A misdirected package arrived last week, addressed to someone named Danielle, at this exact street address, but the wrong zip code. I decided to do the right thing and have the box returned to sender, so they could correct the address and get delivery straightened out.

I dutifully went to the nearest post office. Fortunately there was no line whatsoever, as waiting for even a few minutes would have been an annoying waste of time. The clerk at the counter pointed out that FedEx, not the USPS, mis-delivered this box.

Having never had reason to think about it, I thus learned FedEx does not have what you’d call an equivalent to a USPS post office where you can return things. But, there happened to be a FedEx/UPS/DHL authorized shipping centers across the street from the post office. I gave that place a try.

Nothing doing. The worker there politely rebuffed me, saying he couldn’t do anything with it. He only shipped packages, nothing else. He directed me to find a FedEx truck in the area and give the box to the driver.

That proved easy to do. Those trucks are constant around here. I found one parked on Broadway, and informed the driver of this mis-delivered package. I clearly stated that the address was mine but the intended recipient did not live there.

He said nothing, not even a grunt of acknowledgement, and even came across as insulted. He made me feel bad, I tell you, just awful, for demonstrating the temerity to even try getting this package to its intended destination.

Two days later the package re-arrived at my door. I guess the driver didn’t hear me explain how the package had my exact street address but the wrong name and the wrong zip code.

Danielle’s full name is probably pretty common, but a small amount of Internet sleuthing turned up her likely address. If what I found holds up she lives on this street but a good ways south of here, at an address that does not resemble mine, nor does it look like the sort of thing where two numbers got reversed. She is, however, in the same apartment number as here.

The box comes from tarte.com, meaning it probably contains lipstick or something completely unusable to me, not unlike like a giant bottle of lube that got mis-delivered here a few years ago. Maybe I have a future to look forward to of receiving more such items intended for Danielle. Maybe I’ll get to know her a little bit via lipstick logic.

It is not on the level of intrigue as the Chinese seeds Americans have received in the mail, unsolicited. Those appear to represent the so-called brushing scam, where vendors ship items to you and, when delivery is confirmed, post fake reviews of the item that appear to come from the recipient.

I don’t think I’ve ever been “brushed” but one curious eBay transaction comes to mind. I purchased something, received an e-mail confirmation, quickly followed by a message from the sender saying the item was actually out of stock.

In exchange for their “quick response” the seller asked me to leave a positive rating for them. I didn’t do it, but looking at it from their side it seemed like a long way to go to score some bogus positive ratings based on products they probably never even had.

But the messages came through so quickly that it had to have been automated. In that case, if they’re sending out thousands of these a day, I bet they got a good number of positives for their cheesy little trick.


East Harlem Calling

Another failed attempt at a good deed involved robocalls I receive intended for the parents of a student at a school in East Harlem. This only happened two or three times a year, and I didn’t really care, since the message most frequently delivered seemed perfunctory to me.

The calls also go to a number that goes straight to voicemail, so this never created the intrusion of my phone actually ringing.

The most common robocall featured a dreamy-sounding robot informing the parents that their child did not attend classes that day, and to qualify for graduation the student can only be absent so many times. Here’s how it sounded:

But then Covid-19 arrived, and schools turned to tele-learning. More calls, this time not automated robots but from actual school administrators, started coming in. These messages seemed urgent to me, and worthy of making an effort to contact the school and correct their error. I even felt it my responsibility to proactively play some small part in the betterment of things during a time of universal uncertainty.

After a few attempts I connected with the appropriate administrator at the school. She assured me she herself made proper changes to their database. I took her at her word, and the calls stopped.

Until they stopped stopping.

Somehow my number got back into their database and I once again started getting calls for the student’s parents, this time for updates on plans for a virtual graduation ceremony.

If this kid was graduating then certainly I’d stop getting their calls from the school after that occurred. Right?

Nope. A fresh, misdirected call arrived Friday, informing parents it was the last day to fill out an online survey to indicate if they want their child to do 100% of their schooling remotely next year. Maybe the kid failed out and hos to go back.

A picture formed in my mind of an East Harlem family with no Internet access at home, and maybe not even a telephone. Did they just make up a 212 area code number to make the school think they had a phone?

I thought of the NYCHA Digital Vans, which brought “mobile computer labs” to the projects, and how this student and their family might have relied on these, or public library terminals.

If they did, and if they expected to do so through the pandemic, they were out of luck. That Digital Vans were “taken out of circulation” and all public libraries closed to the public. The digital divide remains, and the move to tele-everything makes the consequences of this ever more stark.