The Best Things Come in Small Packages

I have an unfortunate bedtime habit.

It takes me what feels like twelve thousand years to get to sleep, and I would rather have my skin peeled from me in strips than lie in the dark with my thoughts, so instead I have a habit of propping my phone on its side and scrolling mindlessly through r/politics or the Aliexpress app on my phone until I fall asleep, one fingertip still pressed to the screen.

(You might be able to guess where I’m going with this…)

On more than one occasion I have woken up having purchased some truly ridiculous items are not in any way necessary to my life: a stamped metal 3D puzzle of C3PO; ten identical tongue bars; a clockwork mouse; a set of enamel dinosaur pins; 30 whale-shaped bookmarks…

…And when I say ‘on more than one occasion,’ what I really mean is ‘regularly enough that I know to check my orders first thing in the morning in case I need to cancel anything.’

If you’ve ever used Aliexpress then you know that this is not the end of the world. Most items cost under $3, and truthfully the worst that can happen is that they unexpectedly arrive two months later, like badly-packaged surprise presents to myself. They arrive wrapped in what look like black bin bags that have been hurriedly repurposed, with curiously vague, Google-translated descriptions on the custom notes such as “needle beauty” (tweezers), “claws” (hair clips), and “stationery cat” (cat stickers).

The postman who delivers these questionable acquisitions to my door is an energetic man who bounds in and out of each building with superfluous energy, cheerfully swinging his crossbody satchel like a young, fit, baby-faced Santa Claus. Instead of ringing my doorbell, he often just hollers, “HELLOOOOO!” and waits for me to appear before whipping out some small lumpy package and handing it to me. It’s a loud and interesting interaction that often breaks up my day.

So, here I must rewind and explain that about two months ago I ordered a space hopper. That part is a long story so to shorten it I will just say two things:

  • This was only a half-asleep purchase; I did in fact sort of kind of maybe mean to buy a space hopper. I probably wouldn’t have bought it while wide awake but the fact remains that I made no move to cancel this order.
  • It was not for actual space hopping, it was for a craft project*.

By the time it arrived I had forgotten I had ever ordered it.

Last week, the postman bellowed his usual greeting and I popped my head out the door only to see him pull an irregularly shaped, flat, floppy package from his satchel. He handed it to me and, in an attempt to remember what it might possibly be, I flipped it over and read the description aloud:

“Toy balls.”

Except that even as I started reading it, my eyes had already jumped ahead to the next word. I could tell it was going to sound wrong. I suddenly remembered the space hopper, but I had already started reading and didn’t feel like I could really stop mid-word. My reluctance to finish the phrase slowed my speech down considerably, and so it wound up sounding more like:

“Toyyy….. baaaaaaallllllls……”

Followed by an awkward silence that stretched between us the way the Sahara desert stretches between the Red Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

I looked up and locked eyes with the postman over this limp black bin bag. He slowly nodded in amused sympathy.

“We were wondering down at the post office what that could possibly be, alright!” He said, eventually, when the awkward moment had stretched for so long that time had lost all meaning and we had simply become two blushing inanimate objects in an uncomfortable still life.

My mind flashed through a series of possibilities as to how this might play out. Should I open the package so he could see it wasn’t anything questionable? I could, but then I would have to unfold and reveal a lurid pink space hopper. And then I would have to explain the space hopper, which honestly almost makes me sound more insane than if I’d ordered something vague but kinky all the way from China. Or worse, he might think the space hopper itself was for vague but kinky purposes…

At this point we had been staring at each other for so long I was starting to feel like we had unwittingly entered into a relationship, so I just squeaked, “Thanks!” and dashed back inside with my “toy balls”.

I am now avoiding the postman, and I am also avoiding Aliexpress at night because clearly I cannot be trusted with late-night purchases or people.

Such is life.

Happy Friday, guys.

*The space hopper was too small for my craft project, and so was gifted to a small child who can actually use it for hopping.

 

Questionable Decisions

The delivery man called me a few minutes after ten o’clock.

“I’m on my way to ye now!” He said, his voice bubbling with confidence. “How do I find ye?”

I spun slowly on one foot, chewing my lip as I considered my geographical ignorance.

“It’s just…. through the village?” I said, my voice lilting upward at the end because I sincerely hadn’t a clue.

Frantically I attempted to chart the course in my mind, but it was just a hodgepodge of picture-book images in there; the post office, the church, the water pump. Was the church before or after the post office? Where was the water pump in relation to either of those? I stared blindly out the window at the rain as the delivery driver rattled down the country roads towards me.

“Alright,” he yelled over the sound of the rain. “I’ll stay on the phone. Now, I’m just at a turn that has me facin’ the post office-”

“Oh!” I shouted, like a contestant on a quiz show. If I’d had a buzzer I would have slammed my hand down. I knew this one! “Turn left there!”

I heard the click-click-click of the indicator snap on.

“Okay and now I’m passin’ a school-”

An image flashed in my brain and I cut in again.

“Yep! Just… if you just keep going past the school and past all the houses…”

“I’m passin’… another school it looks like-”

“Yep, keep going, past that…”

“An’ now I’m passin’ a house with a yella door-”

“Yep, yep keep going, you’ll reach a long stretch of nothing and then there’s a gate on the right that’s sort of at the end of the hedgerow…”

“Is it a long driveway? Have ye a blue door?”

“Yes!”

“Ah I’m here now so.”

