Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Lesson from the Faeries?

In early May I wanted to order a couple of computer things to go with Rhiannon, my "newest" computer. I put that word in quotes because she's a refurbished computer from Free Geek here in Portland where I've been doing some volunteer work aimed at refreshing my computer-building and getting a free computer after going through their build program and putting together five machines for their use. I get the sixth one.

I wanted to get things quickly. After looking online, my best bet looked like using They offered a 30-day trial membership in their Prime program, which includes free two-day shipping. I placed my order and had the stuff on time. The plan was to cancel Prime before the 30 days were up, which was yesterday.

With the end of the trial approaching, I decided to get some items by Brian Froud. I've got a fair number of his books that I've bought since deciding to go to Faerieworlds in 2006. I decided to get The Runes of Elfland, which is written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Froud.  I was also interested in The Heart of Faerie Oracle written by Wendy Froud and illustrated by Brian. Then I decided to add The Faeries' Oracle, written by Jessica Macbeth and illustrated by Brian. Each of the latter two are books that accompany oracle decks, similar to tarot decks.

I placed the order late Wednesday night, hoping for a Friday delivery. Initially the order appeared scheduled for a Saturday delivery by a shipping company called OnTrac. I'd never heard of them, but upon looking into it, I found out Amazon has been using them for about a half-dozen states in the West.

On Thursday I began tracking the progress of the package. Amazon has a distribution place near Reno, Nevada (Sparks, I think). The package got to OnTrac's facility in Reno that morning. Later that day, or early Friday morning I noticed the arrival was scheduled for Friday by 5:00 p.m. So much the better, although from what I'd read, I wasn't holding my breath for that time because some people writing at The Consumerist website had said things had been delivered later on the day promised.

5 o'clock came and there was no package. I figured there would either be a knock on my door or I'd hear it being dropped off outside the door. I still expected it would arrive at some point that evening.

I kept checking the tracking page at the OnTrac website. Finally, around 8 o'clock, I saw something unexpected. The site claimed the package had been delivered in good condition at 7:36 p.m. I hadn't heard anything and I wasn't playing any music or watching any videos, just reading stuff online. Usually I hear someone coming up the stairs and I hadn't. But I checked anyway, of course.

No package. I checked downstairs but there was nothing there either. So I called OnTrac and told them about the non-delivery that was at odds with what their page said. The person I spoke with said she'd try to check with the driver and would call back. She did not too long after, but really only to tell me they'd have to check on Saturday morning and would get back to me Saturday.

I went out and checked with the apartment complex manager. She said she hadn't seen any delivery people. My window overlooks a parking lot where many delivery trucks come, and I hadn't seen anything either.

I called Amazon, or rather, I went to their help page and chose "Phone" and exercised the option to have them call me, which they did within a minute or two. I let the person know what the problem was and that I'd called OnTrac. I was advised that since it was getting late, there wouldn't be much they could do and I should see what happened on Saturday.

What happened Saturday was nothing. OnTrac never called. By the end of the day I was very displeased with them.

On Sunday morning I got back in touch with Amazon to let them know about OnTrac not calling. The person I spoke with said Amazon would check with OnTrac on Monday morning and if the package was lost, they'd arrange to get it sent again promptly.

Around 2:30 today (Sunday) I was in my bedroom to change the bed. I heard the door downstairs open and very quick footfalls sounded on the stairs, followed by a THUMP! which was right outside the door, then the sound of a quick retreat downstairs. I looked and saw someone looking like a delivery person headed toward the back of the parking lot and most likely a vehicle in the back lot around the end of the building where there's access to the street that's in my address. I park in another lot that leads off the intersecting street.

Sure enough, it was the package from Amazon. I don't know it the delivery guy just wanted to avoid a confrontation over the late delivery and phony delivery time on the website or whether he just had to keep moving to fulfill other late deliveries.  Probably the latter. But just over 45 hours after the promised delivery time, the faeries had arrived.

I checked the package to be sure the contents were in good condition just as OnTrac had claimed. They were. Then I contacted Amazon again to let them know the package, while quite late, had arrived. I mentioned that if it had truly been lost I probably would have been just as well off, delivery-wise, by simply choosing the SuperSaver option. That's true, since it probably would have been Tuesday before a replacement would have been delivered. I've noticed when Amazon ships out of Nevada, a package will often get here in no more than four or five days even through the US mail.

It wasn't essential that what I ordered get here any quicker than SuperSaver would have gotten it to me. I just figured I'd use the Prime trial offer once more. One thing I learned was that having stuff shipped by OnTrac could mean disappointment. Another thing I realized was that if stuff is shipped by a means other than the USPS, it's best if I'm home when it arrives. That means not going out until then. Sure, the delivery person might just drop it by my apartment door, but there's always the slight chance someone might notice and help themselves. I've never lost anything that way, though.

It's rare that I'd really need anything ordered from Amazon or anywhere else very quickly. Mostly I can wait a few days. It's just that sometimes when I do order something, I'd like to start reading/using it sooner rather than later. But the USPS is, for me, the best way because items get put in a locked box below my small mailbox if it won't fit, or I'd get a notice to pick it up at the post office if it were too big for that, or the mail person might even walk it to my door and knock.

I have to say I don't have a literal belief in faeries, although the more I read about them the more I'm intrigued. I certainly like the idea of faeries and other denizens of their realm. There's a rich mythology that has developed about faeries, pixies, gnomes, goblins, etc. It's all rooted in the land my ancestors came from: England, Scotland, and probably if I could trace the Scottish half of my ancestry far enough back, Ireland. For me it goes very nicely together with my interest in Celtic music and English folk music.

Brian Froud is an excellent artist who has given life to the inhabitants of the Realm of Faerie through his drawings and paintings. I've taken a look at each of the cards in both oracle decks. They're quite wonderful. Many of the images are from his other books, but at least as many are different. So many of his artworks feature not only a main character but a whole host of others who live in the Realm. Sometimes looking closely without being in a hurry reveals more faeries, pixies, etc. than first seen. I'm looking forward to exploring the books and decks further, and when it's time for Faerieworlds, they'll be going along with me to be signed.

So this whole episode may have just been yet another time when ordinary things took a slightly unexpected turn involving a bit of aggravation. I've sometimes said if I have a guardian angel (and I don't believe in angels!) then his name is Murphy. Or maybe, like Spider Robinson has said, there's a guardian idiot. This sort of thing seems to happen often enough in my life that I almost expect it.

Or maybe some pixie just decided to play a little prank. Yes, things didn't work out as well as they should have. But then, today, when I was expecting to have to wait at least another day, probably two, to get the package and I wasn't expecting anything further to develop for the rest of the day, suddenly there's hurried footsteps, a THUMP, more hurried footsteps, and everything's back to normal. Well, normal for me anyway. Pixies can be like that, or so I've read. Things get messed up, but in the end, there's no real damage done.

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