every home—a machine that can weigh packages, scan their dimensions, and allow you to print your own mailing labels. You would then just put your package somewhere outside your home (maybe in a protected locker in case there were porch pirates)—no more need to go to the post office, expect maybe to pick up supplies to restock your postal machine. ("Postal machine" sounds like a robot on a murder rampage.) The postal service will be glad to have your constant business since you'll need to keep your machine constantly stocked with shipping-label stickers, all sizes of envelopes, etc.

With those thoughts bouncing around in my head, I left the post office and headed down the hall to the Chinese restaurant where I had my horrible 깐풍기/gganpoonggi.

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