On mailing suspicious packages and being in a book desert

We have this box that we’ve used to mail things back and forth to my mother in law. The size of the box is kind of perfect, and we like to reuse things until they fall apart and can’t be used anymore.

We left the box in California, full of books for us and the kids, and had my MIL send it to us is Puerto Rico. Before leaving Puerto Rico, we packed up the box with the books we had read, and wanted to keep, and took it to the post office to Media Mail it back to my MIL.

We only had duct-tape with us.

I started making jokes about suspicious packages in the car, and everyone found it hilarious. The box was so banged up, and had been used so many times, I even took a couple of pictures of it.

The post office I went to had one of those security doors that they have in many of the banks in Puerto Rico; the ones where you go into a first door (alone) and have to wait in a space for a second door to unlock. I found that odd, given that I am used to just walking into post offices both in Puerto Rico and in the US without going through security. Puerto Rico’s post offices are USPS, so everything else inside the post office looks very similar to the US and they have the exact same mailing options, etc.

I get to the front of the line and the USPS lady looks at the box, pauses for a couple of blinks, and calmly tells me: “You cannot mail that box looking like that”

I replied: “I’m sorry, I know, it’s old… and we really didn’t have another…”

USPS lady: “The tape, you can’t use that tape for mailing boxes”

The lady next to me on the counter had already started ignoring her transaction and inching closer to me to be in the conversation. Welcome to Puerto Rico.

Counter lady: “And why not? I mean, I want to know, what is the reason… you know… that she can’t mail the box with that tape”  (I found it hilarious that she found the need to explain her initial question in detail, as if she needed to assert that she had been listening to EVERY WORD SAID).

USPS lady: because that’s the tape bombers use

Me: ah, okay. It’s really just books, but I can repack it and bring it back.

USPS lady: No, no, no, no, no. We’ll just put brown tape over it.

Counter lady: (with a satisfied smile) Ah, very good idea. You would think bombers would know not to be so obvious using the suspicious looking tape to PACK their boxes.

I smiled because I was thinking exactly the same thing, but I also smiled because I had already waited in a 20 minute line to send this box. My 3 kids were waiting in the car with a hungry dad and I had no idea where I would find another box… If I had to repack this box I would have had to (GASP!) BUY A BOX!

Yesterday my MIL reported receiving the box. A full 3 weeks after we mailed it Media Mail. We usually donate books when we are done with them, but given that we are travelling, we wanted the kids to know that they would be able to re-read the books when we got home. The other books were technical books for our work, and photography books, so we’ll still need those when we get back.

Now we’re here in Punta Cana, relying on our Kindle for books, Zinio for magazines and Overdrive for audiobooks. We are lucky to have great libraries at home* with extensive ebook selections. The little one has a small stash of books we read to her, and she also packed her National Audubon Society Reptiles and Amphibians guide (her favorite book in the whole world). My husband did an extensive google search finding that there is not one bookstore with English books or magazines in all of Punta Cana, well actually, there seems like there is NO bookstore in Punta Cana at all.  We visited Jumbo last week (it’s like their Walmart Supercenter) and we’ll go to the mall later this week. If I find books in English I’ll write about it here in a follow-up blog post for those looking for books in the area. Next weekend we plan on going to the capital Santo Domingo. We know there are several bookstores there, so we’ll check a couple of them out and I’ll write about it.

Have a great Monday!


Library tip: Depending on where you live, you can join your City Library and also your County Library. Each library has a slightly different selection of books available online. Once you have a library card, you can go online to your library website and see what ebooks and audiobooks they have available. You can download apps for Kindle (if you don’t have a Kindle), Zinio (for magazines) and Overdrive (for both ebooks and audiobooks) for any of your devices. Then you can pair those apps with your library card information to obtain books and magazines directly to your device.