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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Lost and Brown’d

I’ve never been incarcerated — the occasional junior high school detention session notwithstanding. I’ve never been imprisoned, sequestered, detained or locked in.

(It’s sort of surprising, I know. You’d think someone would have thought to try it by now.)

But today I found out what it’s like to be under house arrest. Shackled to my home, unable to leave. A prisoner.

Today, I waited for UPS to deliver a package.

We complain about other service people who come to our homes — cable guys, plumbers, electricians. But most of these companies have actually squeezed a wee bit of compassion into their practices over the years. They’ll give you an approximate window of when they’ll drop by your place.

Maybe that’s because they’re coming over to charge you exorbitant amounts of money, rather than to bring you presents through the mail. If everything they did was bad, they’d be at risk of people bopping them on the head and throwing them down a set of basement stairs when they show up.

Now granted, the Comcasts and Commode Kings of the world don’t go so far as to make “appointments”. Far from it. They set a “window” — which they may or may not wind up squeezing into at the last minute — but at least it gives you parameters to work within. Those parameters may be two hours, or four, or “morning” versus “not-morning”, but you have some idea when the doorbell might ring.

Not so with UPS. At least, not today. Last night, I arrived home to find a sticky note reading “First Delivery Attempt” for this package — along with a demand for an in-person signature, like some sort of package-hostage ransom note. The communique ended with the ominous promise:

Will try again tomorrow

After that, there were a series of boxes indicating time frames — eight to noon, noon to three, half past dinnertime, that sort of thing — none of which had tasted the ink of the delivery boy’s pen. The clear message being that the package would be here, sometime between six at the ass-crack of dawn and ten at night, when the trucks go back to the garage to sleep. In between? All bets are off.

So I begged out of work for the day, and settled in for a good brisk wait from the UPS crew.

(I might mention at this point that I’ve tussled with the tan-shorted terrors before. If the title from my piece a while back, Who Can Brown Screw for You?, doesn’t give away my thoughts on the matter, then something may be seriously wrong. With your ‘obvious detector’.)

A day at home waiting out a package may not seem so bad. To be fair, it’s not exactly digging ditches or breaking rocks on a chain gang. You’re in the comfort of your own abode, with access to television, the internet, snacks and books and anything else that floats your particular boat enough to keep handy in your home. Still, it does come with a few ‘complications‘.

First, there’s the start time. I tend to work a shifted schedule at the office — in a little late, out a little late — so I don’t set an especially early alarm. Not for work, anyway.

“If you think I’m scary pre-shower, you should see me in the middle of one.”

But for UPS? Yes.

These people can show up any time. Their big turd-colored vans start stalking the neighborhoods at what — seven thirty in the morning? Seven? Six? It’d be one thing if we had an intercom, but we’re on the first floor. Which means that if the doorbell rings while I’m sleeping, I have to shake myself awake, find and don a socially-nonrepulsive shirt and pants, open the apartment door and make it to the building’s security door a few feet further, all before the bell-ringer gets bored and decides to leave. And all this without the contact lenses that I desperately need to see more than fourteen inches past my nose.

I couldn’t risk it. I set the alarm, and for early in the morning. Thus guaranteeing that the UPS truck wouldn’t sully my street at any time before noon, at the earliest. Naturally.

Then there’s the issue of getting ready. I actually had to run in for a late-afternoon meeting — an unavoidable schedule hiccup. So I had to look my usual barely-presentable self at some point during the day. That meant a shower — which implied some amount of time when I’d be naked, wet and soapy, and thus unavailable for greeting visitors outside the confines of the condo.

Well. Visitors who weren’t interested in immediately clawing our their eyes in anguish, anyway. If you think I’m scary pre-shower, you should see me in the middle of one.

Only no. No, you shouldn’t.

So not only did I take the fastest shower on record this morning — I’m not altogether sure the shampoo actually touched my hair before I was rinsing, by the way — I also prepared for said shower in the most strategic way possible. I brought all the clothes I’d need for an emergency door run — but no more! — to the bathroom with me. Shirt, yes. Shorts, yes. Socks and underwear and underneath tee — all optional. All left in the bedroom, where I’d normally encounter such decisions.

Also, I undressed at the last possible moment. I ran to the front windows, clothes on but loosened, and scanned the street for Big Brown. Confident that no delivery was eminent, I turned and made a dash for the bathroom. Garments flew by the wayside as I ran; three seconds later, I was naked, wet and pawing at the Pert Plus. Like a Minuteman, I was in and out before you could sidewalk-park a truck, much less ring the bell and leave.

Thus guaranteeing that the package wouldn’t come during, or soon after, the shower.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. When you’re held “package hostage”, any possible interruption in your ability to leap to the front door must be squelched immediately. The dog’s walks were to the sidewalk out front, and immediately back in. The trip to the basement, to start a load of laundry? Postponed indefinitely. And the last time I pooped with such diabolical urgency, there was a plate of atomic wings and raw jalapenos involved.

All in all, my coverage was superb. At no time, from before eight in the morning until three thirty in the afternoon, when I left for my meeting, was I more than fourteen seconds from the building’s entrance and my precious and highly anticipated package.

Which of course, thus guaranteed that my package wouldn’t come at any time between before eight in the morning and three thirty in the afternoon. When I left for my meeting. Which I did.

And returned home around five to find the inevitable sticker on the door, proclaiming “Second Delivery Attempt” — at three forty-five, of course — and vowing to return, one last time, tomorrow.

What time tomorrow? Oh ho ho, Mister Bond. You didn’t expect us to make it that easy, now, did you?

So tomorrow we dance again, the brown behemoth bully and I. This time, I’ve got no meetings — and an alarm set, pee pads down for the dog (and maybe me), and no delusions of Friday laundry happening. No, tomorrow I’ll be close by the door, ready to pounce at the first sign of package. Or plumber. Or passing pedestrian. On this day, UPS shall not deny me my package.

So of course, they’re gonna break it. I’ll be lucky to get the thing in three pieces.

Because there’s no getting out of the UPS jail, son. Ain’t no such thing as package prison parole. Mercy.

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