An Epic Journey of Persistence, Resilience, and Prevailing

Anyone with a year’s worth of training, a boatload of cash, and a pile of sherpas can pull off an epic journey. But the truly remarkable epic journeys are the ones we mere mortals navigate in our cashless, sherpa-less lives. For example, last year during my two-week 50th birthday celebration, when I jumped off a 15-foot cliff  into the ocean, I lost a ring in the process. The ring meant a lot to me — it was my son’s birthstone, and I bought it in a consignment shop during a solo writing weekend when my son was small. I wasn’t happy about losing it, but it somehow seemed fitting. It was like shedding the old me and making an offering to the ocean in exchange for the fantastic birthday and year I was having. And let’s be serious, it was also an opportunity to get a new ring.

I took my time and found a handmade wrapped wire style on Etsy that I liked, and the site’s owner Tammy agreed to make me a custom one with my son’s birthstone.

And that’s where the easy part ended. The first ring she made me (notice I said first) was never delivered. Correction. The USPS sent me an annoying text and email saying that it had been delivered, but I can tell you it was never in my mailbox. They claimed it was probably stolen, which is all fine and good, except for one small detail. I had only recently recovered from the four packages and various cards and important letters my local carrier had failed to deliver in the previous several months. During that time in the black hole of USPS ineptitude, my attempts to find out what was going on ended up with the USPS package center manager telling me (after I called her five times over three weeks) “We looked everywhere and can’t find it. Just order another one,” which I’m sure the folks at Amazon and Lands End love to hear. She never even apologized.

So I must be forgiven if I find the USPS explanation of theft a tad insincere. But it wasn’t Tammy’s fault that my Zip code seems to have become some sort of delivery Bermuda Triangle, so I ordered another one. Tammy was nice enough not to charge me a delivery fee, and I had it sent to my work address in Boston, hoping that would help.

It didn’t.

This time the USPS decided to mess things up on Tammy’s end. She’s in California and I’m in Boston. Did I mention the only thing possibly more annoying than the USPS’s inability to simply deliver things is their utterly useless tracking website? Whereas before you had no idea where it was or an ability to track, you could just say, “well, it got lost in the mail.” Annoying, but not nearly annoying as seeing, for example that ring number two was, according to the tracking bar, still in California a week and a half after Tammy sent it. I kept checking, but that little line from California to the East Coast hadn’t moved. I think I’d rather be blissfully ignorant.

Between us, Tammy and I made about four phone calls to our respective postal people. The Boston guys couldn’t do much except tell me exactly what the stupid tracking website said. “Uh, it’s in California.” Thanks, Einstein. And do you have any thoughts about why a package would be in the same place for more than week? Are the Californians sitting around getting high or going to the beach or doing whatever it is those weird West Coast people do? Finally whether it was the phone calls or the Californians came back from the beach, the little tracking bar started to move again. And of course no explanation or apology from the USPS was offered. So after putting in my first order on December 23, I finally received the second ring on February 26.

And it was too big. Like 2.5 sizes too big, almost like the Grinch’s heart, only I was feeling more like the Grinch with the shriveled heart. It was totally my fault. I printed out a ring sizer from the Zales website — what the hell was I thinking? So there was nothing to do but take it to jeweler number one (notice I said jeweler number one). He asked me if the ring was solid silver. Tammy’s website said silver, but didn’t specify solid. When I told him, he turned out to be one of those people who insists on doing quality work when you don’t necessarily want it. He didn’t want to take the chance if it wasn’t silver. Of course he also said, “Just have her send you the right size,” which nearly put me into a USPS-induced stress seizure right there in the store. I did not have the time to explain the full agony of what I had gone through, and the shortened version fell on deaf ears. Apparently everyone thinks everything is replaceable and people are willing to send you second and thirds for free.

I emailed Tammy about the type of silver, but frankly I think she was sick of me by this point, and I can’t say I blame her. If I were her, I would have started blocking my messages. My resolve started to flag, but my coworkers, who had been listening to this saga for two months, were encouraging. They probably were just sick of hearing about it and wanted it to end, but still I appreciated the support. One commented that the ring had become a great symbol of perseverance and another pointed out that even if the resizing messed up the band, it would be on the part of the band no one could see when I was wearing it. True enough.

So I went in search of a less scrupulous jeweler and saw there was one in the sketchier part of town. Perfect. After getting honked at by a couple of mean looking guys because I had the nerve to back into a metered space, I locked my door and walked past the shuttered and fading storefronts to the one I was looking for. The minute I walked in though it felt like home. An older couple was at the back of the store chatting with a customer they knew and cooing over her baby granddaughter. While I waited, another woman came in and they knew her too. I looked around the store — it was filled with cool, old jewelry and all kinds of knickknacks and old toys. It could have been overwhelming, but everything seemed carefully curated. When it was my turn, they listen to my story, and he said the same caveat about the silver. I said if it’s not perfect that’s OK, and the woman practically finished my sentence, saying “You just want to wear it.”

Yes. Exactly. I. Just. Want. To. Wear. It.

Five days later I picked up the solid silver ring that had been resized without a blemish, and I’m the proud wearer of a ring that inspired the most epic journey of persistence, resilience, and prevailing ever.

And so check out Tammy’s store on Etsy, Spirals and Spice, but it’s probably best if you don’t say I sent you. She may still be recovering from her own epic journey of dealing with me.

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