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A Tale of Two Packages

Feb
6
2007

Modern types are ill-equipped for uncertainty. If you’re running late, send a text message. Already there? Text so they’ll know you’re at an upstairs table. If you can’t answer an email right now, instant messenger so the sender knows you got it.
And no one expects to go to an airport or train station to pick up a loved one without having tracked progress online first.
My own tangle of control issues came up while waiting for a package from my father. He sent it to me the same day I sent out a package to him — paperwork and a few little gifts from his side; a few bars of chocolate and a note from mine.


The padded envelope carrying chocolate went priority mail from Milan. I knew better than to ask the woman with the deep, menopause-red dye job behind the bulletproof window when it might get there, but guesstimated about 15 days.
Package two left Northern California in a recycled Amazon box and was shipped US Post office express mail, guaranteed five-day delivery.
A week later, sender of the California package begins voicing concern via email. Has it shown up? Did they try to deliver and I wasn’t home?
Nope. No sign of package in Milan. Another week comes and goes. Milan package arrives in California.
California gets worried. Any news on the package? Here’s the tracking number.
Milan imagines general hilarity at the post office if presented with foreign tracking number and asks California to look into it.
California does, only to discover that the online tracking system is abusing controlled substances. According to it, “We attempted to deliver your item in ITALY at 7:18 AM.”
A day later, tracker on crack says, “We attempted to deliver your item in ITALY at 6:44 AM,” and finally insists, before California decides to avoid co-dependency, that it has attempted delivery at 4:11 AM two days later.
At this point, I fear going to the post office — far away in a crap neighborhood — where packages in my area are usually dispatched.
I phone before surrendering a Saturday morning to a pointless mission. A good thing, because the woman who finally answers tells me they’re closed.
“But shouldn’t you be open?” Dealing with Italian bureaucracy is like working a crisis line. Keep them talking. You may weasel out some bit of information or just exasperate them enough to help you.
“Well, we should be, yes.”
“I just have a quick question.”
“I’m sorry, but we’ve sent everyone home.”
“Why? What happened?”
“We’ve had a stick-up. The police have just got here.”
Right. Since the postal service was privatized, they’ve introduced — along with priority service — an 800 number.
The American tracking numbers actually meant something, but the kind signorina said the package wasn’t delivered because of a problem with the address. What, exactly, she didn’t know, because delivery is outsourced to a courier.
Courier is closed on Saturday. Courier keeps me hanging on for ages (and charges me one euro a minute) on Monday. Courier uses different tracking system. Courier completely useless.
Next day the 800-number operator is helpful, checks my address, makes a note. Puts me on hold. I smile, the music is “Father and Son.” Says to call back in two days — when they’ll give me a time window for delivery.
She phones the next day to say the package has been sent back to California. She apologizes profusely, says she did what she could to re-route it, but the computer system wouldn’t let her.
Package showed up in Milan a week later unannounced, with a mysterious 30 euro customs fee.
The mail, baby. You just got to let it happen.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 11:32 AM | Permalink

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