Friday, August 30, 2013

La mia povera madrelingua abusata

I came downstairs to get the mail this afternoon and I discovered a FedEx door tag taped to my front door telling me I wasn’t home when the delivery man came at 1:48.  I was home, in fact, but unless you push the doorbell just right it doesn’t ring.  And even when it rings, I often don’t hear it upstairs.  My bad.  On the list of things to fix some day soon.

No problem.  The door tag informs me:  Your package will be available for pickup after 6 p.m.  Go to to confirm availability.

So I go to as directed, only to be informed that I need to have an account.  Passwords, account numbers, the works.  When I get to the part about having to type in my credit card, including the three-number code on the back, and am told they have the right to put a hold on the card for nonspecified amounts, I decide I’m playing in the wrong sandbox, and I check the door tag again.  This time I note the 800 phone number.

A young lady answers.  I tell her I’m calling to verify that if I go to the FedEx office in Emeryville at 6 p.m. my package will indeed be there as promised.

“Yes, sir,” she says.  “You can have your package picked up at any local FedEx office near you.”

“Oh, I say, ignoring for the moment her curious choice of words, ‘have your package picked up.’  “Is there one closer to me?”

“Just a minute, sir.  I’ll check….”  She comes back a minute later with, “Yes, sir, there is a FedEx office at 3167 College Avenue.”

I’m so relieved.  That’s only a four-minute drive.  The one in Emeryville would take me all of eleven minutes.”  You never know when those seven minutes I save might come in handy.

“So you can have it at the College Avenue office ready for pick-up at 6:30?

“That’s right, sir.  It will be there and you can have it picked up at 6:30 tomorrow.”

“No, wait a minute.  I think you misunderstood me.  I don’t want to ‘have it picked up’; I want to pick it up myself.  And the door tag says it will be ready by 6 tonight.”

“If you want to have it picked up in Emeryville, it will be ready when the driver comes back at 6 o’clock tonight, that’s right, sir.

“That’s what I wanted in the first place.  That’s why I called.  To see if the package would be there at 6:00 like it says on the door tag.

“That’s right, sir.”

“And let me be clear.  I’m not delivering a package, I’m picking one up.  Myself.  Not having somebody else do it.  I’m picking it up myself.

“Well, what’s the problem, sir?”

“You confused me by repeating that I can have it picked up.”

“Well how am I supposed to say it?”

“You can pick it up at 6 o’clock.”

“That’s what I said.  You can have it picked up at 6:00.”

“Do you really not know the difference between picking something up and having something picked up?  And you work for FedEx?” I snark.

She hangs up on me.

One of those days when I feel irrelevant to the modern age.   Just color me dinosaur.  Child of the pedantic age, when the English language made distinctions not everybody is interested in making anymore.

The woman had no discernible accent.

If she had had one, I would have given her some space.  And asked her if she saw no difference between cleaning your house and having it cleaned.  A distinction I learned some time ago, which changed my disposition from wretched to fairly civilized.

Another day.  Another attack on the language of God, Shakespeare and the Bible.

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