I’m sitting outside the locked glass door at the Main Post Office in San Francisco. If there is a God in Heaven and miracles are still possible, someone will let me through so I can sit down and talk to them about my story. And here it is:
Before going to teach the Jazz Course in Colombia at the end of June, I decided to send my books Now’s the Time and All Blues., the standard “textbooks” for this course. They are stored in a warehouse in Michigan and that good company will mail them anywhere I ask. That’s their job and they do it well. So late May, I had them ship two boxes to my course organizer’s house in Colombia. They had four weeks to arrive, plenty of time.
But of course, when I arrived to teach, they hadn’t arrived. I had four days to locate them. My hosts got on the case and discovered that they were being held at some post office somewhere in Bogota. They dutifully drove out to pick them up and came back with one of the two boxes. They claimed the other box didn’t have the proper numbers on them and was sent back to Michigan. The folks in Michigan said, “No way. They both were properly marked and if they accepted one, they should have accepted the other.”
Subsequent calls in Bogota got responses that ranged from: “ The box got sent to a small village in Colombia.” (Huh?!) to “Oh yes, we have it.” to “Oh, no, we don’t, we sent it back.”
So I left Colombia not knowing where they were, having paid for the expensive shipping and having lost the money I would have made from the sales.
Back home, I kept at my Colombian friends to keep trying to track it down and they finally came up with a tracking number and discovered that the books were in… Atlanta, Georgia. Huh? (Later, I discovered that this is where all lost packages go.) So negotiating through the USPS websites and phone numbers, I found something about re-directing the package and asked them to send it to me in San Francisco. That was August 1st.
By early September, no sign of the books. So I went to my local post office, who directed me to a Website, which I knew was a circular dead end. So I went to another post office and asked to speak to a manager and got a phone number. Called the guy and miraculously got him. He said he would check it out. But never heard back. Called him again. No answer. A week later called again and he said, “Oh you want to talk to Rafael at this number but he’s only in after 2 pm.” So I called many times and no answer. Are you still with me?
Finally decided to go to what I thought was the Main Post Office on Spear St. and talked to a sympathetic guy who took all tracking numbers and went away for 15 minutes. Came back and said, “Yeah, it’s weird, it said it was in Atlanta, but then it said Atlanta sent it to Michigan.” He seemed confused about it, but I told him, “Well, maybe the problem is finally solved.”
And so I wrote to my warehouse in Michigan and they said, “No, we never got a package.” So now I’m at the real main post office on Evans St. The clerk helping customers gave me a number to call on the phone by the locked door. Answering machine. He gave me another number. Answering machine. Another and a human being answered. She said, “Oh, I’ll need to transfer you. “Got someone else and she said, “No I can’t see you now, but I’ll find someone. Give me a few minutes.“ That was 20 minutes ago.
So I go back to the clerk, Roland and he says, “Let’s see if I can help you.” I tell him the whole story, he goes into another room four or five times and comes out with another question and 30 minutes later, I walk out with a piece of paper that essentially says, “They’ll keep looking and get back to me.” When I pressed Roland for the time line, he acknowledged that it could be between a month or so or a year or so. I’m not holding my breath.
Even Kafka would have been aghast. Does Yelp work to hold the Post Office accountable?