Saturday, January 17, 2015

Say It Till It Hurts

I believe in the power of persistence.  Especially if you know something is wrong.  Case in point...
The other day, towards the end of the day, I noticed a group of the employees in invoicing section of my department clustered around one of their cubicles.  As is my wont, when I see employees standing around, especially if its a group larger than two, I’ll go up and make my presence know.  
“What’s up?”
They jumped apart.  Their eyes danced around from one person to the next like the basketball in the hands of the Harlem Globetrotters.  From the way they were acting, I knew something was wrong.  
After a bit of follow-up, I found out that the delivery service that picks up our daily shipments grabbed a “MacGuffin” that they weren’t supposed to along with the packages that were supposed to go out.  I’m using the term MacGuffin in a “names have been changed to protect the innocent sort of way.”  They had already contacted the service.  They were talking about what else they could do.  
I sighed.  I recognized right away that this was one of those things that I would have to follow up on.  A "Manager-Thing."  Something that would require someone to spend a lot of time on the phone, throwing around whatever weight we had as a customer to get the MacGuffin back.  I took the piece of paper they’d used to write down the information already obtained from the delivery service, phone number, a “claim number” assigned to the incident and an address where the driver was heading.  In a similar “names have been changed” sort of way, this time to protect the guilty, I’ll say the address was 1500 Delivery Center Street.  
That’s One-Five-Zero-Zero Delivery Center street.  Very important to note that.  
I took the piece of paper into my office to find out how much weight I had to throw around.  
In turns out, in weight throwing terms, I had as much as your average feather. 
“Yeah...  The driver is pulling in now.”  This was someone at the transfer center whose address I had.  He had called me after the service’s Call Center told me they couldn’t give out his number.  “We’ve confirmed your MacGuffin is on board.”  
"Terrific.  Good to hear.  Thanks."  I took a breath.  "I need to get it back as soon as possible."  
"We can have him bring it back tomorrow morning."  
"No...  We need it back tonight.  It can't be out of the office longer than that.  Can you have someone bring it back to us?"  
The “No” was so flat that a sheet of paper would have looked mountainous beside it.  It slapped down any further attempts at weight-throwing.
"Oh-kay...  Can I come there and pick it up."  
"Sure.  We're here till nine."  
I glanced at the clock on my computer.  It was just after 7 PM.
“Ok.  And your at the address we’ve been given.  One-Five-Zero-Zero Delivery Center Street?”  
"Ok.  Thanks." 
As I was leaving, one my staff asked if I had GPS.  I replied that I had, on my iPhone and left.  I thought that I’d be back in no time. 
Until I discovered the address didn't exist.  
“You have arrived!”  Siri sounded jubilant at her announcement.  I looked around and wondered why.  
There was nothing like a large transfer center with lots of delivery trucks pulling in and out.  I saw a train station.  A shopping center.  A McDonald’s.  That was it.  
Something was definitely wrong.
I pulled into the McDonald’s parking lot and checked the map.  The location Siri had directed me to was “Delivery Center Street.”  There was no “1500” before it.  I entered it again and got the same result.  The address had to be wrong.
"That's the address we have."  
I let out an exasperated breath into my phone so the guy at the Call Center could hear my impatience. 
"Well, something is wrong, because there's no delivery center around here.”    
"I can see it here, right on the map on my screen." 
"Which doesn't help me much," I thought.  "Can you give me directions to the transfer center?"  
He tried.  I stopped him when it sounded like he was giving me directions to where I was parked.  I gave him my number and asked him to have someone at the delivery center call me to give me directions and hung up.  
It was now 8 PM.  Not wanting to sit there and wait, I started driving up and down Delivery Center Street, trying to spot the center.  I spotted skateboarders using the empty parking lots of the industrial looking buildings.  I spotted what looked like a refurbished warehouse with big windows with about three dozen people inside, hands raised, dancing and chanting in what sounded like Persian.  Maybe they were thanking God taking away any need to find the service’s delivery center. 
I didn’t find much more than that.  Delivery Center Street was a short one.  Dead-ends about a quarter mile apart.  A dark, empty street that would be real scary if one’s car broke down there.  I kept checking my panel to make sure I had enough gas. 
