Things For Which There Are Just No Words

Subtitled, Why yes, UPS, you ARE welcome for the free and totally unsolicited advertising.

This Christmas, I ended up with four presents that couldn’t be delivered in person for one reason or another, but namely geographic issues. One, for bestie Jill in DC, was small enough that it could be sent first class mail, and, as I figured at the time, how badly could the USPS screw up first class mail to DC? Especially since I was sending it over three weeks before the holiday. Another, to Godson Z, was going to Philly, so even though the package was a bit bigger, I assumed that, again since I was sending it WAY in advance, the post office could manage to get it the two hours to Philly in a timely fashion.

There was no way, however, that I was entrusting the other two packages to the USPS. One, to other bestie Rachel, was going to the great state of Texas and the other, to my favorite girls, absolutely had to get to DC in a timely fashion since they were insanely lucky and got to celebrate the holidays on the beach in Florida (not that I’m jealous or anything!) and I wanted it to arrive before they left.* Rachel’s package also included her birthday present, so I was on a tighter time frame there as well.

I have been nursing a wee grudge against the USPS since Christmas 2007. Rachel was pregnant with Godson Z at the time (his birthday is Jan. 8 – happy birthday, Godson Z!) and, for a variety of reasons, she wasn’t having a baby shower. I had been out in Texas right before Thanksgiving and was going back for Godson Z’s birth (a story for another post, dear readers) and between finals and the holidays, there was no way I could get back out there to throw her a shower. So I did the next best thing: I made her a baby shower box:

and I bought a ton of presents (baby presents, like onesies and pacifiers and such, are relatively cheap, so you can buy lots!) and the Madre bought a ton of presents (because she is awesome like that) and I coerced the boyfriend into contributing a few presents and even Jill and Liz, who had only met Rachel once when Rachel kind of unexpectedly joined our annual Labor Day on the lake in 2006, each contributed a present and a card (because they too are awesome like that and knew it was important to me).

I put a ton of time into the box (SO much more fun than studying!) and wrapped everything individually and generally tried to make it as nice as I possibly could. Rachel’s birthday is right before Christmas, so I wanted the box to get there before her birthday and before Christmas so she could appreciate it and wouldn’t feel like she was being overshadowed in all the baby excitement. So, first of week of December, I took the box to my local post office (which, to be fair, was kind of a crappy post office – if you had to go there, you always wanted to make sure you had a book or something with you because you could be in line forever) and paid something ridiculous like $30 for priority mail to guarantee that the box would get there in two to three days. I repeatedly asked the person at the post office when the box would get there and told him how important it was to me that the present get there in a reasonable amount of time and the man repeatedly told me “two to three days. two to three days.” OR SO I THOUGHT. BECAUSE THEY LIE.

I went home and waited for a call from Rachel. And waited. And waited. I didn’t want to say anything to Rachel because I wanted it to be a surprise, so when there was no word two weeks later after Christmas, I called the post office. This is when I first learned that Track and Confirm is crap and that, therefore, the man on the phone couldn’t tell me where my package was or when it might conceivably make its way to Texas. It was also when I was informed that the whole “two to three” days things is not a guarantee, but is, instead, an estimate. The man on the phone also told me that I couldn’t reasonably expect for my package to get from DC to Texas in two to three days because, hello? it was the Christmas season and of course everything takes longer at Christmas.

I was livid.

I mean, I get the whole Christmas thing, I do. BUT THEN DON’T OFFER A SERVICE THAT PURPORTS TO SEND THINGS IN TWO TO THREE DAYS. And, at the very least, have your employees tell the customers the truth when they ask. The package eventually showed up in Texas a few days after Christmas and Rachel loved it and was very happy, but at that point, I could have totally saved myself roughly $20 dollars and sent the thing media mail with the same result.

Of course, because of the whole “not a guarantee” thing, the post office refused to refund my money. Not that I didn’t try.

