There was a time the mailman was who brought us packages. Quaint as anything. Not only that, but you could count on him showing up about the same time every day. I know this because as a new letter carrier I would occasionally substitute on a route and be informed I was “ten minutes late.” Isn’t that dear?
It’s a weird thing, this new gig economy. The opportunity to work without a pension or benefits or decent wages has been recast as a chance to work for yourself! and be independent! and set your own hours! which is a very fine deal for the companies that used to pay people to do things. Now, if we want to, we can ride that spiraling economy right out of the middle class and into a choice tent spot on the median strip. And for those of us who were fortunate enough to retire from one of those antique union jobs, it means we can hear packages thwacking onto our porches all day long and into the night, except for the ones that end up on someone else’s porch because nobody’s in charge of knowing who lives where anymore.
Recently, over the course of twelve hours, we received four such items, originating from the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company, sprayed out into a community of desperate but Independent citizens, and hurled onto our porch from moving vehicles. Two were gifts. One was a Device from our new TV service, ATT. And one was a festive stool sample kit from Kaiser.
I’m familiar with the stool sample kit. I get one every other year. My tradition is to move it close to the toilet and remember it just after I’ve already taken a dump. That gave me a couple weeks; I decided to have a look at the TV Device. It came with a Safety & Care brochure. Herewith safety instructions one through four, which I am not making up:
1. Read these instructions.
2. Keep these instructions.
3. Heed all warnings.
4. Follow all instructions.
So far, I thought, I had things well in hand. Things deteriorated rapidly after that. There was an explanation of a symbol (“Danger of explosion”) and another symbol (“For God’s sake whatever you do, do not block the vent sluices”). Followed by the instruction to line up the flux capacitor with Arcturus during the full moon between 11pm and midnight using the splice modulators in the little plastic bag at the bottom of the cardboard box I already flattened and put in Recycling.
Plus a warning to Never move the device, and also to See important safety information on the bottom of the device.
And another little bit about voiding the warranty.
Which made me think about the Stool Sample Kit. I decided to buck tradition and get right down to it. This package also contained an instruction sheet, but I knew the drill and almost didn’t give it a glance. But I did, and noticed that there was something new. Instead of laying the tissue paper on the water in the bowl, I was to stretch it across the top of the bowl and pin it down with the seat, which brought the whole transaction a little closer to my person than I felt I could trust, because I can void a warranty with the best of them. Fortunately, my concerns were moot, because I torpedoed that tissue paper in one shot, resulting in my bowel movement, which I was to “allow to fall onto the paper”–let’s hear it for gravity!–floating majestically in the water.
Ten percent of that icberg remained aboveboard, however, so, aware that I’d run through my one sheet of tissue, I got out the Sample Probe and proceeded to twiddle it, but that caused my Sample to roll like a frolicking sea lion and water got in everything, and there was nothing to do but jam the probe back in the collection container and hope for the best. I wrapped it in the provided hankie and sealed it up in the return envelope (let’s hear it for the mailman again!) and visualized the eye-rolling in the poop lab. I figure everything will either be okay or I’ll get another kit in the mail along with a referral to a dietician. And I sent it along.
After which I noticed the first instruction, which was to write the collection date on the container.
In my defense, there was nothing in the instructions about reading the instructions.