Just one of the complications of modern life is the proliferation of mail delivery services.
Back in the good old days of The Royal Mail pre-privatisation, when you may have even known your local postie by name, if you missed a delivery, this meant one of two things: your parcel would be left with a neighbour, or taken to the local sorting office. Yes, this may have resulted in having to trek to said office, waiting in line, clutching your proof of ID, but it was a minor inconvenience compared with today’s roulette wheel of possibilities.
My ex-partner was unable to adjust to the fact that parcels can now arrive at any time of the day; I recall the agonising wait each time we had planned to go anywhere. He was unable to leave the house until the postman had been. He would pace the house, from one window to another, scanning the street for his arrival. Because he was always expecting some delivery or
another. And guaranteed, there was always something defective when it arrived. I dreaded those three words: “that’s going back”. The smallest ‘fault’ would result in hours of him examining, composong emails to the vendor, printing off labels and repackaging. Unless you are a record collector, or have the most easy-going of dispositions, never live with a record collector. “Look at this,” he would say, holding his latest purchase aloft. I would shrug;
they all looked the same to me once they were out of their sleeves. He would rant about it being ‘dished as a fruitbowl’, and I would sigh, realising this was just one more delivery we’d end up waiting for. In the end, whenever he promised we’d be leaving, “first thing”, I made a mental list of all the jobs I could get done beforehand. And really, why was I in such a hurry anyway? The only place we ever went was record shops. Where I would stand bored out of my brains while he dug through the crates, looking for an even rarer pressing of something he’d ordered off Discogs a week ago.
So, I suppose you could say I have developed a mild form of PTSD where the ‘post’ relates to online purchases. I try to avoid buying online, but working the hours I do and having no car, that’s near impossible. The first trigger for anxiety is the confirmation email. Sometimes I miss it and I can spend days obsessing over whether I actually placed the order or not, or if the payment went through or not. Eventually I’ll get round to checking my orders and discover them still sitting in my basket. Then there’s the old, ‘track your parcel’ message, confirming that it will, of course arrive while you are at work. Sometimes there’s the option to leave in your chosen ‘safe place’, but how frustrating is it when there’s no suitable option? No, I don’t want it in the garage, porch or with a neighbour. I would like it in the blue bin please! But it always falls on blue bin day, doesn’t it? And my busybody neighbour has a habit of putting my bin out even when there’s little more than one cornflake box and two week’s worth of dog food tins rattling round at the bottom.
Recently this mild PTSD escalated to full on hysterical neurosis. It was approaching the end of an already stressful month – I was £400 into my overdraft and needed to purchase my dog’s food. My dog has neuroses aplenty of her own: sensitive skin, sensitive tum, prone to ear infections – and let’s face it, this probably stems from living with a basket case. So, last year the vets prescribed a diet which I can only buy from one place; it’s not available ‘over the counter’. And it’s expensive. I left it as close to payday as I possibly could, accounting for the standard delivery time of 3-5 days. The order went through on the fifteenth and I had enough food to last to the twenty-second, which was a Tuesday. Come the weekend I was starting to get a little panicky. I checked my bank and the payment was showing as ‘pending’; I
obsessively checked my emails and text alerts – but nothing. Monday morning and the payment had vanished. I rang Petshop and they informed me the order was in the warehouse awaiting dispatch. I breathed a sigh of relief. On the Monday, I arrived home to find a delivery card from DHL. But this was for another order I’d placed. The card informed me that Parcel Force had attempted to make delivery and my package was ‘at your local post office’. Which I (wrongly) interpreted as ‘local sorting office’. The following day I trekked to the depot (only a mile away, but an uphill cycle I could do without after pedaling five miles from work). After a
near collision with a lorry which I tried to overtake in my impatience to get to the far end of the industrial estate where the delivery office is situated, I was informed that the package was in fact sitting in the shop on the High Street – which I cycle past on my usual route home. The smug clerk behind the counter took great satisfaction in pointing out that this was in fact written on the card, if only I’d looked past the tick boxes at the top. I vented my frustration and asked why on earth they couldn’t just leave it somewhere, like at the back door. “Because things get stolen,” she informed me. “Well,” I told her, “I’ve never had anything taken.”
And those words came back to haunt me the next day, when my dog food order arrived. Well, half of it, anyway. No faffing around with cards this time, just a big old box sitting on my back door mat. And as an added bonus – the window men had been (I had told myself I’d give them one more week and then I’d have to clean that bird shit off the front door myself).
I hauled the box indoors and went to walk the dog with a pay-day spring in my step: all that worry about running out of food, all the stress of items ‘pending’ and the overbearing daily overdraft messages – all gone.
But when I returned home and unpacked the box, I discovered that all they had sent was one tray of tins and a sack of kibble. I was four trays and a pack of supplement short. The window cleaners must have stolen it. All £150 worth.
I spent a restless night, tossing and turning. How could I have been so stupid? I’d even left a sign under the front mat saying, “leave parcel at back door.” Anyone walking past the house could see it. I didn’t have a leg to stand on. It was my own fault. I shouldn’t have spoken to the clerk like that, even if she was an officious jobsworth. Now I was paying for my rudeness. And so on and so on.
The following morning, I got into work early intending to speak to someone at Petshop as soon as the lines opened, just in case it was their mistake. But come on, who was I kidding, since when do orders turn up in two installments? On the phone they’d said the order was waiting dispatch, not half of it. I logged onto my laptop, the previous day’s elation replaced with the knowledge I would soon be back into my overdraft again thanks to the dog’s extortionate dietary needs.
And there it was – the email from Petshop informing me that my order was on its way. I quickly rang my mum to ask her to put my sign back out. I mean, come on, who’s going to run off with a shed load of dog food?