I first discovered the joys of and headache-free-ness of using UPS (I don’t ever consider FedEx when sending things because I know from working pre-law school how ridiculously expensive FedEx is) when I needed to temporarily move roughly 100 pounds of clothes and books and purses and shoes (whether or not I NEEDED all of that
is, if you ask the boyfriend, open to debate, but I firmly contend it all was, in fact, necessary) to New York for my three month stint as a summer associate and I was flying an airline (ahem USAirways) that was charging BIG fees for checked bags. I investigated the post office, but they were pricey and I was a little skeptical anyway after the Christmas incident of 2007. I was pretty resigned to the fact I was going to have to pay the crazy airline fees, but then my mom suggested I at least check out UPS. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not only could I send 50 pounds for only $30, (vs $25 for parcel post or $40 for priority mail), but my boxes would get there in only two days because UPS ground rocks.

I did comparison shop with USPS this Christmas just to check, but the UPS prices were roughly the same ($9.95 to send 3 pounds to Texas via USPS, $12.53 to send the same package via UPS) and I knew that UPS would actually get my package there when they said (and actually, it got there a day early-it took three days instead of four).

Also, with UPS tracking is free and by tracking, they actually mean TRACKING and not “we’ll update if we feel like it because we’re actually under no obligation to do so” even though you paid $.75 for this crap service ahem, Track and Confirm, ahem. And I don’t know about you, but I LOVE tracking the things I send out to see where they are. I am weird like that.

Now, in the post office’s defense (and, fair warning, this will be the ONLY thing I say in the post office’s defense in this post), both USPS packages DID get there in an amount of time that the average person would find both expected and reasonable so that is where they TRICKED me and I got cocky. I even twittered about how impressed I was by the efficiency of the Grand Central post office.

After Christmas, I had to send some important documents back to New York that, for reasons I will probably discuss in a later post, had to get to New York before the first of the year. On Monday the 28th, I took said important documents to the Post Office, explained the situation to the clerk, and asked if I should spend the $18 to send the documents overnight. And he said that there was absolutely no reason to do that because I could spend only $4.95 for priority mail and it would absolutely get to New York in 2 days on Wednesday (are you seeing the BIG RED WARNING signs here? because I didn’t). Worst case, and he stressed that he didn’t think this would happen because New York is, you know, SO CLOSE, it would get there Thursday morning.

Would anyone like to take a guess when my super super super important documents got to New York? If you guessed Monday the 4th, you would, in fact, be correct (luckily, I had faxed copies of the documents and the person they were going to accepted those, so we still met the deadline). When I called the post office, the woman on the phone gave the stupid “not a guarantee” line again and then told me that even though all the signs at the post office say “two to three days,” the post office, in fact, considers five days to be “delivered on time.” She also gave me the stupid line about how I shouldn’t expect things to be on time during the holidays.

I’m so glad that your standards are so low, USPS. Really.

So you are all thinking “fool me once…” but it, in fact, gets worse. Last week, my mom had to send some documents to New York and, thinking she would learn from what happened with my documents, paid the $18 to send the documents overnight.

Would you like to guess when the documents were delivered? If you guessed “not overnight,” you would in fact be correct. If you guessed “two days late,” you would be even more correct.

USPS did give her back her money, but I don’t think she really gave them much choice.

I hate the post office.

*Of course, as it turns out, sending a present that early to a five year old and not letting her open it for two and a half weeks is the equivalent of Chinese water torture, so I may need to rethink this plan in the future.

A couple of days ago, I had my picture taken for my bio. I anticipated an experience something like either one of my official graduation pictures: go in, stand on the mark, smile big, SNAP SNAP SNAP, look at pictures on camera, and either say great or ask if you can have one more try. The whole thing takes ten minutes or so.

The pictures on the website are generally quite good, so I had high hopes this would not be like my senior yearbook picture experience. (Why yes, I am still a wee bit bitter about this, so you do get to hear the whole story.) Unlike other schools that let you submit a headshot of your choice, so long as it meets certain requirements, my school treated these pictures like driver’s license photos: stand in front of a white backdrop and SNAP you’re done. One shot.* This was less formal than the normal school pictures and there were no retakes. As a result, in my official senior yearbook picture I have deer-in-headlights bug eyes and have my neck arched forward at an extremely awkward angle. I look like I’m about to fall over or something. It is not good.**

Anyway, before picture day, they sent around a memo to all of us telling us what to wear (medium colored suits, preferably gray; no white shirts; no patterns) and suggested women might wear pearls. Remember that because it’s important later.

