Saturday, October 18, 2014

Death, Taxes and FedEx

Most notably, death and taxes are among those things that fall into the category of "it'll always be there come hell or high water." Were your time cycle to match any of these phenomena, you could set your watch by them. And it's not just these big ticket items. On a more prosaic level, there're WalMart sales, the Jets losing and Lindsey Lohan getting into trouble.

But most things are far less sure. In fact, the world in changing at an increasingly rapid pace, so much so that whatever you thought you was here to stay is probably obsolete just about the time you get it down pat. As an example, just about the time you got your home wired with phones in all the right places they went wireless. So you replaced all those old princess models with snappy 900 megahertz models, only to find out they don't ring anymore because nobody calls, they just email. Now email is going the way of the dinosaurs, surpassed by texting. And texting itself is increasingly being pushed aside by things like SnapChat, FireChat and ThisIsEvenNewerChat.    

Still, we look to things that remain rock solid to give us stability and hope. In the category of things we know we can depend on is the overnight service FedEx. While they've updated their slogan over time, the one they started with says it best: "when it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight." Most of us still marvel at the mechanisms involved, and don't know how they actually make it happen again and again. But we have come to take it as an article of faith that if we drop a blue and orange envelope into one of their pickup boxes, as surely as night follows day, it will show up tomorrow at Aunt Helen's in Topeka or Granma Ruth's in Denver.

Seemingly nothing can stop them, with anecdotal stories reinforcing their prowess. One involves the FedEx driver who stopped to retrieve packages from a drop box, and found it couldn't be opened. Rather than go away empty handed, he backed his truck up and took the whole shebang back to the depot to be opened. They even made a movie about the company. Tom Hanks was the focal point of "Cast Away," a 2000 film where he played a FedEx employee marooned on a dessert island after a plane crash. While he uses items that wash ashore after being thrown from the plane when it hit the water, including drawing a face on a volleyball and treating it as a companion, he does find one package intact. He keeps that safe, and following his eventual rescue four years later, returns the it unopened to the intended recipient.  

So I have found it somewhat disconcerting in recent weeks to receive a string of emails from the company's Superhub in Memphis saying that, well, not so fast there, Wilson. Sometimes it just ain't absolutely positively possible to get your handmade oven mitt from here to there by tomorrow AM. In one, headlined "FedEx Service Alert: Volcanic Eruption In Iceland," they use a little thing like a part of the earth exploding as an excuse to not meeting their high standards.

Now, were that the end of it, I would cut them some slack. But several weeks later I got another. It talked about a line of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes that raced through the southeast, and might cause delays in air traffic. Oh well, I guess, you truly can't fool with Mother Nature. Probably another legit reason not to get your "One Hundred Great Quinoa Recipes" cookbook" from Amazon by 10A the next day.

But then this one: "FedEx experienced significant power outages last night at the FedEx Express Memphis Hub that affected our sort operations." That's it? Power outages? Hell, even WE have a generator. C'mon guys. Get some flashlights, some candles, order out from a pizza place that still has juice, and unload the damn truck!

I mean, if FedEx is not as dependable, as assured, as rock solid as I thought, and lets a little thing like a power outage affect its service, what's next? You are tampering with the very things I hold near and dear, the things that anchor my world.  I mean, you might as well tell me Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny aren't real. What's that you say? NOOOOOOOOOO!


Marc Wollin of Bedford stillbelieves in FedEx. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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