If you live in the lunar landscape of Lubbock you give up something for the easy living of the South Plains. One such sacrifice is Jewish delicatessen. That’s why the internet was invented. While nova has made to the local super markets, smoked whitefish, baked salmon, corned beef, and the like are as rare as rain. So when the charms of chicken-fried steak are exhausted the only recourse for a salmon starved palette is the internet. Zabar’s is a delicatessen in New York City. Their website offered just the kind of food I was looking for. Of course, there are other eateries in the Big Apple that carry this type of merchandise, but I chose Zabar’s because I’m partial to reverse alphabetical order. Their Smoked Fish Kit seemed exactly what I was after. It even came with a reusable insulated tote bag that had Zabar’s logo on it. Even though the cost of the kit, including mandatory overnight shipping, was greater than that of a colonoscopy I was so overtaken with pescatory anticipation that I inadvertently ordered a dozen of them requiring me to leave retirement for a part time job. No matter, the appetite has its reasons. I placed my order on a Friday which meant that my items wouldn’t ship until Monday for a Tuesday arrival. Thus, I had the whole weekend to pass as a prisoner of desire. Monday morning brought a UPS tracking number. This allowed me to follow my Smoked Fish Kit’s path from New York to Texas. It first went to Bermuda, then to Fort Lauderdale. Special courier took it to Miami from whence it moved to Little Rock. Galveston was the next stop. Another special courier took it to Houston. It was then flown to Dallas. Abilene was next. Finally the kit arrived in Lubbock at 7 AM on Tuesday. The journey had taken only 22 hours. The food was out for delivery at 7:22. As I live near the airport, UPS deliveries that are out for delivery early in the morning usually arrive at my door by mid morning. Salivating like one of Pavlov’s hounds I waited by the front door for the brown truck that would make me the sole possessor of white fish and baked salmon for 250 miles in any direction.
But nothing arrived. I went to the UPS web site which proclaimed that the package had been left at my front door an hour earlier. I carefully examined the territory abutting my entryway for a distance of 430 yards in all directions, but no fish. This was an unprecedented event. No UPS package had ever been “delivered’ without actually being delivered. Enveloped in a fishless funk I fidgeted for five fraught hours. Finally, the bell that didn’t ring rang. A neighbor, who is a school teacher, noticed a package by her front door upon returning from her pedagogical rounds that seemed foreign. Without inspecting it she knew at once that it must be mine and had found its way to her door through misadventure. As a member of a service profession she walked the quarter of a mile north that separated her house from mine a not inconsiderable journey because of the package’s weight. Luckily for her, the other 11 packages I had mistakenly ordered had not been sent owing to a shortage of tote bags. When I offered to share some of the package’s contents as a recompense for her effort in returning it to me she flinched and then politely declined. This was the response I had hoped for and I quickly closed the door, but I needn’t have worried she was already halfway home.
So I ate the fish. And then it was gone. What do do then? Order more. Surely it couldn’t go astray again. Other packages from other vendors arrived all as scheduled. So I called Zabar’s and told them the above tale. they attributed the bad delivery to part time help hired by UPS over the Christmas holidays; smoked fish is a low priority item around Yule time so I bought the excuse. They also apologized for the shortage of tote bags. I waited until the nearest holiday was Groundhog Day and repeated my order. This time the package was routed through Guadalajara. But the next day its tracking number said it was by my front door at 11:03 AM. It wasn’t there. The fish couldn’t have swum away; there’s no water within 200 miles of Lubbock and the fish were supposed to be dead. The thought of eating dead fish put me off for a bit until I realized that the practice was standard.
I called UPS. They told me my package had been delivered. The person I spoke to was in the Maldives. He said he would have the local office call me within 30 minutes. That was two months ago. Waiting, pondering ingesting dead fish, calling the Maldives, and waiting for a call that never came had passed most of the day. It was a little after 5 PM when my bell rang. It was another neighbor whose occupation I don’t know. He lives a quarter mile north. He had my box of fish. Like the previous one it had the right address on it. The Groundhog guys from UPS had left it at the wrong house.
I now realize that New York delicatessen and Lubbock are incompatible. Nothing from UPS, FedEx, DHL, the USPS, Express Delivery, TNT, Pizza Express, WDS, Motorlite, GLS, Warrior Burritos, BSW, Airport Delivery, Express Post, Sedex, Richmond Delivery, Volpe Express Delivery, Arrowhead Express Delivery, Chronopost International, Buffalo Express Delivery, Mustang Express Delivery, Darts, Interlink Express, Flower Delivery Express, Steak Express, the Girl Scouts, or Pony Express has gone astray since my travails with Zabar’s. When it comes to salmon and whitefish I must either leave home or go it alone. I am, however, truly grateful for the kindness of others. And I have two Zabar’s tote bags