I’m back from Alaska, and while I have many lovely things to write about my trip, I first have to get this ridiculous story out there. Because the combination of my foolishness plus the U.S. Postal Service can only end like this:
On our second night on the Aleutian Islands ferry, it stopped in the tiny village of Sand Point, Alaska around 10:15 pm, so it was rather late to stroll around. But I got off to stretch my legs, along with my dad, a girl I ended up befriending on the ferry and her mom. My friend said her coworker had grown up there, and had told her own mother to look for the ferry when it arrived. We noticed a small woman standing alongside a SUV at the dock, and sure enough, she was the mom, and she offered to give us a tour of her village. The tour was pretty simple: Here’s the “big shop,” here’s the health clinic, here’s the pool where I finally learned to swim when I turned 60 (which is crazy, because can you imagine growing up on an island and not knowing how to swim?). Anyway, she had a little gift shop, so I asked if we could stop and buy something to thank her for our tour. I bought four glass Japanese float balls, these beautiful orbs that wash up on the beaches in Alaska after they detach from the fishing nets of Japanese fishing boats. They’re gorgeous, and almost totally worth the rest of this story…
We thanked her for her tour, got back in the car and I got on the ferry and realized, shit, my little black moleskine notebook, where I’ve taken all of my quotes and notes from the last 5 days, is not in my pocket. Which means it’s somewhere on that freaking tiny island. So I have a massive panic attack, and climb into my bunk bed and start writing down everything I can remember from the past five days, while fighting off the urge to hurl myself off the boat. (I have a penchant for the dramatic.) Meanwhile, my dad goes and finds the girl who I befriended, gets the phone number for the little old lady, waits patiently for the purser to take him upstairs to the captain, who has the only satellite phone on the entire ferry. He calls the old lady (it’s midnight by now), explains the situation, and the notebook is found in the backseat of her car. He gives her my address, she says it’ll be in the mail tomorrow, and all signs point to me getting my notebook back and maybe not being such a terrible journalist after all.
Cut to yesterday evening, when the package arrives in my mailbox, with a huge tear in it… and no notebook. Apparently the Delivery Confirmation scanning label matters little. I called my dad to tell him and he almost started to cry. Cut to this morning at the post office, where apparently mail service is really only important if things are IN envelopes. Should they rip and fall out, you’re essentially f*&ked. Cut to the second higher ranking post office, where I’m told that my postal carrier remembers delivering the ripped envelope yesterday (thanks, awesome job there) and anything that falls out of an envelope gets sent to Atlanta, where I assume all the postal workers light it on fire and dance around it, since I’m told there’s no protocol in place for actually retrieving anything that’s gone missing in the mail.
“So if your grandma sent you her diary, and it went missing, it’d essentially be gone for good?” I asked the woman. To which I got a litany of excuses: they should have insured it, that envelope was wrong. And I’m like, someone in another post office in Alaska gave her that envelope. It had a delivery confirmation stamp on it. And it did not arrive. And they basically looked me in the eye and said screw you.
So now I’m tapped into a vast wide web of post office protocol. I’ve learned from the aptly named Failure magazine that the pyre I expected in Atlanta is actually the Mail Recovery Center, where 15% of letters and 25% of packages are actually returned. The rest are put up for auction. I’ve spoken with a consumer representative, who has offered me a confirmation number (for what? confirming the inevitable?) and said I’d receive a call tomorrow, whether my item is found or not. Such is the saga of The Notebook. Stay tuned.