Merry Christmas, eventually (Act II)

Act II: While in Texas

After all the fun of getting to Houston for the holidays, we eventually made it to my mother-in-law’s place, where we would be staying for the first part of the holidays. We knew no one else would be home yet, so we let ourselves in and looked for the box of Christmas presents we had shipped down to ourselves before we left New Hampshire.

(Aside: In the old days, i.e., before we left Texas, we could just load up our car with all of the Christmas presents for our families, then drive down I-45 from Dallas to Houston. With us now living in New England, we instead boxed up all of those gifts and shipped them down to my m-i-l’s place instead of trying to drag a whole suitcase full of gifts along with us. We did this last year as well, and—aside from DHL banging up our box more than they should have—it worked out really well. Anyhoo, back to the story…)

The only problem was we couldn’t find the box. Front entryway? No box. Dining room? No box. Living room? No box. Ah, under the stairs… nope, no box. We were starting to get a little concerned. Now, the box weighed 25-plus pounds, so it’s unlikely my m-i-l would have bothered lugging it upstairs, but what the hell… guest bedroom (where we’d be staying), no box… master bedroom, no box. We didn’t trip over a large, 25-pound box when walking in the front door, so it obviously wasn’t sitting on the front stoop. But wait, maybe the FedEx guy left it on the back porch… ah, should have thought of that earlier. So I wandered out back to the patio… no box. Storage closet… you guessed it—no box.

Now we were officially worried. I called FedEx to see if they could tell us if the box was even delivered (after all, it would have been really hard to find the box if it had not even been delivered yet). Even though I didn’t have the tracking number with me—it was sitting back in New Hampshire on top of the rolltop desk in the kitchen… nice one there, genius boy—the FedEx rep on the phone was still quite helpful in trying to find the status of the package (even though, as you’d expect, they were getting bombarded due to the holiday rush). But then he came back with something puzzling: “I’m sorry, but I can’t find any record of that shipment in our system.” Now I was really confused. Granted, it would be even harder to find the box if it had never been shipped in the first place, but we had used our local shipping office plenty of times in the past, and they were always top-notch. So I called them, and they were actually able to verify that yes, the package had been shipped (like I said, no real doubt there), and yes, FedEx had delivered the package around 3:30 the previous afternoon. Now, how they were able to determine this when FedEx couldn’t is still a mystery, but OK, now at least we know the box was delivered. Our shippers said they’d follow up directly with FedEx to try to get in touch with the actual delivery guy to see what was going on here. (By the way, Postal Center USA in Nashua, NH—friendly and helpful bunch of folks, and they’ve never done us wrong.)

Somewhat to my surprise, there was a knock at the door later that afternoon—it was the FedEx delivery guy! We described our situation, and he recalled that (a) he had definitely been in the condo complex the previous day, and (b) he distinctly recalled our particular box (our box was heavier than most and, more distinctively, was wrapped in plain brown shipping paper instead of just your typical mailer box). In fact, he even described our box before we did, so it wasn’t just a matter of him blindly agreeing to whatever we said. The only thing is that he couldn’t recall exactly what he had done with the box (and to be fair, our box only one of likely dozens he had to deliver that day), but he vaguely recalled that he had stopped by the front office. Now we were getting somewhere! Since it had rained the previous afternoon, it would be more than logical to leave the package at the front office. We thanked him for his time, and my sweetie and I headed to the front office to go claim our package… only to find that the office was closed for the long holiday weekend. ACK! Our box was in there! Through a series of frantic phone calls that eventually involved a good chunk of the board of directors (of which my m-i-l is a member) for the condo complex, we managed to get into the office. One thing: We also set off the alarm in the process, and the bypass code that we had been given didn’t work. So here we were, searching room-by-room for our box, with the alarm shrieking at us all the while. And in the end, it turned out our box wasn’t even there. (We did eventually manage to get the alarm shut off, and no cops showed up during this whole ordeal, so I guess it wasn’t all bad. Small consolation at this point, however.)

My mother-in-law is good friends with the neighbor across the driveway, so she ventured a suggestion that maybe the neighbor … seeing as how it was raining the previous day and all … took it upon herself to take the package from my m-i-l’s front porch and hold onto it for safekeeping. As she had been out all day, there wasn’t any way to verify this, but my m-i-l left a message with her, asking if she had indeed collected our box, and could she please call us back. In the meantime, I walked up and down a good stretch of the complex, looking for a familiar box perhaps sitting on the wrong front porch. No box. And when I got back to the condo, we heard back from the neighbor when she got back… no, she had seen or taken in any box. (I later discovered that my sister-in-law—who had been with us a good part of this evening—actually drove up and down the complex herself on her way home, looking for a misplaced box just as I had. No luck there either, but it was great of her to look.) At this point, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that our box was gone. Stolen, misplaced, misdelivered, I didn’t know, but it was gone. Very sadly, we made tentative plans to go shopping the next day to try to replace what had been lost in the box. (Not all of it was replaceable, but we would do the best we could.)

The next morning (Saturday, two days before Christmas), the same neighbor from the previous evening took a look at a box that had been sitting on another neighbor’s front porch for a couple of days now and noticed that (a) it was for the correct unit number, but (b) it was for an apartment complex down the road, not this condo complex. Which got minds a-whirrin’—if this box had been misdelivered in this way, maybe ours had been as well. My sweetie and her mom took off for the apartment complex. When they got there, they told the leasing office there that this box had been misdelivered, at which point the lady in the office said something to the effect that ohmigod, they’ve been calling about this box, and thank you so much! At which point my sweetie told her that oh, by the way, we’re missing a box, too, and maybe it got delivered to your place by mistake and could you please look for it. The lady disappears to a storage room in the back, rummages around for awhile, and exclaims, “Oh, here it is!”—at which point, two days of utter stress fall off my sweetie’s shoulders, and she bursts into tears. When the lady came out with our box and noticed my sweetie’s state, she said, “I guess this box was pretty important”, to which my sweetie told her, “Our entire Christmas is in this box”.

So the FedEx guy had been sort of correct: He had seen our box, he had dropped our box off at an office, but it had been the wrong complex and the wrong office. (Despite all of this, we were still willing to cut the guy some slack—after all, he had stopped by after his shift the previous day, and I’m sure the Christmas delivery rush must be hellish for these guys… no, it doesn’t completely justify the mistake, but at least it helps explain it.) But in the end, none of the details mattered: It was two days before Christmas, and we were now in possession of all our gifts. An early Christmas for us, indeed.

Continue to Act III: Leaving Texas