I had made a mistake, a miscalculation, a blunder of titanic proportions. My usual optimistic view of the world led me to buy a telescoping boat hook that, even when collapsed to a mere 40 inches, was much too long to fit diagonally into my suitcase. I discovered this while visiting my sister during Thanksgiving 2012 where I had sent the hook for convenient pickup during my visit to the States.
Thank goodness for my retired engineer brother-in-law, Joe Ryder. We often refer to him as Saint Joe for all his benevolent work for family and community. During lapses of good manners or just irreverent jocularity, we call him Joe Cousteau. We do this because of his valiant attempts to master the underwater world by snorkeling Bonaire when he visits. But more than that, ‘Joe’ and ‘Cousteau’ just rhyme really well and we’re suckers for a bad rhyme.
Anyway, Joe takes control of my boat hook imbroglio and suggests that we just mail the damn thing to the island. I follow him to the dingy basement of his charming colonial-style New Jersey home. There among the refuse of his and my sister’s life, we dust off a sturdy cardboard tube just inches longer than my boat hook. It is so ideal that it even comes with two sturdy plastic caps affixed to each end. We stuff pages of the New York Times inside to protect the aluminum pole, heavily tape the ends, and Hettie grabs a black marker and boldly writes our island address on the side.
We trudge off to the post office 2 blocks away in the cold air that followed Hurricane Sandy. The postmaster asks how I want the tube sent. “The cheapest way,” I quickly respond. $25 dollars later, nearly the price of the damn pole, I am out the door. There is a heavy cost to living on an island.
Upon returning to Bonaire, I don’t even think of the receiving the tube until early January. Things just don’t arrive here very fast. By then, I read in the newspaper that Bonaire’s post office has been indefinitely closed due to some dispute between the Dutch government and the private contractor that is suppose to provide postal service. By month’s end, I return to the post office in hopes that it might be open. I walk right in.
“I sent a package from the States in November, but never received a notice in my post box,” I explained. “I know that you were shut down…”
“No, we were never closed,” counters the postal employee. “That’s just what the media said.”
“Oh”, I reply dumbly. “Can you just check to see if you have a long cardboard tube in the back room? Here is my ID.”
“Sure,” says the clerk. I watch her check the mountain of stacked packages behind the counter. With no luck there, she visits the various rooms beyond. I only get quick glimpses of the woman as she scurries from one cubicle to the next. I’m impressed with her effort.
“Sorry”, says the clerk. “It’s not here. But if you have a tracking number I can help you.”
“Damn. I should have spent the additional $25 to get a tracking number. I guess this one is a loss.”