Instead of waiting in the office while Andy had his appointment I ran some errands. The Staples run was uneventful, and they were kind enough to weigh one of the paperweights I'm auctioning currently so I could get back to the Aussie who'd inquired about final shipping weight. I got enough packing supplies to keep Andy and me set for a while.
My next errand was a trip to a place called Pak Mail, which does FedEx ground. Since their ground was cheaper than USPS and half as much as UPS, that was how the winner of the comics wanted them shipped. Before going any further I need to digress a bit. A year ago I would not have wanted to do this. If Andy had not come along, I wouldn't have done this. There is little chance I would have gone somewhere familiar without him, let alone someplace I'd never been. It simply wouldn't have happened.
Today, though, I took the directions from FedEx's Mapquest-like info site and began driving. There were a few parts where I almost second-guessed myself, but I kept going and eventually found the ramp they said would be there. I got onto the major highway I needed to be on, got into construction-land, and promptly missed my turn. A year ago I wouldn't have been doing this but if I had, I would have panicked. This time I simply muttered imprecations at the people for the completely inadequate marking of a major road, turned at the next possible opportunity, and eventually got back onto the highway.
This time I made the turn, but I also discovered my fatal error -- trusting a Mapquest-like service for anything in NC which is smaller than the interstates. I have to give them credit: this time they actually sent me to a road which actually exists. Sadly, there was no package-like place there. The place itself was really freaky -- one of those "planned communities" where all of the buildings look exactly the same (shades of Camazotz), including a half dozen identical office-type buildings, with only half a directory for one of them and no conspicuous signs as to what any of them might be. For all I know the Pak Mail was in there, but if so, it was cleverly hidden.
I noticed the time and decided to cut the fruitless circling short. When I got back to the office Andy was waiting, but not for me. The doctor had asked him to try out some new contact lenses and wear them for twenty minutes to see how they worked. That this had been forty minutes ago was only a mild surprise -- there is a reason I'd planned so many errands for during the appointment. I asked Andy if it'd be ok if I went to a place I remembered as being an authorized FedEx shipper and he OKed it, so long as I hurried.
The place turned out to be a shipper, but only for the faster services. The recommended Mailboxes Etc, which the FedEx site had also listed as not doing ground. I decided to check it out anyway, and the FedEx site was correct. That and MBE would have charged half again the cost of UPS charges, which would have made the shipping cost three times what I could get for FedEx ground. I decided to head back to the doctor's office, where I got through half of one of the books they keep around to entertain children, a "find the objects" coloring book. The doctor had forgetten about his assignment for Andy and gone on to other patients; he'd finally remembered, and he and Andy were finishing up.
I don't know if I've mentioned GNO before, but it's something we do every week, usually Thursdays, with one or two other couples. Last week it was Jannel and Tanner since Ben and Conni couldn't make it; this week it was with Ben and Conni because Tanner couldn't make it. Anyway, we'd expected to be done with the doctor's appointment well before five, and we'd been coordinating via e-mail before we left. Andy had the really good idea of just calling them on his cell phone and figuring out they planned on doing it at their place at about 5:30, so we went there directly. We returned home full of pizza and memories of some really weird anime, even for anime.
I looked up the Pak Mail site on the FedEx page again and discovered that FedEx gave no phone number. That was easy enough to rectify, and one correct domain-name guess later I had the info. Unfortunately the store had closed at six, but tomorrow I plan on calling, getting directions from a living breathing person rather than a Mapquest-like service, and mailing the package. This way I'll know where it is if I decide to continue using FedEx ground as a shipping option, and I'll know how much they charge above and beyond FedEx's rates. Afterward I'll send e-mail to the winner and apologize for getting it out a day late while explaining why it didn't go out today.