The notice in our mailbox said that while we were out, we had received a "packet volumineux.” This sounded promising, since our mailbox is quite large. We'd actually been at home when the postman rang at 7 pm on a Monday, but we’d ignored the bell, not wanting to descend five flights for nothing, figuring someone must have leaned on it by accident. It's not like we have a ton of friends here, and none who would spontaneously drop by.
There was no checked box on the notice to indicate that there would be any attempt to re-deliver the package. Instead, there was note saying that it would be left for us to pick up at either the Bonne Nouvelle or the Strasbourg Saint Denis Poste in two days. That either/or threw me. But we live equidistant between them, and I figured that if I picked wrong, they’d simply redirect me.
Max and I went to Bonne Nouvelle after school on the day specified on the notice. He was pretty excited to pick up the box, certain that it was going to contain presents for him—a safe bet.
"Bonjour," I said, hoping I’d picked the right post office.
A man in a yellow poste vest took my notice and typed a long code of numbers into his computer, then tilted his head as he clucked his tongue. "Ah non. It's not here," he said.
"So it's at Strasbourg Saint Denis?"
"Non," he said. "It hasn't arrived yet."
"Arrived from where? I don't understand."
He took this to mean that his French was beyond my grasp, making a louder clucking sound of disapproval. “It hasn’t come in,” he repeated.
"But we live down the block, and it was already delivered to us. And this is today's date." I pointed at the bottom of the slip.
"Maybe it'll arrive later." His eyes searched beyond me to the next customer in line.
“Maybe,” he said, and then—clearly eager to get rid of me—“yes, I think tomorrow. Be sure to bring your identity card to claim it.”
Max was disappointed, but I told him we’d return right after school the next day, further tormenting him by dragging him to get some groceries, since we weren’t going to have to carry a heavy box up five flights after all.
When we went back the next day, a new poste employee was handling customer service, a smiling woman in a yellow vest. Before even typing the numbers into her screen, she asked to see my ID, and I was ready with my driver’s license.
“Ah non. What is this?” she said. “La Californie?” She sounded suspicious, like I was trying to pull of some heist.
“It's my driver’s license,” I said. “The man yesterday told me to bring an identity card.”
“But this is not a valid identity card here. This serves no purpose here.”
“It’s the same name." I showed her the slip. “The man yesterday told me to come back today with an ID, and I'd be able to pick up my package.”
"But you need your passport!"
"He didn't say passport."
“Ohlala,” she shook her head and grudgingly entered the code into the computer. “Well, it doesn't matter because it’s not here." She seemed almost pleased.
“Where is it?” I said. “I live one block away. Where did the package go after it left our apartment three days ago?”
She shrugged, but then she disappeared into some back room, and a few minutes later she returned carrying an Amazon box that held a single paperback.
“I found it,” she said, eyeing me warily before handing it over.
“Do you know why the postman didn’t just leave this in our box?”
“It says right here: packet volumineux.” She smiled that maddening smile again. “I’ll let you take it today. But next time, you'll have to show your passport.”