“Great! Thanks! If you drive around to the back…”

“Okay will do.”

I raced to the back porch and pulled open the door as the white delivery van swung round the corner. I lifted one foot to step outside and saw that the path down the garden was almost flooded. I glanced mournfully down at my unicorn slippers, then up at the driver, hunched over, dragging a box out of the back of the van. Not wanting to get my unicorns wet, but also not wanting the driver to get soaked to the skin waiting for me to find a pair of shoes, I kicked off the slippers and hopped down the flagstones on my tiptoes.

When I reached the man, he was watching me warily.

“Did ye just-” He paused as he handed me the scanner. “Did I just see ye kick yer shoes off to come outside? In the rain? Where it’s wet?”

I made a mangled stab at signing my name with the tip of my finger, then handed him back the device. There was a moment of silence as we both looked down at my feet, now shiny from the rain.

“Yes,” I said, since there didn’t seem any point in denying it.

“Alright so!”

He smiled at me with a slight frown. It was a gentle smile, a kindly-but-concerned smile. The sort of amiable, uncertain smile you give people when you’re not quite sure they’re right in the head. I briefly wondered if there was anything I could say to defend my questionable decision.

Probably not.

He looked down at my feet again, raised his eyebrows in an expression that seemed to say, ‘Well I’ve seen it all now!’, then got back in his van and backed out of the driveway as I skipped back over the flagstones to my warm fluffy unicorn slippers.

 

What Not To Do: Facebook Messenger Edition

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Over the weekend, after reading a message that had just come through on my phone, I let out a small huff. It was the kind of huff that acts as a tiny, audible exclamation point; the kind that tells you something has been noted that doesn’t deserve the energy or attention of actual words.

Across the table from me, my friend raised an questioning eyebrow, and I turned my phone so she could see the screen.

“Why does my ex-boyfriend always show up as active on Facebook messenger?”

She leaned forward to examine my ex-boyfriend’s smiling face and shrugged.

“Hmmm. Are you still friends with him on Facebook?”

“No!” She may as well have asked if I regularly abseil down the side of my building instead of taking the stairs. The very idea was so ridiculous that it made me laugh. “Definitely not!”

“You must be,” she insisted. “Otherwise he wouldn’t show up.”

“He’s not. There’s no way,” I assured her. “He just always shows up there for no reason.”

She didn’t believe me, so together we checked my Facebook page.

Definitely not friends.

“You SEE?” I said triumphantly. “And yet, he always shows up there in the ‘active now’ list. I don’t get it. There are so many other people I’d rather see there. Why don’t they free up that slot for somebody else?”

We both stared at the screen, puzzled.

“Maybe if I block him, he’ll be replaced?”

My friend shook her head, baffled. “I don’t know. That’s very strange. I’m pretty sure people who you aren’t friends with shouldn’t show up at all…”

I took my phone back and idly scrolled and tapped, searching through Facebook messenger.

“Where’s the block button? Why is this so counterintuitive? Where- Oh, found it.”

I had reached a screen with a long list of all my active contacts and, next to their names, a little hand. For the briefest split second, I wondered at the decision to make the block button an ambiguous hand emoji. Was it a hand block, like, ‘HALT in the name of Caesar!’ or was it a ‘Bye, Felipe’? Without giving it too much thought, I pressed it with a little sigh of relief-

… Which was immediately followed by a despairing, “Ohhhh no!”

My friend, jolted by my reaction, tensed. “What?!”

I turned the phone so she could see the message that had immediately popped up on my screen:

‘You have sent *ex-boyfriend* a wave!’

There was a frozen moment as we absorbed this new information; a beat of silence as we both internalised what had just happened.

Then we locked eyes, and we burst out laughing. We laughed so hard I dropped the phone. We laughed so hard actual tears were streaming down our cheeks.

She finally managed to gasp out, “What? HOW?”

“I just … I pressed … the hand emoji!” I was laughing so hard the words squeaked out of me in bursts.

“But… but what did you think it meant?!”

“I thought it meant, like, “BYE!” or maybe “See you later!””

This sent her into fresh hysterics.

Whenever the laughter started to subside she would lift her head and give a stiff little wave of her hand, and we’d go back to giggling so hard we almost fell off our chairs.

My phone pinged to alert me of a notification, and I wiped my eyes enough to see a message from my ex-boyfriend appear on the screen.

“Hmm.” It read.

Then, immediately afterwards, “Typo?”

Still laughing, I typed a simple “Yes.” I finally located the block button (not actually an ambiguous emoji, as it turns out) and firmly pressed it. Then I folded my arms on the table, lay my head on my forearms and laughed until my sides hurt.

Once we could speak in sentences again (rather than trying to communicate in a pitch only audible to dogs), we leaned back in our chairs and wiped the tears of laughter from our cheeks.

I sighed.

“At least he recognised I would never actually have contacted him on purpose,” I said, looking for the silver lining to my cloud of idiocy.

“True, true,” said my friend, nodding sagely, “And now you know that waves are a thing. And you know how to send one. And you know how to block people. And at least now he’s actually blocked, so he won’t show up anymore! You can just pretend this never happened!”

We reached for my phone and looked at my Messenger.

An incredulous laugh bubbled out of me as I looked at the screen. Guess who was first in line in the ‘Active Now’ list?

Unfriended.

Blocked.

Still showing up.

Facebook Messenger must have a sense of humour.