Bonus: The Tale of the Prodigal Packet

fullsizeoutput_1932This installment of the stamp blog may be a little too esoteric for the general reader —
though I don’t really think so. Imagine a little packet of stamps in an envelope, tempest-tossed, plucked from stormy South China seas, buffeted by the Trade Winds, perhaps — then winging its way straight and true to its destination. Well, not exactly straight and true. For all the details, read on …

The small parcel arrived in the mail today, brought in by wife Chris. “Honey, is this the letter you’ve been waiting for?” she asked, handing it to me. 


Look what floated in on the tide …

The awkwardly sealed, bulging envelope was official mail from the U.S. Postal Service. Inside, viewable through the envelope’s transparent front, was a smaller packet — or at least, what remained of it. The piece was  crumpled, wrinkled, torn, even faded or scraped. A pair of Chinese stamps were visible in the upper left, above what appeared to be a colorfully painted Chinese dragon. A blurry outline on the upper right suggested another stamp, severely abraded. Below was a label with my address.

In short, it looked like the long-lost order from Huasin! (see previous Bonus feature, “A Deal Too Good to Be True,” November 2018)  

On the back of the USPS envelope was a pre-printed note. “Dear Valued Postal Customer,” the undated note began, “I want to extend my sincere apology as your Postmaster for the enclosed document that was inadvertently damaged in handling by your Postal Service.

“We are aware how important your mail is to you. With that in mind, we are forwarding it to you in an expeditious fashion.”

Expeditious? Let’s see. My records show the package was mailed Oct. 8. Today is … Dec. 13.** Somewhere along the line, expeditious-ness became moot …

(** For your reference: Although this may sound contemporary, I actually wrote it  a couple of seasons ago.) 

“The United States Postal Service handles over 202 billion pieces of mail each year,” the note continued.  “While each employee makes a concerted effort to process, without damage, each piece of mail, an occasional mishap does happen.”

The note concluded:  “We appreciate your cooperation and understanding and sincerely regret any inconvenience that you have experienced.”

fullsizeoutput_d92OK. Let’s take a look inside the envelope to see if any of the stamps inside survived this “mishap.”  On opening the USPS cover, I found the envelope inside twisted back on itself, worn and warped as though it had been crushed, or worse fullsizeoutput_d93— waterlogged. The tattered remnants yielded a folded note — the receipt for my order from Du Wei in Shanghai, China — and a stout cardboard packing envelope, securely fastened with tape. A good sign! However, water worries continued. If the stamps had been soaked and ruined, I would be left with nothing from my $30.60 order.fullsizeoutput_d94

I carefully cut the tape and opened the cardboard flaps and there, safely slotted on their stock card, were my stamps. At first glance, they looked all right. As I disassembled the small lot, I noticed with satisfaction that one mint stamp lying face down on the stock card came up in my tongs showing its gum intact. IMG_1733Another good sign!  The bizarre, map-shaped stamps from Sierra Leone were OK, since they were self-adhesives still attached to their paper backing and thus, insulated from the elements. The other stamps, alas, had no gum left, and bore unmistakable signs of water damage in discolorations on their backs. Since they are not worth much to begin with, I think I will just keep them as souvenirs and and consider them “used.” (Which, come to think of it, is fairly accurate, since they were altered while in transit through the postal system!) 

After the gloomy pictures of myself I included in my earlier post about the missing envelope and the Bechuanaland Victoria 5-pound near-fiasco, it’s only right that I now include some images of a more cheerful me — smiling, if not gloating. IT seems things turned out — well, OK in the end. 

All that remains for me to do is to go to the Stamps2Go online site and remove my “complaint” from the blameless Du Wei — and send this note:

“Hello Du Wei — I am happy to report the stamps you sent me arrived today! The package was in bad condition and was delivered with a note of apology from our U.S. Postal Service. Alas, several of the mint stamps lost their gum due to apparent water damage. But they were not costly, and I shall consider them ‘used’ and keep them as a souvenir. The Sierra Leone stamps are in fine shape, as is the 2p Malta Edward VII.

“I have notified Stamps2Go that my complaint has been resolved. As far as I am concerned, you were not responsible for this problem. I would be happy to do business with you again.  Best wishes, Fred Fiske, Minoa, New York   USA”

I am left wondering what adventure this little package endured to reach me. Did it fall out of a plane just out of Shanghai, to be scooped from the South China Sea by a fisherman on his junk and sent on its way? Did it languish on a runway, or in a leaky warehouse during a rainstorm? Was it mangled by a post office “processing” machine and yet, miraculously survive in its crumpled, bruised and sodden state? Have I asked enough questions? Oh wait, here’s one more: If the envelope suffered such saturating water damage, how to explain that one of the stamps came through the deluge with its gum intact? Now there’s a whole other story.

I’ll bet some of you still can’t quite believe stamp-collecting could be this thrilling!