This is a story about how I got my package as much as it is a story about knowing what brassieres are made of. No, there is no word in what I am about to write that warrants either bowdlerizing or censorship.

On August 12 while still in the Philippines, I sent to Budapest via courier service a box of clothes and shoes with myself as consignee. Two days later, I was to fly to Hungary’s capital to study in Central European University, an international post-grad school established by Mr. George Soros. I thought that since my cabinets back home are bursting with clothes I accumulated through the years (Yes, I still have those caftans and shawls I had more than ten years ago. I never obeyed the rules of fashion so nothing goes passé for me.), it would be impractical if not a social offense to buy sweaters, jackets and suits in Europe. Besides, having traveled to the continent previously, I was already aware that clothes here fetch a fortune compared to Asia. The courier company told me that my unaccompanied luggage would arrive in Budapest three to four days later.

I flew to Hungary. As soon as I arrived at the student hotel, the receptionist handed me some papers faxed by the courier company. It was asking me to submit a copy of my passport, my flight ticket and accomplished value declaration form. Wow, the company's speed impressed me. After two days, I complied.

For more than a week, I waited for my stuff but none came. So I emailed the company asking for update and was told my faxed documents were not received. Deciding to be unstinting in giving the benefit of the doubt, I emailed my documents.

A day later, I got an email from the company’s Custom Clearance Supervisor. It said: “I received your filled form but I need a list of the items in the package. Please send this list with unit values and what kind of matter made of the clothes and shoes.” The message was cloudless enough to me. I mean I understood what she said. But not why. I felt harassed.

I emailed back: “I already submitted the list to your office in the Philippines. In fact, your people were the ones who loaded my things in the box. For the list, just refer to the receipt because everything is there. If you want to open the package, you may. Everything is used clothing and shoes except for the Ponds facial cream. I cannot send a list detailing the materials of which the clothes and shoes are made. As it happens, in my most recent past life, I was a lawyer and a teacher and not an expert on determining kinds of materials used for clothes. I would just say they are all made of cloth. The rubber shoes are made of rubber; the leather shoes are made of leather and the facial cream is made of chemicals.” Well, I also had three pairs of brassieres -the only unused items- in the box but I was a bit bashful to mention them. But I was not shy enough to resist being sarcastic.

I could not also resist saying I "was" a lawyer, even if I come from that part of the world where the justice system has essentially nothing to do with justice. In a continent strong on rights, I thought it would paint the picture that I am legally brawny. Deliberately, I created the impression that a litigation was in the offing. I imagined the customs supervisor's facial muscle twitching a bit and her shoulder muscles going taut upon reading my mail. I must have smirked with self-assurance then.

But the supervisor did not, would not let up! She emailed me again: “We have a list but we don’t know the unit prices because this information isn’t on the list! If you don’t know the material we can make inspection but you should pay warehouse charge about 5100 HuF.”

I went ballistic and shot back: ““Don't you think it is unfair that (your company) did not tell me about your requirements when I shipped? And why should I be made to pay warehouse charge on account of your not telling me something I should have been told?

“What materials do you want me to say my goods are made of? The cream is made of chemicals. The clothes are made of cloth. The sweaters are made of polyester thread. The rubber shoes are made of rubber. The leather shoes are made of leather. And I am pretty sure of this: the brassieres are made of spandex! I am sorry for not mentioning this earlier.”

I was already seeing red. Literally. I had to be scathingly sarcastic and sarcastically scathing.

She emailed me: “ I try to help. If you want to get this package duty free we need your airplane ticket and passport copy.” Hey, I already sent my passport copy and ticket but since she was conciliatory, I answered: “Thank you so much. I will send you the passport copy and ticket tomorrow.” Hah, I did not even know that the requirement to submit a list had to do with taxation. I was not expecting to pay any tax on top of the hefty amount (approx. USD250 for 25 kgs) for courier service I paid.

I did not send my passport copy, neither my ticket because I completely forgot about them. My short-term memory failure is chronic. I realized my lapse only when I was in school. When I was in the computer room taking my computer test -which I flunked as I did not even successfully hurdle stage one- I looked at my mail box. The company sent me a mail saying my luggage was ready for delivery. Later I got a mail that said: "Shipment delivered."

When I got home in the afternoon, my package was waiting for me. Now that my swim suits arrived, I can dip in my hotel’s pool every night. Maybe, I will learn to like pinacolada so I can drink it by the "pool shore" and look chic. I think people get embarrassed when you are all in a bar and they order all these alcohol-laced drinks with names my tongue cannot pronounce (and back there in the Philippines, with names I cannot say but can write, such as Sex on the Beach) while you order tea, or in some cases, milk.

Morale of the story: When you ship unaccompanied luggage, always add brassieres. All the men out there surely have a wife, a girlfriend or both, if not a grandmother. When asked what your shipped goods are made of, just say: “I am pretty sure of this: the brassieres are made of spandex!” It is probably the only right thing you have to say.

(I am posting on the Comments Section some of the reactions that I received on Facebook.)
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