If you follow me on Twitter, then you might already know about the recent disaster to land on my steps. If you don’t, then you’re in for a treat.
Recently I became obsessed with A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, much like many other people did ten years ago (or in the last few years, as is the case with Carraka, who graced these pages earlier today in my bizarre rant about characters from the book). I managed to get my mother into the series long before I could stomach it (I’ll explain this some other time), and when I got myself hooked on the first book, I started looking for the next three in the series. This search led me to call my mother, who has a great bookshop near her, and the end result was that my mother would gift me the next three (my own copies, rather than hers) and a whole bunch of homemade foods (jam, apple butter, applesauce, apple pie filling, and so forth). I like to pretend this was a loving gesture.
As such, I’ve been anticipating the day that the box would arrive, because I desperately want to read Martin’s work in hard copy. I love my Nook, but nothing beats a mass marking paperback in my hands when I’m walking. MMPs feel…right.
A week-ish went by, and finally the box arrived (today), marked a number of times with the term “fragile” (fra-gee-lay as they say in A Christmas Story). Instead of a well-kept package, I found this (after the fold):
We’ll get to the brown discoloration in the corner in a moment. This box was not handled “with care” at all. It’s quite obvious that the box was treated as any other box might be treated if it were sent to a recycling company. Not only has it been brutally smashed from the start, but USPS made no effort to correct what was clearly a terrible mistake by giving the box better treatment.
But the worst part isn’t the condition of the box. A beat up box can be lived with. If the package only contained books, I could, perhaps, forgive a little beating provided the books were in good condition. Sadly, USPS treated my package so poorly that some of the non-book-contents of the box were smashed into tiny pieces of glassy goop. That brown discoloration I mentioned earlier? That’s jam. And not just any jam. Festering jam.
The box has been sitting in southern heat for days (two weekends worth) and the stink from within the box is unidentifiable. I have no idea what kind of jam it is because the identifying bits were crushed away too. All I have is a goop inside the box. There’s jam everywhere. Worst of all, on my brand new copies of the next three books in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. One of the books might be salvageable (I doubt it, though, since it stinks), but the other two are lost, soaked practically to the binding with rancid jam. See for yourself:
And before anyone thinks my mother did not protect the jars well enough, let me show you my trashcan, which is full of all the bubble wrap I took out before taking the picture above:
USPS didn’t bang the box up a “little bit.” They crushed it under something heavy or tossed it around. When you look at the image from the inside of the box, you can see all the stress marks from the pressure put on it from above. The level of beating this box took far surpasses anything resembling “normal shipping wear.”
Oh, but it gets better. When I called USPS to complain, they asked if I had insurance on the box and told me I was out of luck if I didn’t. That’s right. I have to pay them extra money in order to be assured the box won’t get crushed or mangled on its trip. That’s like paying a restaurant for the assurance that someone won’t piss or spit in your soup. You expect that there won’t be piss or spit in your soup. That’s a minimum requirement of restaurant food. When I send something through the post office, I expect that my box won’t be crushed if I clearly mark it as “fragile” with my own pen (as my mother did) and the post office red mark (which they also did a number of times on this particular package). You buy insurance when you are worried about losing the box or that routine wear, even for fragile packages, might break the item. You don’t buy insurance in order to remind USPS that they need to do their job.
In the end, I’m furious. I haven’t been this mad in almost a decade. I’ve been looking forward to reading those books for weeks. Now I have the pleasure of telling my mother that her lovely gift got shat on by USPS and that I’ll have to find replacements for the books she spent her day getting for me and the jam she slaved over her stove to make.
Screw you, USPS. I’d say I hope the government cuts your funding, but that would be mean…
P.S.: I’m writing this post at a time when I’ve cooled off enough not to curse a dozen times in a row. I was so mad earlier that when I called my mother to figure out if she had insurance on the package, I actually cursed on her answering machine, which will not amuse her in the slightest…
P.S.S.: Thanks to Yona for reminding me of this hilarious scene from Spaceballs:
Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.