Today I'm going to tell you a little story.
This is the story of how I shipped my sister ice cream for her birthday.
First, a little backstory:
If you've ever been to Portland and had a craving for ice cream, you've probably found yourself at a little place called Salt and Straw. It's a local shop full of amazing and unique flavors, densely packed with butterfat and so delicious that once you eat there, Ben & Jerry's just doesn't cut it anymore. You find yourself choosing between flavors such as Strawberry Balsamic and Cracked Black Pepper. Or Coffee and Bourbon. Or Arbequina Olive Oil, which (yes) tastes like olive oil... strange and strangely delicious. Or my personal favorite, Pear and Blue Cheese.
Then, each month they come out with new, limited-edition flavors such as Lumberjack Stack, full of blueberry pancakes and maple syrup. Or Cheesy Apple Pie during Thanksgiving. Or Spicy Monkey Banana Walnut, which tastes like a spicy banana bread.
Whenever I have guests in town, Salt and Straw is inevitably one of the places we frequent. When my mom and sister were in town in April, we went no less than four times in a week. It may have been five. Either way, it was worth it. And when they left, I had the spark of an idea of how to send a little bit of Portland back to North Carolina...
And so, once upon a time, last Wednesday, I had the brilliant idea to surprise my sister with Salt and Straw ice cream for her birthday. I discovered that Salt and Straw 2-day ships ice cream anywhere in the country, so I picked out five heavenly flavors for her to enjoy and submitted the order, grinning with glee.
Two days later, it's Friday and my tracking information shows everything moving along without a hitch. The ice cream is set to be delivered by the end of the day, and Courtney had all Friday off work. Perfect. I made sure she would be home to receive it, but I didn't tell her the real reason why this was important. ("Someone might steal it!" *cough* Oh... and it will melt. *cough*)
Meanwhile, I get off work and head home. It's 5:00pm on my coast and 8:00pm on hers. Apparently the package still hasn't arrived, so I check on the tracking information again. And this is what I see:
Tracking showed that this had been updated at 7:44pm EST, when they tried to deliver it and the apartment number on the address was either "missing or incorrect."
Naturally, I freaked a little. I called Courtney, who confirmed the address I had used was correct, and then I called UPS. I had to navigate through a series of automated prompts, including reading off a string of 18 digits in my tracking number three times before the system stopped telling me, "I'M SORRY I DIDN'T UNDERSTAND YOU."
Finally the telephone-bot seemed to be as disgruntled with me and I was with it, because it finally offered, "say agent to get live help."
To my surprise, I was quickly speaking with a live human who was incredibly polite and helpful. As I spend most of my day on the phones with callers and companies, I know how incredibly life changing it is to speak to a friendly, helpful person on the phone. (And I quickly kicked into my own happy-friendly caller mode, too. I know I hate it when I get angry callers on the phone, so I've learned to be incredibly patient in frustrating situations.)
"I need to update the shipping address on a package," I said.
In seconds he had my order pulled up and verified the correct apartment information with me. Apparently when it was originally shipped, the apartment number had been mistakenly omitted, despite that my receipt showed the correct address.
"Let me speak with the dispatcher and get this information updated for you," he said.
I bit my knuckles, pacing the room. A few minutes on hold, and he was back.
"Okay, the address has been updated. The package will be redelivered first thing Monday, estimated delivery time 10am."
"Oh," I said, trying very carefully to stay cheerful and not freak out. "Thank you so much! Except... it's ice cream."
"It's ice cream?"
"The package is ice cream?"
"Yes. I'm really sorry. I don't want it to melt. Is there any way she can pick it up today?"
He sounded distressed. "I'm not sure... it's after 8pm and our service centers are closed for the weekend."
Of all the luck. I was still pacing wildly around the room. Things were looking very grim. I was making contingency plans in my head, but the whole time I was fearing that all my work would end up a soggy puddle in the back of a UPS warehouse.
"Let me see what I can do," the helpful gentleman told me, and put me back on hold.
I had very slim hopes, since I doubted anyone was still open. I felt horrible for being THAT customer who calls at 8pm on a Friday night trying to get help from some poor UPS worker who just wants to go home. I was wearing holes in the carpet, the hold music whining in my ear.
A minute later, he was back.
"Good news! They're going to keep your package at one of the customer care centers. The driver is going to stay open until 9:00pm just for her. Can she make it before then?"
I checked my clock. 8:35pm in North Carolina.
"Wonderful!" I freaked. "I'll send her right now! Thank you!"
He gave me the address and I hung up, immediately dialing Courtney.
"Oh, heeeey," she said, "I'm just going to dinner."
"NO!" I cried, "you have to go to the UPS store and pick up your package!"
"Yes, now! I can't tell you why, you just have to go now. It's important. They're staying open just for you."
"But it's across town..."
"No, he said it was 8 miles away from you. Google Maps says it will take 15 minutes to get there and you have to make it by 9:00!"
"But we have dinner reservations..."
"I'm sorry," I said, "I promise it's worth it!"
"Ok, fine. Brian's with me. We'll go right now."
"And you have to bring ID with your name and address," I remembered.
"But my ID doesn't have my current address... I just moved here."
I groaned. "Do you have mail, or something with your address on it?"
"Yeah... maybe. But I'll have to go home and get it."
"HURRY YOU HAVE TWENTY MINUTES."
I sent her the address, and while she worked on getting to the UPS warehouse in time, I paced the room, checking the clock every few seconds and staring at my phone.
Meanwhile, Courtney and Brian are in the car, driving through the dark to a lonely road in the middle of nowhere.
"I wonder why I have to pick it up today?" Courtney wondered.
"Maybe it's alive," her friend Brian suggested. "Maybe it's a fish."
"Maybe it's a puppy!"
They ended up at an abandoned warehouse covered in UPS trucks and no sign of an entrance. Two men are standing outside, and they nervously approached.
"Where's the door?"
"It's closed," they told her.
"But I need to get a package."
"Sorry, it's closed."
"They're telling me it's closed," she texted me.
"No! They said they're staying open for you!" I frantically texted back.
"Where's the door?" Courtney asked the men again.
"It's closed," they repeated, "but it's around the side, feel free to check."
They drove around to the other side, and as Courtney got out, she saw a man walking toward the packing lot.
"You here for your package?" he asked her.
"Yes!" she said.
A moment later he re-emerged with the box in question. The one currently causing me so much stress on the opposite coast.
"This must be some really good ice cream!" he said.
"It's ice cream?!" Courtney said.
"Oh... oops. Was it supposed to be a surprise?"
"It's my birthday present!" she said, and then saw the label. "Salt and Straw!!!"
A moment later, Courtney phoned me with the whole story, much to my relived delight.
"You got me ice cream!!" she cried. "And I thought for sure it was a puppy!"
And that is the story of how I almost got my sister a puddle of sugar for her birthday.
The end. :)
P.S. - the flavors are: Almond Brittle with Salted Ganache, Cinnamon Snickerdoodle, Arbequina Olive Oil, Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Cracked Black Pepper, and Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon.