OK, I have to share another one of those dark humor situations with you. Actually, more of a funny memory that came rushing back to me this holiday season…
As I stood in line at the Post Office waiting for my turn to buy a multitude of stamps to mail my holiday cards and letter — those of you on my list know it didn’t actually happen….yet — I over heard the repetitive script of the post master as customer after customer placed their boxes on the counter for shipment. The question:
Is there anything perishable in the box?
Everyone answers no and the transaction proceeds and the recipient eventually gets his goods. BUT, I was reminded of one such transaction that did not start nor end in the expected manner.
When I lived in Kansas City, one of the guys that worked for me in Sprint PCS’ marketing technology group was a very unique and out-of-the-box problem-solver named Mark. Like so many of us, Mark relocated to Kansas City to help launch Sprint’s PCS company in 1996. Like me, Mark brought his beloved pet cat to KCMO with him. According to Mark, “Scruff” was 22 years old when he moved. Needless to say, we did NOT believe that Mark had the cat’s age right… That is, we did NOT believe until we cat-sat for Scruff one weekend while Mark was away. Honest to God, that cat was probably closer to 122 years old… in PEOPLE years. Scruff was straight out of Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery. Scary did NOT do that cat justice… nor did his name… though “Scruff” was as close to an accurate descriptor as you could get short of naming him Corpse. If I can get Mark to provide me an actual picture of Scruff, I will update this post. In the meantime, the best visual I can give you is this shot of “Bill the Cat” from the old Bloom County newspaper comic… plus 20 years.
So here’s the sad tail: Oops, I mean tale: Scruff dies…early in the week… in Kansas City. But Mark, being an OHIO boy does not want Scruff’s final resting place to be in KC. He wants Scruff to be buried in his childhood backyard, back in OHi where they spent most of their lives growing up together. Unfortunately, for Mark (and for Scruff) in the true spirit of start-up companies, Sprint PCS pretty much owns us and all of our time as we approach the launch date. There’s just no way that Mark can take off from work to drive his beloved cat home to his final resting ground until the weekend. So he hatches this brilliant plan (Mark, not Scruff… Scruff was hatching nothing but angel-wings at this point). Mark packs Scruff tightly into plastic. Buys a big chunk of dry ice and packs the decrepit remains of his beloved pet into a Fed Ex box for overnight delivery to his dear old mum in Ohio for burial. [Are you laughing yet? I was already about crying at this point in the story.]
But, the saga continues…
Mark takes the box down to the Post Office and gets in line. He steps up to the counter on cue and the Post Master asks the requisite question… “Is there anything perishable in the box?” I wonder, at that moment, what went through Mark’s head. How does one answer that question? I mean, the cat’s already perished so technically it’s not a lie when he finally responds in the negative. Of course, Mark also knows well that it is illegal to ship remains and to ship dry ice… but what’s a boy to do?
Alas, the tale/tail does not end here, folks.
Two days later, Mark calls home to confirm that his cat has arrived safe and sound only to find that no package was delivered. WHAT? Panicked, Mark tracks Scruff’s package and finds out that he’s been misdirected to a warehouse in another state between Missouri and Ohio. Poor Scruff’s lost in the system. Mark, worried that Scruff’s final resting ground may be a warehouse shelf in Oshkosh, Wisconsin — or maybe he was worried that when the ice melts and the body starts to smell they might catch onto the crime. So, he jumps in his car on Friday afternoon and races off to track down his cat’s hopefully-still-cold body.
And, the happy ending: He successfully locates the warehouse; Talks his way in to search for the package and locates dear Scruff on a back shelf; He reclaims his package, never letting on about it’s critical and illegal contents…. Then Mark drives the remaining hundreds of miles left to his journey. Finally putting poor Scruff to rest in his own backyard.