(Look, I realize that “This Week in Africa” has a decidedly monthly feel to it. But still, just imagine that it’s a weekly thing. Thanks!)
It wasn’t a “box” anymore. Where rigid corners had once been were now smashed and rounded nubs. The flat sides no longer were flat, nor were they even really “sides.” The “box” looked like Ace Ventura had delivered it. It looked like a turf war broke out between gangs of different colored tape, and the “box” was the innocent bystander.
If you told me the guy behind the counter at Posta Uganda’s Kampala office had decided to turn the “box” into an accordion, that would have made sense. Or that the boys in the shipping room got bored and decided to use it as a soccer ball. Or maybe, that the “box,” in a drunken moment of geometrical aspiration, had decided to transform itself into a sphere but then sloppily passed out before it got there.
Whatever was going on with the “box,” it was apparent long before the guy at the post office set it on the counter that something was amiss. But did the condition of the “box” faze him as he plopped it down in front of me? No. When I shot him a Seriously-bro-this-is-my-“box”? look, he stared right back with a Seriously-mzungu-don’t-call-me-bro look.
Am I being too harsh? After all, it had been more than three months since the “box” had been shipped. (Yes, three months. Let’s put that in perspective, shall we. That’s less time than the Mayflower took to cross the Atlantic. When this “box” was shipped, little kids still had tummy aches from Halloween, street sweepers in St. Louis were picking up ticker-tape from the Cardinals World Series parade, and Rick Perry hadn’t yet become the Republican nominee du jour.) So I guess you can understand the wear and tear. There are a few things, however, that don’t make much sense.
For starters, someone had opened the “box” while in transit. Now I know this for a couple reasons, but let’s start with what is patently obvious. You see all that brown tape? (Of course you do.) That wasn’t there when the package left Los Angeles. My girlfriend, who shipped it in early November, told me as much. So either someone didn’t open it but decided to re-tape the “box” anyway, or someone opened it and then took the time to re-wrap it. I guess to cover his tracks? But look at that tape job. It is the covering-your-tracks equivalent of dragging a bloody shovel through the snow to conceal footprints.
The tape, however, isn’t the most obvious piece of evidence suggesting the “box” was opened in transit. You see, some of the contents of the “box” were missing. How do I know? Well, several reasons. First, my girlfriend remembers everything. (If you don’t believe that is possible, you obviously haven’t been in an argument with her.) Also, she included a list of the contents and an explanation for their presence in the “box,” which was amazingly sweet and truly touching, but also something that doesn’t help the person who pilfered the “box.” And if all that isn’t enough, I can count to five. (Yes, there are only two packets of Starbucks Via. And yes, the package clearly indicates that there were more than two when it was purchased.) You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
Someone stole my Starbucks Via Ready Brew!
What doesn’t make sense is that if someone is going to violate federal (international?!) law, why not just purloin the entire “box”? Or why not take something way cooler than coffee? Like, I don’t know, the world’s best candy? (Do yourself a favor and go find some Jelly Belly Sours.) Why wouldn’t the “box” bandit lift some lightweight long sleeve Loyola High baseball shirts? Or a cord to hook up a Macbook to an HD television? Or even a few three-month old issues of Sports Illustrated? Really, the only things in the “box” with less value than the coffee were the blank legal pads.
Maybe the guy just really needed a caffeine fix. Or maybe he thought it would be funny to have some mzungu open the “box” to find only a few packages of powdered coffee missing and then spend 750+ words contemplating the significance. Perhaps he doesn’t like organic cereal (Whole Foods Honey & Nut Morning O’s). He definitely doesn’t have an allergy problem (Zyrtec). Or maybe . . . the fact of the matter is I don’t know.
What I do know is that my birthday is in August, so if anyone is thinking about sending me a care package (I’m looking at you, Mom), there’s no time to waste.