In an age of email it’s nice to get something in the post every once in a while. When that something isn’t a summons or a save-the-date for a wedding that you don’t really want to go to, well that’s even better. And, what’s this, it’s a notice to go and pick up a parcel, as well?

Knock me over with a feather!

So why was my retro mail experience so crappy? First, this notification didn’t give me any information as to where I should be picking up my package, nor did it provide a phone number to contact. What they did tell me was that the item was sent a month ago, from the Virgin Islands, and I’d have to pay R379 for it.

After I schlepped through Google I found a number for the SA Post Office, and after dealing with the brains-trust working there, I jotted down some directions to where I had to go.

Which looked like this:


My map took me to a part of the Golden Acre shopping centre that I’d not been privy too before. Aha, I thought to myself, so this is where everyone buys their YMCMB caps from.

The Post Office is an even stranger place. There are probably 30 counters there, only 6 of which are occupied. A relic in an age of privatisation and the internet, with the people working there the type who would aspire to a cubicle at the traffic department. Playing on the TV screen in front of the cordoned off maze where we’re all forced  to line up, is an HIV awareness clip that’s NSFW, made worse by people with no concept of personal space frottaging me in the queue.

Anyway, I finally get to the counter and pass the woman working there my little piece of paper with the tracking number and my name on it, and she tells me straight up that I need to pay R379. I explain to her that I didn’t actually order it, that I don’t even know what the package is, and she says that even if it’s a gift I still have to pay. So I ask her if I may open the parcel first, and she says, sure, and then goes to get it for me.

Now my imagination had run away with me a while ago already. My friend Natasja married a man who sells insurance to insurance companies and because he makes so much money they must spend the majority of their time at their home in Bermuda so that they don’t have to pay tax. I did mention how much I liked the Damien Hirst hanging at their Higgovale home, maybe it was some art?

My friend Vaughan was working as a wedding photographer in the Caymans and I remember once sending him a link for  literary T-shirts (oh you’re still wearing band shirts, that’s cute), so maybe he’d finally got hold of that Animal Farm T-shirt that I’d asked him to keep an eye out for while on his snowboarding trip in the States?

The package dropping down onto the counter broke my reverie. An a4 sized box with a sticker advertising the fact that it was “Portugal manufactured and packaged.”

Curiouser and curiouser…

It was a shirt, valued at $50, a custom value of R540, and if I wanted to take it I’d need to pay R379.

Now, if you’ve ever sent the collection envelope around to my desk when So-and-so was leaving, or invited me to chip in towards our mutual friend’s birthday present, because he really wants a new pair of football boots, then you’d know by my never having any cash on me, or being the first to leave that Facebook group you’d created with your banking details so that we could all chip in and buy your boyfriend  new football boots, despite the fact that he still owes me a round from last weekend, and hasn’t given me more than an HB DM post for my birthday before, well, then you’d know that I am a stingy man.

I can’t help it – it’s hereditary.

My great-grandfather arrived in South African by way of East Berlin, and was then promptly put into a concentration camp, which left his wife to care for the kids, my grandfather being one of them. So that was our start. Some years later my grandfather got married, started a guest-house, but his wife then ran off with a lodger, forcing him to get a job as a male-nurse and care for his kids. My dad wanted my brother and I to live by the coast, so he gave up his friends, family and career at the South African Breweries in Joburg to sell steel and pipe just outside the Transkei. I had a child with a woman that I wasn’t married to and by order of court must now pay alimony every month to support this child, which would be doable if I didn’t have another family to try and support. Generations of this type of hustle means that it’s a Muhlenberg trait to switch off a light as you leave a room and to come back from the tips with more stuff than what you went there to go dump.

Anyway, I digress, but did I really need to spend money on this shirt that I didn’t even ask for? After all, CAT have given me those boots I’m always harping on about, adidas keep me in sports kit, Levi’s swathe me in denim, Ray-Ban are very kind to me in the sunglasses department and my neighbour gives me Vans samples in exchange for walking his dog… No need to go and do something as vulgar as paying for a shirt, right?

Wrong. I was swayed by the handwritten note that accompanied the shirt in the box. The fine folk at Hunt&Gather told me that the shirt was from their new brand called Mister French, and was the perfect vacation shirt cut from the finest Italian cloth, with mother of pearl buttons and something called a ‘Sunset Loop’ to secure my sunglasses.


I picked up the shirt and held it in front of my chest like an apron. The woman behind the counter pulled a face that said ‘impressed’ and gave me her nod of approval.

R379 suddenly felt like a steal and so I paid, happily.

Did that just happen. Did a blogger actually just blog about something he paid – albeit a discounted price – for?

You saw it here first, kids.