The first thing that suggested to be that this was not your typical mass picture experience was the cool jazz welcoming me to the conference room that the photographers had commandeered. Apparently mood music was in order. Also not expected: the fact that the room was totally dark except for the photo lights (again, setting the mood?) and the fact that the photographer did not work alone. He came with an assistant. An assistant whose job was to prep us for our photos. Who knew just throwing on the lip gloss and checking my teeth wouldn’t suffice? After powdering my face (I told you this was hardcore), she attacked my hair. I had brushed it in preparation for the photo and thought it was looking pretty nice, but, horror of all horrors, she SAW FLYAWAYS. And that’s when the gel came out.

Now what you have to understand about my hair is that although I have a lot of it, it is fine. And it’s also wavy. Which means that if you touch it and put lots of crap in it, it not only gets limp and stringy real quick, but it also starts to frizz up. So not only did I have that going for me, but the woman tried to give me gel strands.*** (Apparently she also tried this on my office mate as well). NOT the look I was going for for my official bio shot.

After I escaped the clutches of the gel-crazed assistant with my dignity and hair more or less intact, I got to meet the photographer. His first comment: “hmmmmm…your neck is looking a little bare. I’m not reallu feeling that.” (Bare on purpose! I didn’t wear a necklace because I generally don’t wear necklaces). He then proceeding to explain that he travels with a strand of freshwater pearls and that he REALLY thought it would greatly improve the picture if I wore them. Said as his assistant was putting them around my neck. So yes, Jill, if you’re reading this and have put it all together, I am in fact wearing a pearl necklace in my official picture. Now go ahead and crack up because I know how much that phrase makes you laugh 🙂

The shoot itself was pretty much what I imagine a Glamour Shots shoot to be like, all head one way, body the other, tilt your head, chin up, more tilt, etc. etc. It was… interesting, particularly as I was definitely not anticipating a full out twenty shot photo shoot. I think some of Tyra’s wannabe models get that for some challenges. ANTM, here I come.

Or not. There were some good pictures and some not so good ones (see above re: deer in headlights). Luckily the one I liked best was also the one in which the photographer saw his vision best fulfilled so there was no disagreement there. After the pearl thing, I have a sense he might have steamrolled me to get his way.

And thus ends fifi’s posing days for the time being.

*This whole post is making me wonder if the whole school picture procedure has changed now with techology and if everyone from kindergarten on up gets to preapprove their pictures. Is it possible that we now live in a world with no retake day?

**I hold a rather large grudge towards that yearbook in general though. I know, I know – it’s been almost nine years. But I still have to wonder why it was necessary to put a full page picture of me speaking at senior government day (student council pres right here) when I had two massive black eyes and a brace on my nose from breaking my nose (another story for another day). If it was necessary for the yearbook timeline/story they could have used more of a distance shot. I would have been okay with that. It just didn’t have to be a closeup of my face, is all I’m saying!

***you know when you see girls with their hair done up for prom or other formals and it looks beautiful except for the random stringy pieces of hair hanging down? Those are gel strands. And I hate them.

Apparently it is a compliment for him to tell me I am an “extremely proficient” cook. Am I asking too much to want to be something more than just proficient? Maybe I am being too sensitive to word choice here.

I cooked dinner tonight. This is nothing particularly special as I have cooked for myself pretty much every night since my junior year of college. Tonight was also nothing big- just whole wheat pasta with roasted tomatos, spinach and white beans. But the boyfriend RAVED about it which was very sweet.

And then he said, “you know, you’re almost as good of a cook as my sister.”


“Well, of course you’re not as good a cook as my sister. She does have a cookbook.”

And you, dear readers, know how I feel about that. You will be glad to know that I bit my tongue and didn’t say anything mean beyond that it would be nice if he didn’t compare us. But I am not particularly happy right now either.

(Or how fifi got caught between the two)

As you may recall, I was in DC last week. Saturday morning, the boyfriend started blowing me up with texts re: his conviction that a mouse (or mice) had taken up residence in his apartment. I’m not sure what gave him this idea in the first place, but the result was the Oreo trap. Apparently, before going out Friday night he took half an Oreo and placed it in the center of the kitchen counter and when he woke up Saturday morning, the cookie had been moved across the counter and had been nibbled.

Knowing that the boyfriend had done some serious drinking with his friends Friday night, I did question whether the culprit was really a mouse or if it was the drunk boyfriend, but he remained convinced and insisted that we needed to deal with this immediately. And that is where things started to go downhill, as they often seem to do between the boyfriend and me these days.

Now I understand that not dealing with the mouse/mice was not an option because said mouse/mice were not just going to move out on their own and, if allowed to remain, would like bring more of their mouse buddies to hang out. I also understand that having mice is not particularly sanitary, that mice can spread disease, and I would prefer not to feel like our food sources are under seige. So I get all that. I’m not trying to make them my pets (even though they don’t seem to be the big aggressive whatre-yous-talkin-about NYC mice I had been warned about, but more on that later).

After the boyfriend refused to go adopt a cat (Hello? Problem solved), I told him that I wanted to get humane traps, the ones where the mouse goes in, generally lured by some delicious peanut butter, and a door slams down behind him and he hangs out until you go set him free a few miles away (true story- that is how my dad, who is awesome, dealt with the mouse in our basement. And it worked).

The boyfriend refused. He consented on the no glue traps thing, because those are just torture, but I really think that’s more because he is irrationally afraid of mice and rodents in general and coming across a live (and presumably angry) mouse would be more than he could deal with. When he lived in Hell’s Kitchen, he somehow managed to trap a mouse under a bowl or something. He then retreated to the couch and called his sister to come and deal with it (and she did – this should tell you something about their relationship). Anyway, he refused to buy the traps, or even the ones where the mouse runs in, gets zapped, and you don’t have to see it because they work on “the mouse’s natural curiosity” (no it’s the peanut butter) and the boyfriend was not willing to bet on that. So even though I told him I was not comfortable with the oldfashioned snap trap because I think they’re cruel, guess what he came home with. Yup. Awesome.

And, he made it very clear that because of his aforementioned mouse issues, if he did catch something, it would be on me to deal with it. Again, awesome.

He set up the traps with peanut butter and Oreos and labeled the kitchen the “kill zone” (Seriously. He made a sign.) because apparently that made him feel better about the whole thing to make it a joke.

However, it quickly appeared that we had some literate mice, as the traps sat undisturbed until Tuesday. Which, of course, I was fine with. Then, the mice started to outsmart the boyfriend. We woke up Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to the bait in the traps gone and the traps untriggered. This may have amused me.

Thursday morning he left to to South Carolina to golf with a friend of his from law school. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s when the mice got stupid/cocky. I was watching Project Runway, minding my own business when…


Crap. (If you follow me on twitter, you know this is when the meltdown began).

I had come to terms with the traps because I genuinely believed we were never going to catch anything. The boyfriend’s landlord was coming in the morning to look for holes and plug any he found and I thought that would be the end of it. And I did think I was going to be able to deal with it(I have disposed of many gifts of moles from the cats over the years), but when I rounded the corner and saw the poor little gray lump on the trap (on the counter no less), I just couldn’t.

I was so mad at the boyfriend for putting me in the situation. And even more so when he laughed and was like: “Pretend I’m C (black cat) and I brought you a present.” (This may have been when I told him that I f-ing hated him. No judgment).

Long story short, I was attempting to man up (and figure out what I could use to knock the trap into a bag from preferably an arm’s length away) when the boyfriend called and told me that his friend who lives a block away was willing to come deal with the trap and the mouse. I do generally try not to be so over the top girly, but it was late and I was tired and emotional and so I took him up on the offer. And, really, it was much easier this way. I would have made a big production of it, whereas Shawn just picked the trap up WITH HIS BARE HAND and threw it in the trash. Clearly some people are just more constitutionally cut out for dealing with these things than others.

The landlord did come Friday and plugged the holes so hopefully we can put all this behind us now. Otherwise, the boyfriend might just come home to a cat.

It has been a LONG week. And a very hard week.

On Sunday, we found out that one of my brother’s friends committed suicide Saturday night. The wake was Tuesday so I drove down to Columbus and picked up my brother. He was/is a wreck. He kept asking me if they knew why his friend did it. There are no answers. And even if there were answers, there’s no good answer. The funeral was yesterday.

The whole thing is horrible and tragic. There are just no words.