02/07/2011 03:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

UPS Purgatory

Still waiting for your UPS package? The New York Post recently reported that UPS continues to blame the snow for late deliveries in Brooklyn and Queens. In Manhattan, however, it's the same story. What's wrong with New York City UPS? Try tracking down your errant package at one of their customer service centers and you'll soon find out.

The customer service center is a small, claustrophobic purgatory. People stand at the margins of the little room looking defeated and submissive. They've been told their packages are not here, that they'll be arriving on the next truck. They've been told to wait. They've been told someone is still looking for their package. They've been given false hope and they know it, yet they remain.

A large man in a brown Vietnam Vet-style boonie hat looks at you with a dead stare when you approach the counter. He doesn't greet you or inform you of your place in the line-up with the simple word "next." He just stares, daring you to ask him for assistance. Luckily, he is apparently "helping" another customer and you get the next guy, who passes for human. This man takes your ticket, says, "This should have gone back to the sender already."

"No," you nearly shout, "I called today! Twice. It's here! I was told it's here." He agrees, reluctantly, to look for it and disappears through the warehouse door.

While you wait and wait, you listen to the miserable sufferers all around you. One woman is on her cell phone to UPS's main office, trying to maintain a calm, professional demeanor as she says, over and over, "But one of your associates told me it would be here, she 100% guaranteed it. 100% she said. Doesn't that mean anything to you? No? Well, what do you know?"

A man is handed back his rejected slip wordlessly by Boonie Hat. "Does that mean my package isn't here?" says the man.

"Nope," says Boonie Hat. It sounds like a threat as he draws out the N and clips the P.

"Will it be here later tonight?"


"Will it be here tomorrow?"

"Nope," Boonie Hat says once more. He looks like he could leap across the counter and cut this man's throat with a bowie knife, then go right back to torturing the rest of us.

"Well, can you tell me, um, when it'll be here?" asks the man, a slight note of terror in his voice.

Boonie Hat stares a moment, then says, flat and cold as a sheet of ice, "That ain't my department."

Finally, the truck they've all been waiting for arrives and the mood lifts slightly as a new man appears in the warehouse doorway, driving a cart full of packages. Only two of the waiting ten people get what they came for. The rest are out of luck. One has been waiting an hour and is told to keep waiting. She slumps over in her chair.

Another man walks out muttering, "Fucking waste of time."

At this, the only utterance of impotent rage ventured from the cowed customers, a UPS woman laughs an evil cackle of joy at the man's frustration. Another one laughs along with her. They're enjoying this, you realize. They do it to punish us! They do it for sport. The mood has turned most Gilliamesque as the UPS man who just came in with the cart full of packages joins the merriment. He grunts gleefully at the cackling women and says, "I'm going on vacation. I don't give a fuck when they get their packages."

He also doesn't care that we can all hear him say this -- he knows who has the power and who does not.

Now you begin to imagine what you will do when the inevitable occurs, when the man charged with finding your package returns empty-handed and gives you the treatment. You imagine shouting something about "This is why people go postal! This is what drives people to come in with automatic weapons and open fire! Right, people?" You want to inspire your fellow sufferers to riot. You are all in this together. They do get inspired. They pump their fists and say, "Yeah, that's right!" They leap over the counter and commandeer the customer service center, holding Boonie Hat, the Cacklers, and all the rest hostage. But this does not happen.

The UPS man returns with a miracle in his arms -- your package. Even as he slides it across the counter to you, he questions the validity of its presence, saying, "I don't know. This really should have gone back to the sender." You feel a panic flutter through you. Maybe he won't let you take it. You grab the box, pulling it out of his hands before he has a chance to change his mind.

Outside, the air is fresh and cold. You are free. But there will be more deliveries to come. You will be here again. This is the way it goes.