Or the Fuck You Can’t Fix.
Often one kind act leads to another. Like a daisy chain of good intentions.
A friend of mine contacts Otis Elevators to see if they’ll give Elias an insider’s tour. Otis and Local Chapter 19 of the International Elevator Constructor’s Union (IECU) respond with open arms, with a behind the scene look at elevator shafts, mechanical rooms, the underside of an escalator, and a gift bag of Otis and IECU memorabilia—hoody, t-shirt, water bottle, flashlight, his own union card and a certificate of expertise.
Of course I write about this experience— because, well, that's what I do.
And my blog post is shared within Otis, and the International Eleveator Constructors Union, and reaches a man in a state as far from Alaska as you can drive. He contacts me and says he wants to send Elias a care package from his local union and from Schindler, another elevator company, one of the four that remain.
Touched by his offer, I write back with our address. I don't yet know that an error of less than an inch, a finger tip, a slip of a 6 for a 5, will set in motion a train wreck on this kind-hearted track between us. Between the gathering of all things elevator and the joy we anticipate on my boy’s face when he opens the package.
“Did it come yet?” the man messages a week after sending.
“Not yet, but that’s typical for Alaska.” I’m not worried.
This goes on for a bit, until one week turns to two, two stretches towards three, and he messages me a few more times and I finally retrace our points of contact and see my mistake. I wrote the wrong P.O. box number.
I drive to the post office and fill out the correct form for a package addressed incorrectly. I message him again to see if he addressed it to me or Elias.
No name, just the box number.
The wrong box number.
I write a letter to the occupants of the box above mine, pleading for the return of the package.
This is on a Friday.
On Tuesday, I receive a letter back saying:
“Yes we did receive the package in early March and you are correct that it had no addressee name (or sender's name also).
My wife opened the box thinking it was an order she had placed and was surprised to find the elevator items. Unfortunately, because we didn't know to whom to return it to and had no use for the items we donated them to Good Will in Anchorage last week.
In fact it was the day you wrote your letter. Our apologies to you and to Elias. We felt bad when we read your letter. Our best hope is that you can contact the sender again and have him reship the items.
Again our sincere apologies.”
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.
More kind people, taking the time to send a hand written letter back to me, with a sincere apology to boot.
But oh, how I wish they had returned the package to the post office, or to our tiny local thrift store in Seward, where I could easily find every item and the nice staff who run the shop would have laughed with me when I told them the story and not charged me for any of it.
But no, they donated the contents of the package to the behemoth of Anchorage’s Good Will, who I call within the hour of receiving the letter.
Not knowing what exactly is in the box, I don't get very far with the store employee (“Everything had to do with elevators..?”), who tells me there are three different donation sites that items start in before they even make it to the shelves. That is, if they don't just end up in a box in their giant warehouse, never to see the light of day again.
So I have to message the kind sender, and tell him the painful story, and ask for the specific contents of the care package.
Irreplaceable memorabilia I am told. Stuff he can't get again. He uses the word nightmare to describe the situation.
After multiple messages, with his descriptions of the items (that I relay to a Good Will Supervisor) our communication ends with the following exchange:
"I am beyond touched by you and your colleagues kindness and actions, that you took the time to collect and send so many meaningful items to Elias. I am heartbroken at my mistake and wish I could change this whole situation. Regardless, it is your empathy and generosity that still shines. Thank you."
"Your welcome, this meant a lot so I don't know how I feel about this. Unless they find the items please don't contact me again."
I read his words and just crumple, cry till my shoulders shake.
Only to eventually peel myself from the couch, to walk on the beach, where a collection of tiny moon-snail shells momentarily stops me from replaying the situation in my head.
I can’t make my 6 a 5. I can’t proofread my message before hitting send. I can’t reread our exchange and catch the mistake a week before I finally did. I can’t write the letter to the other box holder a day earlier.
I cant fix it.
All I can do is drive to Anchorage and look through Good Will for a blue Shindler Polo shirt. A bright yellow Schindler shirt. Two brand new International Elevators Constructors Union t-shirts. A Schindler ball cap. Gloves. Mug. Stickers. Pens. More..…
None of which I find, after spending almost two hours slowly searching through racks and shelves until here I sit, a stone’s throw from Good Will, alone at a table at New Sagaya’ cafe, writing, because its all I can do...
...even when there isn't a happy ending to share.