On the next to last day of my July stay in England (student group trip, "study abroad"), I became certain that, as suspected, I had more crap than I could carry.
I resolved to pack up all of the crap I had acquired on the trip into a carton and to ship it home before we flew out. This was a pretty good plan, as they go. I toddled on down to the Post Office in town, picking up some lunch at the Habib next door while I was there, and got a large box. The Postal Office employees were unable to guess how much the shipping would cost without the mass of the parcel (understandable, that). i carried my lunch and the flat box back to the dorm, and set about packing it with the stuff not in the luggage. All of the souveniers, ticket stubs, notes, and local periodicals went in there, along with the Sierra Club calendar I had been scribbling on, and a few odd shaped thing (Mage Knight Dungeon Starter). The swag included a tea towel for my mom, a reprint WWII poster for the NOC ("Keep mum, she's not so dumb."), programs and booklets from places I visited (palaces, the British Museum, Bletchley Park),
the other Stonehenge ring, and a plush toy dragon (the Welsh dragon, Caederwalder (sp)), off the top of my head. I can review my entires from the trip to sort out the rest. (The Tolkein biography, Ancient Wisdom, and other books I took with me were in the rolling bag. Additionally, the RSC cap and the Holmes museum shirt made it back.)
Skip a bit. I didn't have much money left in my account after I bought lunch and the box itself. The Postal Clerk weighed (massed?) the parcel and looked up the rates. It would've cost around L 60 GBP to send it fast, and around L 45 GBP to send it slow (a fortnight versus a solid month). They quite politely allowed me to leave the packed, unsealed box on their counter while I ran off to find an ATM,
and were politely regretful when I returned quite a few minutes later without the money. I lugged the box back to school, gears tinkling along trying to devise an alternate plan. A phone call to Delta confirmed that it would cost about $100 USD to check a third bag on a flight to Atlanta. (That was a good idea to call, and it wasn't mine. Kristen maybe?) At which point I came up with the idea that I could find someone to leave the box with for, say, a couple weeks, until I got home and could send them the money to ship it. This is not a bad plan, either, although a little tricky in the UK, where they are notably cautious about extra parcels, unattended luggage and rubbish bins. (Try finding a rubbish bin in a Tube station sometime.)
I thought about possible people for this favour. It being the UK, I wouldn't bother asking any of the school officials. I guess now that I could've asked the campus security blokes, but I didn't then (and despite being very nice to us Yanks, I doubt they'd've taken this one on.). I asked the pubkeep at the campus bar if he wouldn't mind. We'd hung out with him watching telly quite a few evenings, and had been pretty chummy. We weren't lifelong mates or anything, but he had been a decent bloke, and quite nice to the Yank tourists in his bar. He assented, and I gave him my last 10 quid to sweeten the deal. I left the box, and the nearly complete customs declaration with him (This is mandatory, and had the ship to address on it.). He already had one of my cards, and I had his email address through the bar (with a popular UK phone / internet company). He didn't have a PayPal account, but allowed as how he could probably set one up. I agreed to send him the money to ship the box out once I got back and got settled in, by paypal, or whatever other way. I never did get his last name.
In August I sent him an email or two, and received no response. I have occassionally missed email due to server misconfiguration or other headsmacking screwups on my part, so I wasn't too worried. Towards
the end of August, I surfed the college website for the phone numbers,
and rang the switchboard (This after a previous call gave me the switchboard hours, and the overall conclusion that the bar's phone can't be rung direct. Even today I got a slight pause out of the switchboard operator before she confirmed that I wanted "the Bar?"). I got him at around ten o'clock his time (GMT) and we chatted a bit. He told me about how the re-painting of the bar was going, describing the effectiveness of the flourescent paint. He explained how he had found a place to stay off campus, and would be moving shortly. This was causing him difficulties with his bank accounts (no address) which would shortly shake out, and was delaying him setting up a PayPal account. Also, he was continuing to have trouble with that email address, so he might have missed me. I rang off, unsatisfied but not too worried. I hadn't the account balance that day anyway. It was a little odd that he hadn't given me another email address to try, and he declined my offer to read out my contact data to him then (He had all that). And that call was the last I've heard from him.
The work at the House throughout September and October kept me broke and busy. I finally got around to ringing the college, and asking for the bar this morning. The first fellow who answered spoke very little English, and he offered to get the manager, to which I assented. The manager came on, and although his voice sounded slightly familiar, it wasn't the bloke I was looking for. He doesn't work there anymore, and this fellow came in since he left, so they never met. He didn't have any contact data for him, but suggested I try the mobile (which he didn't have, and I don't either.) I didn't ask about boxes, although I may call back. It being the UK, and an international call, (Hi mom!) that would not really be such a great idea. ( "Did he leave anything for me, a random US citizen currently on the opposite side of the pond? Why yes, it was large and a bit heavy. No, no ticking. Hey, you blokes aren't supposed to carry guns!? *slam*")
It is all quite disappointing. The stuff is gone, but in truth has been gone since August. The gifts I had gotten are not to be given, which stings quite a bit. All the papertrail and some bibliographic notes I had made are gone, and will be tricky to reconstruct. I think what really bugs me is I completely do not understand what happened, or why. If he had ever contacted me, I would have found some way to send him cash, at least 50 quid (say $ 70 USD). Even without, he could have just choked it up and shipped the box the cheap way, to get rid of it. What really baffles me is that even an email would have meant 50 quid, free and clear. I would have sent the money with no assurance that the box still exists. I still would, probably. If he pitched it out the back door on day 2, and emailed me, or called, he could've pocketed the cash. *boggle*
So, now I don't have my stuff. He doesn't have the fifty quid (or more) he could've gotten, and he may well still have a carton of Yank tourist shite. I have no way of getting in touch with him. At best I could call his "office" back and pump them for information, a tactic unlikely to succeed.