Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Dangers of Going Above and Beyond

So I arrive home from work yesterday, thinking that I’ve survived the Christmas madness and gotten all of my mailing and purchasing basically done. No more trips to the post office. No more hitting the malls. Ready for the Big Day to arrive.

And then I saw the package.

It was sitting on my kitchen counter, addressed to my kids with a return address from my brother and his wife who live in Seattle. “How nice!” I thought, impressed that my brother’s present for my little ones arrived early—especially because most of Seattle has been plagued by a severe power outage in recent days. So I open up the package, expecting to see two little gifts inside wrapped in Disney Princess paper or something of a similar brand…

…and what I see instead is a single gift with a card on the outside, addressed to my nephew Clint who lives in Cleveland.

Right address. Wrong present. Less than five days before Christmas.

What’s a good uncle to do? Pretend the package never arrived? Just let my kids split the gift under the guise that it was intended for them?

Or haul myself to a crowded, angry post office, or one of those little strip-mall places where you put your first-born down as a deposit in order to get the package there by the holiday?

Well, it seemed that at least forwarding the package up to Cleveland on my dime was the decent thing to do. But then I realized I had not purchased a gift for my nephew. We don’t tend to exchange with our nieces and nephews in Ohio! But if I, the Florida Uncle, simply pass along a present from the Seattle Uncle without a contribution of my own other than the Florida-Ohio postage, what kind of message does that send about what kind of uncle I truly am?

I tossed and turned last night, mulling all of this over. Okay, not really.

At lunchtime today I executed my plan. I forgot my lunch at home, so I needed a reason to head to the shopping plaza anyway. I went inside a Publix grocery store and purchased a sub sandwich and a Christmas card geared toward the nephew species. I used my ATM card and got a crisp $20 as cash back, went over to the lottery ticket area and wrote his name inside the card and inserted the cash, sealed the card and stuck it inside the pretty ribbon that already was encasing the present wrapped by my brother and his wife. I then shuffled down the sidewalk to Mailbox Joe’s, where I learned my options for getting the now-slightly-heavier present up to Ohio in time for Christmas began at $17 and change.

Dilemma time again. Does going above and beyond for your nephew entail paying the extra postage as well, especially after you’ve dropped an unexpected $20 bomb into the mix?

I chose regular mail, thinking he would get a nice post-Christmas surprise, and that is when the tides of fate began to turn against me.

My co-worker Linda was in the car with me, having come along for the errands, as I attempted to exit the shopping plaza. I was in Seinfeld-esque mode, lamenting the fact that people who operate shopping carts don’t apply any rules of the road when making their way around grocery store aisles. They just pull in front of you without looking, actions that could make them dead on any given street in suburbia.

As I’m in the zone with my socio-rhetorical commentary on the perils of grocery shopping, we’re parked at an intersection waiting to turn left onto a busy road. To the right we see a guy in a Mercedes doing a three point turn dangerously close to a large semi that is just behind him. Then, he suddenly charges his much- nicer vehicle toward the tiny space between us and the car in front of us. We hold our collective breath and watch as he somehow squeezes past me, daring not to make eye contact with us.

At this point we think that’s the end of the instant lesson of how pushing a cart through the grocery store is still safer than geriatric-laden parking lots of Central Florida. But then the semi driver decides he’s angry, and he attempts to do a wide turn into the narrow lane next to me. Again, our hearts skip a beat as he comes within a centimeter of taking out the passenger side mirror.

At this point I’ve had enough. I’ve become a victim of mistaken packaging and I’ve forgotten my lunch, and now I’ve got high-end cars and tractor-trailers coming at me from all angles. I decide to stick the nose of my car waaaaaaaaaaaaay out into the intersection, impatient to make my left turn. Linda is really screaming at this point. A car with the right of way attempts to turn from the main road into the shopping plaza, and has to go around me; it’s an older couple with teens in the back, and I give them a big smile as I shout, “See? I’m losing it, I’m losing it!” I finally pull out, and I hear other cars honking about something. And the entire way back to my office cars are pulling in front of me without looking, and then driving slow. Just like those little old ladies in the grocery store.

Somewhere in a post office in Cleveland, a package addressed to my nephew but containing presents for my kids might be having a soft landing. I am pondering whether to tell my nephew’s mother to forget about trying to ship the box back down to Florida, but I would hate for her to let me have all of the fun as the holiday weekend nears.

Merry Christmas!


At 1:58 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved this post!


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