NOTE: This event is not specifically related to our travels, but one I feel compelled to share nonetheless.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell patented the first telephone. A remarkable invention that changed communication on planet earth forever. A device that allowed people to hear each other’s voices from long distances. A device that eliminated the need for its operator to understand a complex set of codes. And a device that I avoid using whenever possible.
I cannot stand talking on the phone. The inability to see the person I am talking to makes it impossible to assess whether you are talking too fast or too slow or if they are confused. I do not even like using the drive-thru at McDonald’s. If the task I need to accomplish requires any sort of explanation, I prefer to talk face-to-face where I have at my disposal the full compliment of communication tools such as hand gestures, facial expressions, and visual aids.
With this understood, let’s travel back to late November. Around this time we were alerted to the fact that the three fire extinguishers we have in our house were being recalled due to faulty triggers and that we needed to exchange them for ones that worked. Now I will not go into the fact that we have had these fire extinguishers since we moved into this house nearly 20 years ago. I will set aside the fact that for each of those 20 years we had a sense of security that did not exist. I will not delve into the fact that for all of our attempts to protect ourselves, we would have been better protected from fire had I just stashed buckets of dry sand around the house! I won’t go into that. This story is about something else.
In an effort to restore our house to a state of full fire protection, we filled out the form to get replacement fire extinguishers and return the defective ones. This was all online and went without incident. We received the new fire extinguishers a couple weeks later and were advised to put the old ones in the boxes, slap on the shipping labels they included and call a number to schedule pickup via FedEx. Wait, what? Call? On the phone? Oh, hell no!
Despite my introversion and omnipresent social anxiety, I would just as soon pay for the new fire extinguishers than call someone to schedule a pick-up. But it was all fine. I had a plan. The FedEx store is not 10 minutes away. I will just take them down there and drop them off with a real live person. Dinner was just getting started so I certainly could make it there and back before it was time to eat. Off I went with 3 boxed and labeled fire extinguishers in tow.
There was one person ahead of me at the FedEx store so I waited patiently with my boxes while she conversed with the lone worker in the store. After several minutes, it was my turn and I said I needed to drop these off. The woman looked at the boxes and noticed the large diamond shaped stickers on the side. She then looked up at me and said, “I cannot take those here.” Oh boy. Here we go.
It turns out that, being pressurized fire extinguishers, these packages were hazardous materials and would need to go right to the distribution facility a couple miles down the road. I did not have the heart to tell her that they were BROKEN fire extinguishers so how hazardous could they be? She gave me directions to the other location and off I went.
I contemplated just going home and trying again another day, but I pressed on to the distribution center.
I walked into the office at the distribution center and found that I was the only one there. Literally the only one there. Not even an employee to be found. I set my boxes on the counter and waited. Eventually a woman showed up and asked what I needed — I got the impression that I had interrupted her. I advised her that I needed to drop these boxes off. She pointed to the stickers and asked what that meant. This is where, in hindsight, I made an error in judgement.
Clearly the answer to her question should have been, “Oh. That sticker means the boxes contain marshmallows and pixie dust, thank you, have a nice day.” But in my naïveté I let slip about the fire extinguishers. Naturally, she advised that she could not take them here either. I would need to go to the OTHER distribution facility located one block away. How many FedEx locations are there in this friggin’ town? So with a sigh I collected my boxes and returned to the car.
I again contemplated going home, but I was only one block away so I might as well see this through. I called the family to let them know that there was a better than even chance that FedEx might ask me to drive these boxes to their Memphis hub myself.
I arrived at the next location and circled the lot for a bit trying to figure out where to go. I eventually found a door that was labeled Pick-Ups. I took a chance that if you can pick stuff up from there, perhaps they would let you drop things off as well.
I was feeling good. Surely this would be the spot I needed. The end was in sight. I opened the door and found myself in a small vestibule with a window on the other side. No one was there of course. Beside the window was a phone with a sign that read…
If dropping off a package, please pick-up the phone and advise the operator that you have a drop-off. Someone will come by to collect it.
And there we are. I began this adventure based on my desire to avoid talking to someone on the phone. I had missed dinner. I had driven to what I assume was every FedEx location in the region. I had hauled these boxes of hazardous material throughout the city. And the reward for my trouble is I have to call someone on the phone to schedule a pick-up.
I begrudgingly picked up the phone and mumbled under my breath about needing to drop off boxes. A few minutes later the gentleman showed up and collected them with a smile. I returned to my car and made a promise to myself that the next time someone says to call FedEx to schedule a pickup, I will call FedEx to schedule a pickup.