Herb Benham column

Herb Benham

For Christmas, Katie and Hunter gave me two Patagonia pullovers. A blue one and a tan one. The pullovers were miraculously light, miraculously soft and miraculously large.

“Miraculously large” because I had engaged in aspirational sizing. I’d asked for an XL because I connote XL with being extra muscular, extra manly and extra special.

I’m a large. Sometimes, I’m a medium. Two years from now, I’ll probably be wearing ladies' sizes.

“Katie, how do I return these?” I asked in an email, knowing how to do it but hoping she might lighten my returning load.

“Dad, there should be a return label,” wrote Katie, not biting as she was obligated to do. “Just use that.”

“Just use that?” I would “just use that” if I had not, in a fit of extra-large bullishness, crumpled up the return label and thrown it into the box and tossed both into the blue recycling bin filled with leaking red wine bottles.

I emailed the company, which provided a return address along with a list of conditions. Condition No. 1 was I had to pay for shipping unless I wanted to fly to Alabama and return the pullovers in person.

I looked for a box. That’s a business I’d like to be in right now. The box and packing tape business. Newspapers aren’t bad either not because people want to read them but because they don’t add to the shipping weight when scrunched up to fill the empty space in the box.

Sue had a box in her office. I looked over my shoulder and then appropriated the box. I stuffed the pullovers in it and strapped the box with one of the three rolls of packing tape I have on hand.

I walked the box to the car and put it in the back seat. A box in the back seat is a ubiquitous part of the car landscape. Everybody has one, if not two.

Don’t forget that you have it though. Somewhere in the list of conditions you didn’t read is a ticking time bomb specifying a return date that, if you exceed, signifies that you now own those two extra-large pullovers.

A week later I was driving by the UPS store on 24th Street, when a light pinged in the dim recesses of my brain: “Make a right turn. You can return the package now.”

I like the UPS store on 24th. The women are friendly, efficient and have packing tape strong enough to protect the blades on a helicopter. If I ever were to kidnap someone and wanted to stop their going-ons about how much their family will miss them, I would definitely borrow tape from the UPS store.

It used to be that we forged a relationship with our letter carriers and now that must be supplemented with an equally close understanding with the returns person at the UPS store.

After completing the return, I told the woman I was grateful for her service. It was as if she had recently returned from fighting in the Battle of Samarra. I was extra grateful nonetheless.

Contact The Californian's Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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