(Just so you know, I’m the hero this time…)
So, it’s Christmastime in the city. It’s also really dark in the mornings, until about almost 8:45, and tomorrow, we get to have our first big winter storm, with high winds and wind chills down past -30. It’s Christmastime in the city.
So, with Cheri getting her CoVid shot on Saturday (she’s doing well, thanks…), that meant we needed to pretty much shelter in place on Friday and Saturday so she wouldn’t be inadvertently exposed to anyone, which would scuttle her chance to get a shot, and push it back to the middle of January. So, our plans to make a quick trip to Grafton to deliver Christmas presents and peanut brittle to the family up there ended up not happening. They have also had a pretty strong outbreak of the virus in the entire northern region, so even to head up this week was ill-advised.
I finally decided late Sunday that I would just mail the packages via UPS on Monday, and if they didn’t arrive in time, it was ok – peanut brittle tastes just as good the week after Christmas. So we wrapped and packed and went through the same stuff I went through two weeks earlier when I had to mail all the packages down south. One issue about peanut brittle is that as tasty and thin and wonderful as it is, with just a few unprotected knocks or tossing of the package into a bin with other packages, because the package frankly doesn’t belong to the person tossing it, and so they really don’t care if it gets destroyed along the way, the peanut brittle, I have found, can turn quickly into peanut brittle dust, good for only putting on top of ice cream. That is an incredible taste by the way, but it defeats my purpose of trying to send large pieces for people to delight in.
For more than a decade, I have worked to find out how to keep nice thin candy from being obliterated. My best results have come from packing the brittle in a number of small packages, well cushioned both inside and out, and then putting it all in a big enough box that you can fill with almost a year’s worth of plastic grocery bags, by far the best and most economical source for packaging. It also lets you get rid of almost a year’s worth of plastic grocery bags, so it’s a win-win. Anyway, the packing went along swimmingly, and all sealed up, the final shake produced almost no brittle noise whatsoever. But that’s not the part where I am the hero. Stay tuned.
Monday morning brought a flurry of tasks for someone who is retired, and should probably just sit back at the dining room table and look at the backyard with a cup of coffee in hand. If you can believe it, I had THREE things on my list! Oh, how will I ever get through? I took Cheri to work, across very icy roads, and then went around to the other side of the clinic to have blood drawn for my blood tests. Always one of my favorite activities, in part because since they don’t really know who I am, instead of calling, “Mr. Cross,” they call “Randolph?” Now, yes, that’s my legal name, that my mother loved in part because it reminded her of Randolph Scott, the cowboy star, even though my middle name isn’t “Scott” – it’s Martin. It used to be that the only time I was called Randolph was when Mom was mad at me, but with her passing, it now only happens when I go to the drive through in the bank, and when I go to the clinic.
So, tie off my arm with a piece of bicycle innertube, pump up my veins, stab me, push the needle in further when you shove the little plastic vial on to the needle, fill it up, pull it out, band aid, and I’m on my way. That meant two task down already!
I then drove across the wide avenue, avoiding the cars that were late for work, and popped into the UPS store, conveniently located. I grabbed my package, opened the door without touching the handle, and sure enough, two people were in line ahead of me at 8:05am. Getting closer to the hero thing…
The first customers could have fooled anyone to think this was the first time they mailed anything. Instead of bringing packages, they brought bags of what appeared to be all sorts of Christmas cookies. After some negotiation, the exasperated UPS agent got them to understand there would be a charge for UPS to both pack and ship the goodies. Apparently that was fine, and after deciding which bags were going to each of three destinations, they were weighed and calculated, and the cost at a bit over $100 was reported. The couple then decide to figure out how much cash they had instead of using a debit or credit card. The husband started pulling $20 bills out of his wallet, and handing them to the wife, since apparently she was the one who was to pay for the bill. Only, he didn’t give her $100 – he gave her $20 at a time, waiting to see what she would produce out of her purse. She found a $20, and he matched it, and so on it went for a good five minutes. I can’t imagine what their financial accounting was like. Finally, she handed a wad of money over to the agent, who counted it out, and then told them they had given her $20 too much. As she stretched out her hand to give the bill back to the wife, the husband threw out a very impressive ninja snatch and returned the bill to his wallet. Silence for a moment, and then they completed their transaction, and shuffled out of the store.
