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Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Postman Never Rings Twice

Another Abu Dhabi characteristic that Western expats have to get used to is the lack of a door-to-door postal service. That's right, no checking the mailbox after work, personal mailboxes don't exist. There is a national postal service called Empost but all mail is distributed to post office boxes in the several post offices scattered around the area. What this means is that to retrieve your mail you have to drive through the aformentioned crappy traffic to the post office and find the aforementioned non-existent parking place and go to your post office box that you pay an expensive yearly fee for if you are lucky enough to find a vacant one to rent near where you live. Not user-friendly!

This is not convenient for a stress-adverse person like myself to do everyday, If I had to, I would do this maybe twice a month at best. Fortunately, my employer is well known and prominent in the area and has their own giant post office box. My official address is my employer's P.O. Box # plus my name and the division of the company I work in which is miles from the home office. Apparently, the mail is sorted at the home office and a runner is dispatched to my work location with the mail destined for me and my co-workers where it is place in a drawer. This is the only way I can get my mail. The only problem is that after three months I have not received a utility bill or bank statement although I did get a birthday card from my mom and a framed photo from an ex-coworker in Las Vegas so the system works. The glass was broken but the photo was unharmed. The lack of financial paperwork troubles me some as that there might be some bills I need to pay. Everyone tells me not to worry, the bills will come eventually and no one here has asked me for my Social Security number yet so my U.S. credit score should remain intact. I have found that financial stuff here is very laid back, not like in the States.

Now some may cheer about the lack of junk mail and not having to deal with bills in the mailbox everyday, but there is a dark side. The reason there is no mail service to your door is that there are literally no physical addresses in this country. Abu Dhabi has a thick YellowPages phonebook and at first glance it looks the same as one would find in Cleveland or Atlanta, but on further inspection you would notice there are no street addresses in the listings, only P.O. boxes and phone numbers. You have to call the phone number and get directions which consists exclusively of landmarks. It might go something like this: Take Airport Road and go to the third roundabout past Elektra Street, then take the second exit and go two blocks and look for Ahmed's Gulf Clothing outlet, then take a right into an alley and look for Al Raza Ladies Saloon and then look left and you're there, you can't miss it! Good luck finding parking! (All this said in a heavy Indian accent). One's cell phone number seems to be more important in establishing your legitimacy than where you live. My Abu Dhabi drivers license has no address on it at all.

After 10 years of living in Utah where the towns are laid out on a rigid numbered grid, I was shocked to find out that in this city of millions of people, no buildings have numbers on them. I had to buy a GPS with a U.A.E. database and satellite maps to navigate around town and it was the best money I have ever spent. I would find the place I wanted to go on the map and transfer the lat-long coordinates to the GPS. The GPS would then calculate a route and guide me turn by turn via voice prompts --in a sexy female British accent yet, (I call her "Bitching Betty")---to my destination. I couldn't have done without it. 


Roger said...

Most entertaining! I enjoyed the AB500 piece, and got a kick out of the flight console. I might have to make it the wallpaper on one of my monitors at work! Keep up the good work-


Ace said...

I did the flight deck (can't call it a cockpit anymore)with a photoshop-type program for an employee's newletter. I don't think it got published there so here it is!