So I ordered a batch of Glitterlands with the new cover and my publisher arranged for them to be shipped and, of course, I was out at work so UPS diligently bore these things across an ocean, stared at my door for a while, and then took them away again.
This is basically happens every single fucking time I ask for books from my publisher so I’ve got the strategy honed to a fine art:
- UPS take my books away from me
- I use their website to ask them to bring my books back
- Nothing happens for about a month
- I eventually crack and phone them
- They agree to deliver my books to my PA during working hours
- I finally get my books
- There is a small amount of rejoicing because yay books
However, the latest iteration was fraught.
Essentially I live a few roads away from Pigwiggen Road (this is not the name of the road, although now I kind of wish it was) which runs between the city where I live and the town of Pigwiggen, about 8 miles away. The problem is that goods-deliverers tend to react to the name Pigwiggen Road rather than the actual city that is right the hell there, and treat Pigwiggen as if it’s the closest urban centre.
Which is just a pain because while it’s on a direct bus route there’s something slightly bitter-making about taking what can easily amount to a couple of hours of journey to get some stuff that belongs to you that should have been brought to you in the first place. I know this sounds whiny as hell and it’s not like I’ve been sent to Mordor but I don’t have a car and getting to Pigwiggen and then across Pigwiggen genuinely troublesome.
So there’s a kind of on-going tension between UPS and I when it comes to this issue: they believe I should go to a depot in Pigwiggen and I believe I should not.
A month or so ago, I picked up the usual “you suck so we’ve deprived you of your goods” notice for the GL shipment. The note itself was, err, notably scribbly. I could definitely make out the dreaded words ‘Pigwiggen’ and something else that looked like Aki-something? Aki-what? Oh, whatever. I wasn’t going to try figure out some random UPS drop-off in Pigwiggen.
I sat down at my desk and entered the tracking number and arranged for the parcel to be delivered to work.
I don’t know why I bother going to the UPS website at all, to be honest, because whatever information you put in there just leads them to declare that they are ‘processing’ your package and then they bury it in somewhere in a pit near the centre of the earth. But at the same they’re really insistent you use the website and if you phone them up they subject you to a lot of passive-aggressive “hey valued customer, you know you could do this more quickly and more easily by using our website!” crap.
Which means there’s a kind of tension there as well in that I am almost using the website out of some bizarre form of self-harm so that when I’ve undergone The Ritual of Eternal Processing I can be gently disappointed at the point of communicating with an actual human being.
The worst of it is, there’s … God … I’m not sure if it’s a me thing or a British thing (if it’s a me thing, I should probably retire from public life as of now) where honour and politeness and habit demand you wait through various stages of irritation—on account of not wanting to make a fuss or hassle anyone—until you are way, way beyond what any sane human would recognise as a sensible time frame. Which is why I always end up sitting around for about a month (rather than assuming something has gone wrong at the ‘handful of days’ stage) which means I’ve become increasingly consumed by what is really an incredibly minor issue. Every day I’ll wake up and see ‘processing’ and flip out a little more—which means, of course, being in no way able to express the overwhelming UPS-based rage that is building up inside me like sewage around a dead gerbil trapped in the u-bend.
This in turn means that all my interactions with UPS are so polite it hurts:
Me: I hope you don’t mind me saying, but the thing is I’ve been waiting for this change to address to be processed for rather a long time and I’m just a trifle peeved about it.
Them: Yes, of course sir.
Me: I don’t think you quite understand. As you can see from the computer system, the parcel was initially meant to be delivered on the 11th April and I put through a change of delivery address on the 13th and it’s now the 23rd of June.
Them: Yes, of course sir.
Me: You see what I mean it about it being rather a long time?
Them: Yes, it is a long time.
And then I have to go and have a cup of tea.
Anyway, on Friday I realised I’d crossed the imaginary line in my head, whereupon a service has failed to deliver the barest rudiments of its remit so recognisably and abysmally that it allows me to take action about it. But when I phoned up they were actively shirty with me. Normally, they just—hah hah—process the change of address and agree to re-deliver. This time they ended up ringing the depot and ringing me back and it took the best part of a day in which I received several phone calls, from various people in increasing states of what seemed to be genuine annoyance. In particular, a Portuguese gentleman who spoke to me with frankly bizarre familiarity.
But, y’know, I was super proud of myself. I was very calm but also very firm. I felt almost alpha-like as I refused to let them bully or guilt-trip me into going to Pigwiggen. They were a courier service: it was their job to deliver to me, not mine to come to them.
And, after a day of this, they broke. And very grudgingly agreed to deliver the parcel to my work address, which is on the opposite side of the city to where I live. But way closer than fucking Pigwiggen.
I walked home, steps sharp, head held high. Imagining how I would tell this story to my partner and how impressed H would be with me in my merciless conquest of UPS.
Probably there would be admiring sex to follow.
How could anyone resist me.
And then I passed the paper shop on the corner where Pigwiggen Road turns into mine. (By the way: I’m not sure paper shop means anything to those outside the UK so I believe a more descriptive title would be … convenience store?) It’s a tiny place and quiet, and serves basically an intimate pool of local customers. The Portuguese gentleman who runs it—and with whom I have always been on good terms—was standing in the doorway, arms folded, a scowl on his face.
Gosh, thought I, he must have had a bad day.
At which point my gaze drifted up to the shop sign. Like most paper shops it says things like “tobacco” “papers” “groceries” – one doesn’t really learn the name of one’s papershop. It’s a papershop.
Except in this case I would have done well to because the first thing I saw was a large sign reading AKI.
They weren’t trying to send me to Pigwiggen at all. My parcel was waiting for me at the bottom of my own street.
And I’d spent pretty much the whole of Friday convincing UPS and the nice man who works in my local paper shop to re-deliver a package that was being stored literally one minute from my home to a location about an hour’s walk away.
They must think I’m insane.
Or worse: some weird delivery autocrat who cares more about making some kind of arbitrary point about courier services being the ones to do the delivering than being even remotely sensible.
I am the Christian Grey of UPS.
I am so … hideously embarrassed I do not think I will ever be able to leave the house again.
In happier news, I’ve tidied my website up a bit so my books are actually, y’know, on it. There’s still lots of stuff to come but if you like extras there’s lots about Glitterland and Prosperity and I’ll be updating the rest over the next week. I’ve also got a newsletter which I’ve already told everyone about a gazillion times but I’m still excited to have one, so … yeah. Newsletter.
Finally For Real came out earlier this month. Feel free to, um, buy it. If you want.
And finally finally (actually finally): Santino Hassell and I have a Facebook Group which–if you are the Facebook-using sort–you are very welcome to join. We play games and talk about stuff we like and I’m honestly having a blast over there.