“Is your name ‘Krrr...err...um...sa’?” a voice grated on the landline. “Not yet that,” I said. He was from a courier service, he explained, and probably wanted to make sure people with such unpronounceable names did exist. He had a parcel to deliver. A parcel? Nobody had intimated me about it and I couldn’t recall having ordered anything either. A surprise gift? I was filled with a warm glow of affection for that generous and thoughtful sender.
I volunteered the correct pronunciation and when I had surpassed myself with excellent directions that would have brought the most geographically challenged person to my house blindfolded, he asked if I could collect the parcel from the office.
Well, really! I reminded him my house was very close to the courier office, adding I was too ill to go around collecting parcels. My voice, with significant help from a sore throat, was hoarse anyway, and I coughed for that authentic effect. He said he’d bring it and disappeared from my life.
That was on a Friday. Nothing happened. Nobody came. The parcel didn’t appear on Saturday either or the Monday after. Now thoughts of the parcel began to obsess me. “Where’s that guy?” I asked my husband, peeved. I hadn’t stepped out of the house since that historic phone call.
“Maybe the gas delivery man is now working for the courier service,” my husband suggested, eyes twinkling. “That could explain the suspense, drama and mystery.”
On Tuesday, I began my investigation. Unfortunately, the courier chap had called on the landline and with no caller ID facility, I had to hunt for the phone number. After some effort, I got a number that was continuously busy and when I finally got through, a brusque voice gave me another number the moment I began narrating my story. One number led to another, after long delays of busy tones or unanswered calls, of course, and, passed from telephonic pillar to post, I was led a merry dance, every call leading nowhere.
At last a man – I thought he was a kind soul, alas! - listened to my grievance and asked for the tracking number. That stumped me and I confessed I didn’t know who had sent the parcel. He perked up. “Then we are helpless.” “Can’t you use my name to track?” I asked. “Can’t.” He sounded pleased and added, “Why didn’t you ask that man for more details?” Lesson learnt. “But when someone asks for directions to deliver a parcel, you don’t cross-examine him,” I countered. “You should. Find the tracking number.” He cut the call with this jaunty advice.
My husband asked me to forget it, certain it was some useless free gift for a magazine subscription that was better off touring the country than cluttering the house. But I wasn’t giving up. I called a friend who sends the occasional surprise gift and felt quite foolish when she laughingly asked if I was giving her a broad hint.
Next day, I headed to the main office and was greeted with nonchalance. I stood my ground. Eventually I was led upstairs to a lady seated before a computer, a phone stuck on her right ear, eyes on the monitor, fingers flying over the keyboard. She listened to me while talking on the phone, simultaneously giving directions to a chap who had materialised before her. I realised she was addressing me when she chanted the ‘tracking number’ mantra for a bit. I stuck to my theme of ‘the name, do a search with that.’ After ages, she said my parcel had come again.
Again? How come? She claimed nobody had taken the call or was home the first time and it had been returned. The sender had forwarded it a second time. “Oh, ok. But why didn’t that guy bring it on Friday?” She shrugged her left shoulder and lost interest in me. That evening my husband went to the courier office that delivers to our area and drew a blank. “Name’s no use. Tracking number, tracking number,” the lady there had parroted.
Why don’t courier services follow the sensible practice of the good old postal department of leaving behind intimation if the door is locked? Whoever said privatisation was the panacea for all our woes has not experienced privatised inefficiency and indifference. Add rudeness to the delectable mix and you have an excellent recipe for frustration.
Now I’m on track. I’ve discovered the sender and have the tracking number. Nothing more to be done. I’m waiting for the call, “Is your name Keer..na...sa?”
(A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academic and author of the Butterfingers series. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)