The holiday rush was manageable. For Private Ryan, PFC, and me, we felt the way that marathon runners who sign up for a 5K feel. (This is the first time I’ve ever compared myself to a runner, by the way. I promise it’ll end soon.) At the end of each holiday-busy-but-normal day, we looked at each other like, ‘So that’s it?’ We were still doing two to three times as much business as usual. But in 2020, we averaged six times as much per day, peaking at nine times the total on the craziest day in The Field’s history.
Marathoners who cross the 3.1 mile finish line must look around and wonder where the rest of the race is. And so it was in The Field.
Let’s highlight some very special holiday interactions, shall we?
The Christmas Spirit Was Here!
Amazon changed their return system (again) in an attempt to stop places like The Field from being able to circumvent what is supposed to be a UPS Store monopoly. What I don’t think Amazon understands is that we will win because our hatred of them will overcome any barrier they put in our way. [Editor’s note: Unless their web services go down again in which case this site will probably disappear. That would be trickier to overcome but let’s not tell her that, k?]
This season’s coup de grace related to them is the number of people who feel it worthwhile to tell us, a packing and shipping store, how much cheaper and better of an idea it is to just drop ship directly from Amazon to the recipient. One customer went on and on about the price of shipping, going so far as to say that they do not even send care packages anymore due to the cost and then seemingly laughing at the people who do send them.
As you all know, I often intentionally say snarky things when I observe someone being openly unaware about where they are or to whom they are speaking. But sometimes, the snark is really organic and I don’t realize it until later.
So when I said, “Well, we here are quite pro-care packages since they’re delightfully personal and, y’know, keep us in business,” I was not attempting to be a sarcastic asshole. It was a genuine response to the idea that her need to save $15 is bigger than the recipient’s need to know they’re cared about and/or have new snacks to eat.
Their eyes shot up at me anyway and I didn’t quite register that we were on the verge of defensiveness until they stammered, “Well, that’s not what I meant. I mean that, y’know, the cost of shipping has just gone up.”
And I wasn’t sure what to say so I’m pretty confident what came out next was, “Oh, I’m aware.”
Which of course then just fueled them to continue backpedaling while trying to find common ground for us when in all actuality, I didn’t have any real emotion about what they said in the first place. I don’t describe a lot of my interactions as horribly awkward because we are who we are; however, that one definitely felt like a failure of something but even now, I’m not sure what that might be.
(Speaking of awkward interactions, I renewed my driver’s license today. After showing me the photo that shall serve as my identification for however long and asking if it was okay, I replied, “It’s perfect!” And then in a rush of verbalized inner monologue, I said, “I mean – it’s not perfect perfect. But it looks better than my passport photo which appears as though I’ve just been arrested. Not that I know what I look like when I’ve just been arrested or anything. I’ve never been arrested or had a mug shot taken.” And then it stopped. And I looked at the lovely woman who was laughing quite hard and said, “Anyway, the photo is good. Well done.”)
An older man needed to send me a label to print off. He took out his phone and suddenly yelled at it, “What is your gender? Go to hell!” He then looked at me and angrily asked, “Why does my phone need to know what my gender is?” I laughed assuming the question was rhetorical, but then he stood there and waited for a response.
“You might want to have that checked out at Verizon,” I said, watching weird things pop up every ten seconds. ‘You might also want to quit clinking on links that promise you naked women,’ I thought to myself.
Private Ryan bought a new pair of tennis shoes for the month, but they were not the ridiculously expensive ones I told him to buy. We typically walk about 1,000 steps per hour and the shoes were uncomfortable so he upgraded. But he was afraid they looked “too gangster.”
He worries about amazing things. While I’m not quite up to date on what gangsters wear, I’m pretty sure they aren’t this:
Speaking of Private Ryan, he can be a bit of a hypochondriac. (Yes, it’s been fun to work together during a pandemic, thank you for asking.) And one day, he had chapped lips. PFC made the grave error of commiserating with his pain and mentioned that she, too, had chapped lips. By the time I got to work, Private Ryan had decided they had a communicable chapped lip disease far beyond “It’s dry outside.”
“I looked it up,” he said. “And it could be a sign of diabetes.”
“You think you and PFC caught diabetes on the same day?”
“Don’t you think it’s weird?”
“Yes, I can unequivocally tell you that I think that is weird.”
In his defense, there are only three of us so there is an underlying consistent concern that one of us would go down and take The Field with us.
Still confused me, though, when I had a rib pop out of place (Pain scale: VERY unhappy face) and I said it hurt to breathe and he wondered if I had Covid.
A woman called asking if we could help her return her vacuum. I said yes. She gave me the number to Dyson customer service and told me to call her back when I was done.
ALWAYS. ASK. FOR. MORE. INFORMATION. BEFORE. SAYING. YES.
And finally, I answered the phone this afternoon and a woman said, “I have a complaint about my UPS driver.” I explained that we are not the right place to call. So she demanded a number and I said, “There is no local number.” (For exactly this reason.)
So it began. She regaled me with her tale of woe that consisted of the following: She’d ordered god knows what from Amazon and it was to be delivered “that day we had that snow.” She lives in a rural area so her mailbox is a good 500 feet from her front door. And instead of driving up to her door (with their giant truck in the snow), they left her boxes next to the mailbox.
“They tied the boxes up in a plastic bag and just LEFT THEM there,” she angrily explained.
My primary focus was on the idea that the driver put the boxes in a plastic bag so as to keep them from being damaged. They are not even kind of required to do that.
I explained to her that the only option is to go to the distribution center to speak to someone there. They are only open to the public from 5 to 6 p.m., but if she is in town, she could stop by and see if someone was there to talk to. Which led to a response that challenged every irreverent, assertive impulse in my body.
“Let me get this straight. I’m supposed to take time out of MY day to drive down to a place that is only open one hour a day? Whatever happened to working a full day anymore? People have gotten so lazy! If these drivers even knew how to work hard, we wouldn’t have this problem!”
I’ll admit I am a bit defensive regarding people I care about (LOL to “a bit”), but I am even worse when people criticize others for “not working hard.” Part of it comes from the sense of entitlement the person saying it holds. But most of it comes from hearing such an utter lack of empathy expressed toward something about which they rarely have even the slightest bit of knowledge.
What I can tell you is that the UPS drivers worked around 10-12 hours a day for the duration of Christmas season and they remained pleasant and kind and apparently wrapped boxes in plastic bags so they wouldn’t get ruined. I’m sure they are not perfect – and I can obviously only speak about the ones I know – but to assert that they weren’t working themselves crazy at the expense of their families and sanity just drives me up a wall.
So part of me hopes that woman stays home because it’s just too hard to traipse over and complain in person. But the other part of me thinks she should attend their morning meeting when they get their assignments for the day. She can complain right to them there! And then they can maybe each have a chance to respond!
Or we can laugh it off and be happy we’ve survived another Holidays at the Field. One or the other.