This left me one customer away from doing what I came to do. A large, tall fellow had a small box, and handed it over to the agent. She said, “It is scheduled for delivery on Wednesday, but it may be next Monday or Tuesday.” He stood utterly amazed that, simply because he decided to mail a package across the country three days before Christmas Eve, that it might not arrive in time. He recounted that to her, that he had gone online and on line told him that it would be there on Wednesday, and would only cost a fraction of what she said it would cost. Try it again. She said it indeed showed that normally the delivery would be on Wednesday, but with the enormous amount of things being shipped this year, it may not make it until after Christmas. Silence. She again said it would hopefully be there by Wednesday, but there was nothing she could do.
Now, I don’t know if he was suspicious that she was holding out on a Wednesday delivery slot in Utah or something, but he tried again. But the online said Wednesday. Yes, that is the scheduled time, but we can’t guarantee it. But it could be there on Wednesday. Yes, but more likely it will be delivered next Monday. Silence. She then offered that the only way it would be guaranteed by Christmas eve would be next day air. (Now, if you have ever sent something overnight or next day, you know that it requires you to cash in a number of bonds or stocks to pay for it…) He then asked, “How much is that?” She punched in a couple of buttons, and said, “That would be $227.60.” For a little box. Standing 6 feet away, even I laughed at that idea. Unless it was a human heart, that’s a lot of money!
He finally said, “Well, let’s go with UPS ground. It’ll probably be there on Wednesday.” It was good that the agent at this point was wearing a mask. “it could be there then, but most likely next Monday.” She didn’t add, “Idiot” to the statement, which was a grand gesture of her discretion. He finished and walked out, probably displeased that UPS had not decided to carry the box on a plane to its destination.
Finally, I was next. Here’s the hero part. I walked up and said, “Well that was fun.” Her eyes initially told me that I was completely wrong, even as a joke. She checked my package, and asked how I wanted to send it. I told her no hurry, that UPS ground was fine, and I knew how busy they all were, and it would be just fine if it got there next week. She then looked at me, and I think I saw a smile under her mask, and she said, “Well, it looks like it will be there by Wednesday…” She said it was only going 120 miles away, so they might even deliver it on Tuesday… I just laughed, and paid for the package, and signed my name, and then I said – here it comes – “You know, I want to thank you for your work. Even right away this morning, I can see that this is kind of a rough time of the year for you.” She looked at me with twinkling eyes, and replied, “Yes it is, Dear.” I told her to just hang in there, and come Friday, it’ll all be over. Once again, as I started to leave, she said, “Thank you, Dear – thanks for a good way to start my morning.”
Now, besides the fact that it was a little uncomfortable to twice be called “Dear” by a young woman who could probably be a daughter, I could tell two things: one, she was happy, and her day was changed because I bothered to say something, and two, I was happy, and my own day was changed because I bothered to say something.
So – say something today. Intentionally take two more seconds, and recognize the work and effort someone is doing to take care of you, or the pain and irritation they have endured while trying to care for someone else. It costs nothing, but it is such a valuable thing. We all enjoy and need a hopeful thankful word. When it is done intentionally, it changes the day, and changes the world, actually. See how many times you can take that action before today is over. Who knows? You may become a hero like I am…
Word for the Day: habile. Pronounced HA-bull, it might be a word you have heard before, or at least you know it’s younger sister. It of course is a Latin word, coming from the Latin habeo, which means “I handle.” The second person active subjunctive of this word is “habeas” from which we have “habeas corpus,” or the fundamental legal right in this nation to come before the court if one is arrested to see whether that arrest is legitimate. The words mean “Handle the body,” or “produce the body,” so that one can’t be simply thrown in jail with no hearing.
Habile, however, is a little different. The word actually means, “to be skillful, or deft.” If you say the word out loud, you will almost hear its sister, which has become far more used. If I am “habile” to do something, I also most likely will be “able” to do that same thing. Today, if you use “habile,” folks will probably think you are just mispronouncing the more common word.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.