A couple of months ago I loaned a friend my PO Box key. She was going to share my box since she just got into town. Well she lost it. No big deal, you just go to the post and pay for a new key right? Hmmmm, no.
I should preface this by saying my post office (PTT here) is a great guy. He is always in a good mood when we talk and has done me a couple favors over my time here. He is relatively young and completely on top of things, two qualities I rarely encounter.
So one morning I was running errands and decided it was time to get my PO Box key replaced. I went in to the office and was surrounded by maybe 30 other patrons. The PTT also serves as a money transfer center (i.e. Western Union). It was a the holiday season so this was a pretty busy time.
I elbowed and hip-checked my way to the counter (like may other things "lines" haven't developed). So I give my best sympathetic smile, go through the list of 10 or so mandatory greeting questions, and launch into my situation. I explain the deal, and he's pretty cool. "You just need to write a note explaining that you need your clock changed." he tells me. This is radical! I, being a genius, have already written a letter. I had researched the price of the change and everything. My letter goes something like this:
To Whom it may Concern,
I would like to replace the lock on PO Box 217. I have included 10,000f CFA to pay the necessary fee.
I'm the next Hemingway, right? My friend the post master takes one look at this scribble and then looks slightly let down. I ask if that will do and he explains that it will not. Taking pity upon this confused grinning foreigner, he explains what I must do. I am really confused. So in exasperation, he writes the letter, to himself. Then tells me I need to copy it and sign it. It reads as follows:
To: Mister the Receiver of the PTT Glazoue,
Object: Request of Change of Lock
Mister the Receiver,
I have the honor of soliciting from your high benevolence a request of changing of lock of my PO Box.
In waiting of a favorable continuation, I pray you to agree, Mister the receiver, the expression of my distinguished sentiments.
Amazing is it not? Could the tone and language be anymore colonial? Keep in mind this a down to earth guy. If he were a stuck up jerk, there would be no surprise. He was clearly busy, but protocol is protocol, no matter what. I laughed when I read it and then copied it precisely, even the half page heading that he wrote.
Two days later my lock was changed. He had indeed won my distinguished sentiments.