I’ve been tracking packages pretty closely for the past couple years. Ever since I started making my own books, packing and sending have become a regular part of my life. In all that time, I have never seen the tracking activity note MISSENT before. To be completely transparent, this designation appeared in the tracking notes of the company I use to generate labels and pay postage rates, rather than the official USPS site. There, the package has arrived in Manchester, CT as if that’s where it’s supposed to be.

It’s well-documented that the USPS is having a hard time. Between the plague and our berserker ex-president actively trying to kill it, it’s been a rough few years. But this era coincides with my most frequent use of the service. Informed Delivery and USPS Tracking have become my favorite live online role-playing games. I ride vicariously along with my books and paintings as they disappear for weeks at a go into unscannable Bermuda Triangles, appear in western states en route eastbound, and await delivery scans having already been delivered. These are perilous and unpredictable rambles.

I don’t blame individual postal workers——except for that one at the Pilsen post office who told me I had to go to another post office because they were out of international slips; if I can’t mail a package here how are you even a post office?!?——but wish their automated tracking system adopted a more forthcoming, honest nomenclature. For instance, I know for a fact that AWAITING DELIVERY SCAN marked red as if it’s an emergency, actually means the package wasn’t ever on the postal truck that day. Due to staff shortages, USPS will pretend your package is OUT FOR DELIVERY even when it isn’t. Why not mark it WE DON’T KNOW or PLEASE BEAR WITH US DURING THIS DIFFICULT TIME or HOLD TIGHT, WE’RE DOING OUR BEST?

I wonder what brave coder at Pitney Bowes came up with MISSENT? Were they as mystified with USPS Tracking lingo as me and wanting to cut through the bullshit and just tell it how it is? It’s so rare to get a monolith to give a straight answer. MISSENT tells me simply that, sorry, we fucked up and sent your package to the wrong place. I appreciate the candor. These are people, not machines.

Because I’m weird and compulsive, I’m sure I’m making more of this than most of you would. It takes very little for me to get fixated and turn the tunnel-vision on. It’s one of the many reasons I can’t do social media anymore. I’ve got shit to do and scrolling through endless idiotic timelines is a distraction I can no longer afford. Perhaps the attention I pay to the path of these packages scratches the same itch Twitter used to, but at least here there’s a tangible result tied to an actual object I have something to do with, rather some fantasy feud or joke or gossip; all empty calories. Neither is exactly healthy behavior, but I’m doing my best to channel my obsessiveness to at least marginally productive ends.

Maybe USPS could hire me to come up with some truth-in-advertising status updates to ease my mind, as well as the minds of others like me: CHILLIT’LL GET THERE WHEN IT GETS THERE and, most importantly, GIVE US A FUCKING RAISE.

[I wrote about Christian TeBordo’s new book.]

[It was cool to see Azita play at the Hideout’s first indoor show since before the plague.]