Blocked from memory

If I were to deal with all my experiences in Guyana as they occurred, I would no doubt tear my hair and rend my clothes like some biblical shrew. To be overwhelmed by the barrage of bureaucracy or the putrifying smells lingering in the nostrils in a walk about the capital is an understatement. Instead my body has adapted and developed a means to deal with the psychological onslaught. The simple act of forgetting or more accurately good old fashioned repression. In this way, as I am told day after day by the sleazy camera repair man that 1) the part hasn’t arrived and then 2) It’s the wrong part in the mail and 3) He’s sending it back for the right part and then 4) It’s the right part but it’s defective… well, I can retain some small part of my sanity. And then, months later I can deal with each of these affronts as they bubble up to my consciousness, usually in the form of angry, pillow-choking dreams.

And so it is that yesterday I recalled that when I had arrived back in Georgetown, after I had been snubbed yet again by the obsequious camera dealer, but before my friend had left for town, I had to pick up a package at the post office. Weeks ago I had sent an email to the company (Goal0) explaining my trouble with my Lithium ion battery that had died earlier due to humidity problems. Well, they had kindly agreed to replace it and it had finally arrived at the post office. I rejoiced! For all of about 2 minutes until I got into the post office. My friend joined me at the office, twiddling his thumbs in the corner as I negotiated with the woman behind the glass.

This time I had my slip which I presented to the woman. Taking it she bid me wait until my package could be retrieved. Of course the package was within full view. After waiting 15 minutes I pointed out this glaring fact which met with…well…more glaring. So another 3o minutes pass and finally, full of surprise she turns with an ‘oh here it is’ expression as though she had been plumbing the very depths of the coffers to find it. “Remain calm”, I told myself silently chanting calming mantras.

The woman passed the package off to the customs checker who viciously sliced open the package with a blade that put my machete to shame. “Be…be careful”-I barely managed to utter as the box deformed under his sadistic grin. With one eye open and my face contorted into the most dissatisfied grimace that I could muster, the woman motioned me over to the cashier.

The woman was busy scribbling out my bill. The first time I had received a package it had cost the equivalent of $2.50. So I got the note out of my pocket and handed it to her. She was still busy with the calculations. “Carry the 1” she muttered to herself. “What’s this?” she asked looking up at the note. “The fee for my package” I replied. “She went back to her calculations and then handed me the receipt, $150! Almost what the package itself was worth! “I…I”…I was speechless. “You can pay over there” she waved distractedly and went back to chatting with her colleagues/villains in crime.

I was admitted into an office with a portly woman with a chicken neck that I was already prepared to wring. She spent several minutes recalculating the fee and then pushed the total over to me, $300! “Wha…How…I was told it would be half that!!!” She just smiled. Despite having just gone to the bank I didn’t think that I had enough money. “Was the package sent C.O.D.?” I ask, trying to piece together how the bill could be increasing by the minute? “What’s that?” She asks. “When the person collecting the parcel needs to pay the delivery charge and not the person who sent it”. “Yeah, that one” she says somewhat unconvincingly. Sighing, I pulled out my wallet, and when that was depleted I hunted about in my backpack desperate that some stray bills had fallen loose. “Can I help you?” she asked. “I…I’m just looking to see if I have enough money” I answered, trying my best to keep my tone civil. I continued searching, occasionally pulling out a grimy note with a victorious squeal. “Can I help you”, she asked again, more insistently. I was a little perplexed, “help with what?” “You tell me”. “Well, it’s $300”, I said. “Yes, that’s what the BILL says…but how much do you want to pay?”. ‘Awwww hell, so this is how it’s going to be now, is it?!!’-I think to myself. I pause for a moment, bribery not being my strong suit, and dealing with crooked post office workers wasn’t exactly covered in my economics 101 class. “Not $300”, I stupidly reply. “How much will you give me?”. I test out the waters, “How about…maybe $70 or so”. I lengthen out my words trying to encourage the notion that I am experienced with this kind of thing and calculating how much money I have. “Done” she says immediately. ‘Shit’-I can’t help but feel like I’ve been screwed. So the chicken necked woman takes the bill, rubber stamps it a few times and pecks out some new numbers. She raises her styrofoam lunchbox, “Put the money under here”. As discretely as possible I slide the money under so that just the tips protrude. “No, all the way under you idiot!” she squawks. She nods when it’s to her satisfaction. “Obviously you won’t mention this to anyone, right?” she says menacingly. “Right” I acknowledge, “it’s just between you and me” and whoever reads my blog I say to myself.

So ripped off, feeling emasculated and impotent I hand the signed receipt the cashier and leave with my package in one hand, my snipped testicles in the other…

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About pbertner

Studied cell biology and genetics at UBC in Canada with a focus in microbiology. However, have gravitated more recently towards ecology and biodiversity. Have traveled the rainforests of Peru, Ecuador, Guyana, Malaysia, Brunei, and Thailand with plans to visit many more.
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