I’ve been spending quite a bit of time at a variety of post offices around town for the past several weeks (thankfully!). Due to my lack of a personal assistant which I desperately need, I do my own postage and handling for shipping my new book The Short Side of Time to purchasers throughout the country, and the best rate for shipping books is a clever one known as Media Mail which is only available at the US Post Office.
I’ve been shipping books Media Mail with Post Offices since my first book came out in 2007 and am pleased to report that I’ve never lost one book in the past nine years out of the several hundred I’ve mailed…that is, never lost one book until this year. All perfect records are meant to be broken (just ask the Gamecock men’s basketball team today) and alas, the perfect record for shipping my books was ruined several days ago when I sent a book to my friends of many years Sandra and Sandi who now live in Bluffton, South Carolina. They were one of the first to reserve a copy and followed through with a check as soon as the books arrived. I mailed their copy to them on Monday, January 4th. The expected delivery date was Thursday, the 7th.
To make a very long tedious nerve-wracking story short, their book had still not arrived at their home in Bluffton on Monday, the 11th, and the tracking number available online showed nothing beyond being received at the Forest Acres Post Office where I had taken it the week before. Nothing. Nada. No news on where it went from there – or IF it had gone anywhere from there.
So I determined to track the missing book’s whereabouts and stopped at the Sandy Hills Post Office in the northeast around noon on the 11th to mail other books and ask about the missing one. Sandy Hills is not one of my “regular” locations, but I thought, hey it’s all on a computer anyway so what difference should it make where I stop? Right? What possible difference?
A very pleasant heavyset man in his late fifties sat at a computer in a small retail section of the large Sandy Hills post office – an area that is rarely open, but that day it was. The other clerks at the front counter were very busy with several customers, and I heard the man at the retail computer ask if he could help anyone. None of the other folks in line seemed to show any interest in moving to the little retail counter so I took my packages and walked over to him. Let’s pretend his name tag read Harold.
I smiled, wished him good afternoon, and handed him my first large envelope. He smiled back and placed the 8 x 11 bubble envelope on his scale. I’d like to send this Media Mail, I said. At this request, Harold seemed to lose a fraction of his good humor for some reason.
“Media mail?” Harold asked.
“Yes, media mail,” I responded.
“What’s inside?” he asked.
“A book,” I said.
At this he began scrolling through his rates and told me it would be $2.72 for Media Mail as opposed to first class, priority, overnight rates, etc. which were all significantly higher. He also mentioned insurance, did someone need to sign?
“No, thanks, just Media Mail,” I said politely. This didn’t suit him apparently.
“You know,” he began with a little sharper tone, “The Post Office has the right to open and inspect any items that are sent Media Mail on a random basis, and if this really doesn’t have a book inside, we can return to sender subject to a fine.”
“Inspect away,” I said cheerfully. “I can assure you this is a book. I ought to know – I actually wrote it.” And then I gave a little laugh to make sure he knew I wasn’t trying to get smart with him.
“Oh, you wrote it,” Harold said and his tone changed again in an attempt to become Mr. Nice Guy as he made his final calculations for the postage due. “What kind of book is it?”
“It’s a collection of essays from a blog I write,” I said and at that bit of information, he stopped working on the packages and another slight frown crossed his face.
“Essays? Hm…” By now he was merrily stamping Media Mail on the outside of my packages.
“Yep, essays,” I said.
“Have you written any other books?” Harold continued.
“Yes,” I said.
“What kind?” he paused and looked at me.
“Oh, two memoirs and another collection of essays,” I answered breezily and with just a twinge of pride. As if to say, thank you for giving me the opportunity to let you know I am not just a one-book wonder.
“Hm,” he said again with obvious distaste and a much larger frown which was puzzling to me until he had one last question. “Have you ever written anything,” and he stopped as if he were trying to think of the word, “like a novel?”
Ding! Ding! Ding! Harold, like most people in the world, believed the only real books were fiction.
I laughed and said no I can’t write fiction because I’m not quite imaginative enough.
“I can see that,” Harold said.
Hence, the title of my post today is an attempt to give all fiction lovers hope for my blogs in 2016. If I could write fiction, I would be a mystery writer.
P.S. Sandra and Sandi received their book yesterday somehow, and I was relieved that Media Mail had once again proved reliable. Mystery solved – probably thanks to Harold.