Wednesday, 18 July 2012

An Unexpected Journey: The Case of the Phantom 'Something For You' Card

The dreaded Royal Mail 'Something For You' card.

We've all been there. You've been waiting on the delivery of something you've spent your hard earned cash on. Something awesome, and the sooner you get your dirty little hands on it the better. Sometimes you know the exact day it's meant to arrive, but this only adds to the nervous tension you feel as that day arrives. "Will it come tomorrow? What time will it be here?? What if I'm on the toilet? What if I don't hear the door?" are a just a few thoughts that run through your mind ad nauseum. It's probably better that you don't know. It makes the pain of seeing that little red card lying at the foot of your door a bit easier to take. God knows I've spent entire days waiting on a scheduled delivery, only for it to not arrive at all, and I've cursed every God and postman imaginable. No, it's better not to know. Which leads me to my story. Follow me, if you will, beyond the break...

It is twelve noon on an overcast but warm day in the heart of Belfast's Rathdrum Avenue. I've overslept. I feel groggy and sore from the long but uncomfortable sleep of the night before. I venture downstairs for my morning (or afternoon) business in the WC. Upon finishing I splash some cool (it's always cool here) water on my face to drive the tiredness away, somewhat successfully. In the hallway I meet Gaz. He's brushing his teeth, but we indulge in conversation regardless. We discuss the night before and the plans for the day, just the usual chit-chat, you know the drill. He finishes up and dashes upstairs to finish getting ready to face his day, meanwhile I continue into the kitchen for my secondary business of the morning; Corn Flakes. I polish off two bowls while lazily thinking of something to do with my day, a day off from the usual grind. The door opens, and there stands Gaz. He's ready to go; plans made, teeth sparkling, backpack full of unknown but fascinating trinkets - however before he leaves, he tells me something which will no doubt change the course of my day completely. A little red card.

Dramatic reenactment of Gaz's finding of the card.
He explains to me his discovery of the card two days ago, and how it had been sitting on the dining table ever since. I saw it before, but I had absolutely no reason to inspect it more closely. I have nothing waiting to be delivered. Had nothing waiting to be delivered, if in fact a delivery had already been attempted - of which this card is surely proof. Gary leaves while I ponder this seemingly phantom Royal Mail card. His part in this tale is finished. I have to investigate. So much for my day off.

I race upstairs and turn on my laptop. This will give me answers. Within a few clicks, Amazon, Play and Ebay appear on my screen. I desperately browse to each respective account I hold with these companies; they'll have the records of my previous purchases - I probably just forgot about something I ordered a while ago, that's it. Wrong. Each website returns inconclusive results; not what I need right now. I'm going to the source. Ulster Bank will surely give me a detailed record of all transactions out of my account, it has to be able to point me in the right direction here. Wrong. All payment accounted for and correct. No outstanding orders. I've wasted enough time, only BT1 1AA holds the answer. I'm leaving now.

The time is approaching one o'clock, it's warm and humid. Looks like rain, but I don't have time to search for a jacket (do I even own a jacket?). I've rarely walked faster; it's not quite a run, think more along the lines of those Olympic speed walkers. Belfast is busy today, must be something going on. I can't possibly think of what, not that I want to. My mind is still racing, struggling to comprehend this situation. Did someone send me something? Like an actual person I know? What would somebody send me, and surely they'd tell me they were doing it? My brain hurts, and the newly shining sun does nothing to help as it shines brightly in my still-not-wide-awake eyes. It's warm today. Thank God I didn't bring that jacket. I'm finally shaken out of my worrying state of mind by a familiar and welcome sight.

BT1 1AA. Therein lies salvation.
There it is. I'm just a few hundred yards away from finding the answer to this baffling question, which has seemed to plague me for all of my day. I break into what I can only describe as a gallop. I'm close now, I can smell paperclips and freshly-licked stamps. Close now, yes. I eventually arrive at the enquries office. It's full, at least eleven or twelve souls stand between me and that desk. They look angry and upset. I don't understand why. This close to the end, how could they be anything but elated? I stand patiently and wait my turn. From behind the desk, twenty minutes later, comes the call for "next, please". That's me. I reach into my pocket with one sweaty, slightly trembling hand and pull out the neatly folded red card. I extend my arm to hand it over to the clerk. And I hesitate. I pull my hand back slightly and study the card as my lower lip begins to quiver. Do I really want to know what awaits behind this desk? Perhaps knowing will only disappoint. What if I hold onto this card forever, and just dream of the possibilit- the card is snatched from my grasp. I let out an audible yelp as the clerk scurries away beyond my reach. It's done. All I can do is wait. He returns after what seems like an eon with a medium to large sized package. I snatch it away and leave quickly, before they change their minds.

The package.
I want to tear it open immediately, be damned with everything. But reason takes over, and realise that whatever is inside could be bad; something which should never be seen in a public place. I try to feel what's inside, but alas, no concrete evidence. I stuff the package into my backpack for safe keeping as I make my way back to the comfort and safety of home. The day is cooler now, with some light rain which feels good on my face. I realise that I haven't eaten in nearly two hours, and I'm thirstier than hell. I need provisions if I'm to make it home with any energy left to open this package. I enter the local market and find the only two things I require, protein and water. I leave and rip open the bag containing the beef jerky and take two pieces. I taste the saltiness of the beef on my tongue as I chew to release the much-needed energy within. I wash the jerky down with some water and carry on. Soon I'm back on that road in South Belfast. Rathdrum Street is quiet, much quieter than the city. This is good; less potential witnesses to my opening of the packet. I open the door to the house and run upstairs where I throw my backpack on the bed and quickly close the door behind me. My God, this is actually it.

I take another swig of water after I empty the backpack onto the bed. I've come all this way just to be here, in this moment. The package sits in front of me like a temptress, and I will wait for it no longer.

I gently tear along the end of the envelope, being very careful not to damage anything that may be inside. As I pry the package open I close my eyes and think of my journey; how it began in earnest as I sat eating my Corn Flakes earlier in the morning. I remember Gaz, my dear Gaz, how long has it been since I saw him? I hope whatever he did with his day was enjoyable, but I wish he was here for this. I keep my eyes closed and reach inside...

How could I be so stupid? I pour the contents out of the bag and laugh uncontrollably. Of course. How could I be so stupid? Memories flood back to me in an overwhelming series of pictures which explain everything. A month ago, maybe more, maybe less, Steve (the third and last hero of my tale) had given me quite a few old Nintendo Star Points cards, which are redeemable for Nintendo prizes. I had redeemed thousands of these points and had ordered these strange, wall-mountable foam Nintendo characters. They sent me an e-mail shortly after explaining that delivery would take anything from two to eight weeks. That is why there were no records of anything being taken out of my bank account. I continue to laugh, as tears begin to flow from my eyes. I'm happy, relieved, but also a little bit disappointed. My journey has come to an end here, and all I have to show for it are these foam characters. Then I realise; these foam characters will forever remind me of this day. All the highs and lows, the emotion and suffering that I endured while on my Royal Mail adventure. Yes, these characters will do just fine. Just fine indeed.

Thank you, my friends.


  1. Same thing happened to me with a Professor Layton box thingie.

    When we eventually publish the audiobook Best Of Four Dicks, as read by Michael Ironside, this post is guaranteed a place.

  2. This was absolutely brilliant. Truly thrilling, I was afraid to scroll down too far lest I spoil the surprise, and I genuinely laughed out loud at the reveal. I feel like what I experienced reading this article is something like the tantalising excitement that post-menopausal women feel reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Amazing.

  3. Wonderful stuff Don Viesel.

    Thrilling read.