“Did the mailman deliver a package for me? The website
says it came.”
“No, sorry – you might try next door. What size is it?”
“It’s – well, it would stand out. It’s about four and a half
feet tall and fairly slender. Because – get this – it’s a sword.”
“Oh wow! Really? So we’re on the lookout for a sword? It
feels like we’re on a quest!”
This is an actual conversation I had with Sarah, the box
office manager at my building, roughly two weeks after my birthday. Why, you
may ask, was I waiting on a sword?
Well, that begins at Christmas. Joanie – who knows me better
than anyone else and still loves me for whatever reason – registered me for an
introductory long-sword class with an organization in the City
that teaches a
variety of sword-fighting styles. So I went to sword-fighting class and guess
what? It was AMAZING.
I’ll clue you in on something about me: exercise bores me.
To tears. The idea of pounding away on any sort of stationary cardio machine
makes something in me die. (If I’m watching TV while sweating, that’s not a
healthy decision, no matter how many calories I’m burning in the process.)
Cycling is OK, but doing it too often makes my butt numb, and that is just
unpleasant. Racquetball is AWESOME, but have you checked out racquetball club
memberships in NYC lately? I would have to sell a kidney.
So finding an intense workout that I enjoy is a good thing.
And finding an intense workout that I enjoy and
that encourages me to learn how to wield a longsword almost as tall as my wife
is downright amazing.
I’ve gone to several more classes since, and – given that my
summer plans involve being away from the City for two months – decided that I’d
like to have a practice sword so that I can
terrorize the villagers keep
up with my exercise. My parents – with, I’m sure, great bemusement – offered to
get one for my birthday, which was in early March. (If you missed it, you
should feel badly. Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
And that’s when the Quest started.
First, the company selling the sword mixed and matched
addresses – they put my street address on it, but my parents’ city, state, and
postal code. Somehow the sword DID make it to my parents’ house, just in time
for me to actually open it on my birthday and wave it around menacingly.
However, Delta has this weird thing about bringing weapons –
even reproduction weapons – on flights, so my parents just shipped it to me.
The wording is important here:
“We’ll just FedEx it, what’s the address?”
A little secret about NYC life: shipping things is a
problem. The Post Offices are madhouses, as a rule, and they typically won’t
just leave things on your doorstep or at the building mailbox. UPS and FedEx
have the opposite problem – they’ll leave your stuff anywhere. Often with
neighbors to whom you’ve not introduced yourself, or perhaps of whom you were
not even aware.
With that in mind, I usually ask people to ship packages to
my office in midtown, which has a pair
of receiving offices – a front door and a back door – with people sitting there
to sign for and keep packages for the building’s tenants. Which works fine as
long as the item is sent to the right address – because the Post Office doesn’t
know or acknowledge the existence of the back door, while the commercial
delivery companies can’t use the front door.
So I gave my parents the FedEx address. They, however, were
using FedEx like most people use “Kleenex” or “Xerox,” just a generic term for “ship
it there.” Dad then sent it via the USPS.
And thus began the quest.
Now, this is usually not a big deal as long as you have a
tracking number. The Post Office will try, and fail, to make a delivery to an
address that it doesn’t think exists twice, then put a grumpy message on their
website about how they’re going to send the item back after holding it for a
week at the PO just down the street. I’ll go in, patiently explain to them that
the address DOES exist and that they’d make life a lot easier for everybody
involved if they’d just update their system, and then share a good laugh with
the postal workers at the idea of the post office actually updating any of its
This time, however, that didn’t happen.
Instead, their website was updated with a message stating
that the item had been delivered… and then another saying that it was available
for pickup at the Penn Station post office, about ten blocks south of where I
After checking all of the businesses and residences around
my office for the package, calling the post office multiple times (what’s more
obnoxious than standing in line at the post office? Waiting on the phone for
the post office), I finally bit the bullet and just went to the Penn Station
office, determined not to leave until my sword had been retrieved. I stood in
line, talked to three different representatives of the USPS, waited some more,
and then was told the following:
- The sword IS in this building.
- We will find it!
- But this building is roughly the size of an entire city
block. Please give us a couple of days, as this is a pretty strenuous endeavor.
Reasonable request. But a week later, they still hadn’t
found it. I was at the PO by my office on another errand and thought I’d ask
them to look into the matter – and lo and behold, the sword had moved from
34th Street to Jersey City. “It looks like it’s going
back to the sender,” she said, “I can try and get them to reroute it for you
but it probably won’t work.”
“That’d be great,” I answered, “but honestly just knowing
where it is – and, at this point, that
it is – makes me happy. Please keep me posted!”
Her efforts to have its return-to-sender status revoked were
in vain, and the sword made its way back to my parents’ house – where they
discovered that some bright and intelligent person within the USPS labyrinth
had COMPLETELY REWRITTEN THE SHIPPING LABEL. They had deleted the suite number
altogether and changed both the street number AND the ZIP code. So my parents
were stuck having to re-send the sword.
|At the Ready|