Earlier this week was the annual Weinstein lecture, and so members of my family converged on Washington DC. As is our wont, Carrie and I took advantage of the opportunity to go book shopping and found ourselves at Kramerbooks. After selecting a nice pile of reading, we decided the best plan of action would be to mail it home, as we usually do. We buy the books and then inquire about shipping. At first, everything seems fine. Then, once the hipster behind the counter learns we live in Canada, the conversation changes. They don’t ship to Canada. We’re surprised, since they evidently have shipping. There’s a FedEx a few blocks away.
So we bag up the books and walk a few blocks to FedEx. We arrive in the door and ask for a box. After a few exchanges, the FedEx employees inform us that this store, which looks like a normal FedEx store, does not ship internationally. “You have to use the internet for that.” I asked how exactly one uses the internet to ship real physical objects. They explain that we would have to create an account online, print up a shipping label and then bring the label and the books to their FedEx store. Needless to say, they didn’t have the internet there for us to do it on site.
It was a beautiful summer day, so the walk around DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood was okay. But really: here we were in the capital of the world’s most powerful country (okay, maybe only militarily) and nobody would ship internationally. Not FedEx, not a destination bookstore that is listed in tourist guides. My uncle, for whom the lecture series is named, used to be fond of calling the Washington Post “a small town paper with a foreign desk.” DC isn’t exactly a small town with an embassy row, but sometimes it’s got that mentality.
Of course, we finally found a post office and shipped the books without incident. And of course, DC is still a potential sabbatical destination, since the libraries are amazing. But really, it’s full of people who appear to have no idea it’s an international city. Only in America.