After way too long driving around with no call back, I pulled into another parking lot, this one for a bank.
“Listen!  I need to get a hold of someone NOW!”  It was getting hot and stuffy in my car.  I kept my windows rolled up.  I didn’t want anyone sneaking up and pulling me out of my car without warning.  "If I don't get that MacGuffin back tonight there WILL BE LAWSUITS!  You understand?"  
Yeah.  I was using the “I’ll sue you” gambit.  First time in twenty years of working in the legal industry.
"Yes, sir.  I'm sorry."  The girl at the call center I reached this time at least sounded somewhat sorry.  "If you'll hold again for a moment, please.  My supervisor is trying to reach someone at the center now."  
“Ok.  Fine.  But, first...!”  I spoke quickly before she put me on hold.  “You’re sure the address is correct?  One-Five-Zero-Zero Delivery Center Street?”  
"Yes, sir.  That's what I have.  Hold a moment."  She put me on hold.  
I tapped the steering wheel.  I turned off the car engine, which had been idling up till now.  I tapped some more.  I heard loud music.  Someone, bright-blonde hair pulled into a sort of tree at the top of their head, skin tight pants and a heavy leather jacket walked by.  Male or female, I couldn't tell.  The music seemed to be emanating from their entire body.  
I restarted my car, just in case I had to make a fast get-away.
I started imagining spending the rest of my life trying to find this place.  Driving around and around, turning down every corner, looking for service’s delivery trucks to follow one back to where it came from.  I imagined myself becoming something of an urban legend.
"Whatever happened to Erick?" 
"I saw him on the news!  He's still driving around, looking for the place.  He's got this long scraggly beard.  Lives in his car.  Still hasn't found it, though."  
"Hello, sir...?"
“Yes?”  I straightened up.  I put the car in gear.  I was ready to pull out. 
"My manager is still trying to get a hold of someone there.  If we can just put you on hold for a while longer."  
I think I might have growled.  A strangled, non-verbal sound of anger and despair mixed together.  
"Oh...  Kay..."  It hurt to agree to that.  A pointy pain thrust into my throat.  "But...  One more time...  Are you SURE that the address I have on Delivery Center Street is correct?"  
"Yes, sir.  One-Five-Zero-Zero-Zero Delivery--" 
“What?”  My body clenched.  I pointed at the phone in a gesture she couldn’t see.  “What was the number again?”
“One-Five-Zero-Zero-Zero.”  From her voice I could tell she couldn’t tell what she’d just done.  
I looked at my paper, with it's two zeros.  The same number I'd repeated at least a dozen times that night.  
"That's three zeros.  One-Five-Zero-Zero...  Zero?"  
"Yes, sir.  One-Five-Zero-Zero-Zero.  Now, if you could hold a moment longer."  
"Yeah, that's fine, that's fine.  Actually, you have my number, right?"  I talked over her helpful sounding noise.  "Just...  Call me back when you get through, OK?" 
"Certainly, sir.  As soon as--"
I hung up.  I tapped in the address.  A blue line appeared.  It lead to a point on the other side of the freeway where another fragment of Delivery Center Street existed.  I put the phone on the dash and pulled out into the street. 
Halfway there I spotted a pair of the service’s trucks turning ahead of me.  I followed them.  That got me to the employee entrance, which looks something like an airport security station from some third world country.  A driver, leaving for the day, told me I had to go up the street and around the corner.  
"The customer entrance is around the corner.  On Delivery Center.  Fifteen thousand."  
I got there just before they closed.  A manager came out after I gave them my claim number.  
"You're the guy here for the MacGuffin?"  
"Yeah.  That's me."  
"You have a business card or something to show that you're from the pick-up location?"
NOOOOOOOOO!!!  I clenched my teeth.  I would leap over the counter through the door behind her if necessary.  
"No.  I do not."  
"Oh.  What's your name?"  
"Good enough."  
She got me the MacGuffin.  I got it back to the company and locked it into my office for the night.  I skipped the gym and went straight home to bed.
The next day I talked about what happened to my staff, made plans to prevent it from happening again.  The employee that had started the follow-up rolled his eyes when I told him about the missing zero.  
"I wrote down what they told me.  I EVEN repeated it back to them.  'Fifteen hundred, right?'  That's what I said to them."  
I'm sure it was.  I had no doubt.  We just hadn’t repeated it often enough.


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