As we move into the season when “the veil between the worlds thins and dissolves” (Halloween), I am presented with a mystery. It all began during that Five Week Spiral Journey. I was by that time four weeks into the journey, traveling in a car I had rented at the SF airport and was about to release at the Hailey airport. In order to do so I wanted to send home stuff accumulated since the NAPC (North America Permaculture Convergence), all of it littering the back seat, newly purchased books, several new books that had been gifted to me, two new Lodoe music CDs that I bought from Joan in Helena, important papers and notes from the NAPC for further networking; plus, summer clothes I no longer needed now that summer was over — shorts, tops, pants, and two expensive tunics.
So I took the box that had held the newly picked apples that the deer had munched in Lander and that would get eaten by me and my sibs during our upcoming reunion in Sun Valley, and refilled it with all this stuff to send home ahead of my own flight. Marty put it on their kitchen counter, thoroughly sealed it with tape, including the typewritten address page that sister Kath had printed out. Then we all drove down to the Hailey post office on our way to drop off the car at the airport. The box cost $47 to send. Ye gods! I almost didn’t send it. But I sure didn’t want to lug it to the airport. If only I had left out the clothes and DVDs, I could have sent it “book rate.” Oh well!
I give you all these boring details because of what happened next . . .
I arrived home on the 19th. The box arrived on the 20th. I let it sit on the porch until the 22nd, when I wanted to get in there and find the Lodoe CDs to listen to as I practiced yoga, chi kung and tai chi.
I snapped the white bands around the box. Weird. I don’t remember the P.O. putting bands around the package. . . Slit open the tape and printed page on the top —
and opened the box.
Bewildered, I looked through the box. All the way through to the bottom. Mostly old, musty paperback novels and travel books from some old person’s shelf, someone who had recently died, being shipped to a relative. That’s what it felt like. Plus two fairly new books on “grief.” All worthless, really, except for sentimental value. That was my immediate impression.
Yes. NOTHING OF MINE WAS IN THE BOX!
I looked again at the box. It’s the right box! I remembered crossing out the letters “Berk” (for Berkenfield, the box from their garage in Lander) on the side of the box.
I figured there must have been some mix-up. That somehow the box split open, and so did another box, and somebody along the line didn’t put the stuff back in the correct boxes. If so, I thought, the post office is going to hear, not just from me, but from whoever else didn’t get the right contents in their box.
I told my sister. She and Marty wondered if instead it might be a scam operating somewhere in the post office. Hmmm. Maybe so! Maybe I’m a “crime victim”! She reminded me that Marty had sealed the box thoroughly before leaving home. (I had forgotten that detail until she mentioned it.)
After opening the box I had opened the file that held all my receipts for the five-week trip and actually did manage to find the P.O. receipt for the box! So I had the all important tracking number. YES!
I called the national post office number, talked to an old woman there (with a quavering voice, rather like Diane Rehm on NPR), and she too was astonished that I had received the right box but with the wrong contents. She had never heard of such a thing! I told her I couldn’t remember whether we had sealed the box before we arrived at the P.O. She and I reasoned that it must not have been sealed; even so, we tried, and failed, to imagine what might have happened to cause such a complete mix-up.
Marty and Kath, pursuing the scam hypothesis, wondered if maybe the price on the package ($47!) alerted someone in the postal system somewhere along the way that the contents were supposedly worth a lot, like maybe it was some kind of electronics in there? And that’s why it was “stolen,” if indeed it was stolen?
I gave Kath the tracking number. She would go to go to the Hailey P.O. Monday morning. I told her I would take the box to the Bloomington P.O. on Monday and speak to somebody there.
Which I did. This morning, when they opened, 8:30 A.M. sharp.
And was referred to a very sweet clerk, Mike, who told me, after hearing the whole story, that he thought he knows what happened, and that he didn’t see how it could be a scam inside the postal system.
“I’ve worked in those operations. Everything goes very fast on conveyer belts. Sometimes the packages collide, and heavy ones break apart. I think that’s what happened here; the bottom of the box burst open (the printing label and tape on top were intact when the box arrived), and somebody thought he was doing the right thing by putting the contents back in the box. Two boxes must have split open, and whoever it was switched the contents of the boxes by mistake.”
I ask: “So that means that somebody else, somewhere, is going to be calling the post office saying they got a delivery, the right box but the wrong stuff?”
“Yes. Hopefully. And what gave me the clue was those white straps. That’s what they do when a box splits. Somebody’s job is to sit there all day long, putting fasteners around boxes that have split open. I’ve seen that, having worked in those operations.”
He asked me to write down a list of what was in the box. I did my best. Basically I had just shoved books (new, old, gifted, purchased, and borrowed) and papers and CDs from the rental car back seat into the box, plus summer clothes (and expensive tunics no longer needed) for filler.
He showed me the “USPS Tracking Intranet” —
showing where the box had been all along on its way to Bloomington. Hmmm. It looks like whatever happened to the box did so in Denver, where there’s an “Event” noted: “Container Close.” Reading across the same line I see “Input Method”: “Container Generated.” That’s before it got to Cincinnati. Many days passed en route.
Before I close this extended story, let me tell you that, believe it or not, I was actually looking forward to my post office experience. Because it would, once again, offer me an “opportunity for relationship.” Just as I had been excited to have to go down to the police station a few months ago, when one of our new neighborhood signs was stolen. I had a great conversation with a policeman then, and likewise here.
It turns out that many years ago Mike had been our mail delivery man for awhile. He remembered the address, 134 North Overhill, though he’d never met me. Well now he has! We talked about the old books in the box. He says he also has some seemingly worthless old books, fairy tales from the 19th century, I think he said. In fact, they’re in his postal locker!
When we were done, he offered to take the box back to the car for me and let me take his picture.
I told him that if we don’t hear about another box with my stuff in it (he says the investigation will take a few days), then I will donate the contents of this box to him, as he might treasure some of these old books, too.
All of which just goes to prove my point, that “We think we’re here on Earth to move stuff around; but actually that’s just an excuse for relationships.”
Isn’t it the truth? Imagine looking down on Earth from the top of a cloud. All these human figures scurrying around. What are they doing? Handling, exchanging stuff, all day long. But behind that little “stuff” drama, are the ensouled beings we encounter during the time we are “movin’ stuff around.” And how we work with each one determines the quality of our daily lives. Do we have fun? Do we consider each new encounter an opportunity for authentic connection, for dissolving the veil between the worlds? If so, we’re likely to feel fulfilled and in love all day and all night long.
Thank you, Mike.