The package went air mail. It turns out it sat in Cape Town for about two weeks before grabbing a spot in the bottom of a Virgin Atlantic flight to Washington’s Dulles International Airport. From there, it was ungenerously tossed into the back of a truck bound for Raleigh.
This is where the story becomes less interesting for you but infinitely more frustrating for your dear writer.
After some research, I discovered that the parcel was waiting in a warehouse near the airport. Thanks to a combination of Google Maps and a dose of intuition, I drove about an hour and walked into a sparse office on Innovation Boulevard expecting a quick ID Check, signature request, and handoff.
Instead, I was sent to the United States Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) office at the Raleigh Airport. I must have looked frightened because the man behind the counter said,
“Oh. No worries, man. Everybody has to do it. It’s no fun, but everybody’s gotta do it.”
He was correct. It turns out USCBP really stands for United States Citizens Be Patient. The experience swallowed an entire afternoon.
There was no one around when I arrived at Customs. There was, however, a sign that indicated I should call 919-674-3400. When I called, I was told to wait an hour because everyone was busy. So, I sat there in the lobby with four chairs and a time clock (it loudly clicked every minute). Every five minutes, the lights would go out, which meant I had to flail around to activate the motion sensor.
A couple of officers visited me during my stay.
I’m not sure whether I appreciated the woman with the helmet hair who stared at me for a moment-too-long before saying, “You’ll just have to wait another hour” or the young officer with the peach fuzz mustache who, when I asked for help, said, “It’s my quittin’ time.” So?? Implicit was the sentiment that “I ain’t gonna help ya.”
Neither provided any semblance of assistance.
After the hour had past, I called the number again. A woman who burped “Hello, how can I help you?” answered. When I explained my situation, she hung up on me.
Finally, 2.5 hours later, an officer came out and offered to help me. Five minutes later, I was on my way.
Oh, and what was in the box? Some trinkets and trash from Greenmarket Square.