Friday, August 16, 2013

The Weight On My Shoulders, PART 2- Go Big or Go Home- International Shipping

Where the first victory ended, the second adventure started. I had passed the first round of judging in the World of Wearable Art, and now I had a week to get this costume packed and shipped to New Zealand. Oh, did I mention that it requires driving to New Jersey to ship it? Excitement was the only emotion pumping through my veins that week as I embarked on a packing extravaganza. 
The first step to this whole shipping ordeal was calling my dad in Western Massachusetts and asking him if he would like to go on a little road trip in the next Monday. Like the supportive father he is he said yes. Starting that day, I had one week to spare as I devised a tactical plan on how to get this costume shipped. My process for structuring the rest of the week goes as follows:

Step 1-Figure out a method to pack the shoes and costume into a box that would stand up to whatever potential disasters shipping overseas might have it store. After a bit of research, I found a material called triple corrugated cardboard. This cardboard can supposedly withstand up to 1300 pounds of weight if, lets say, something were to fall on this package during transit. Of corse, this cardboard only came in sheets so I would have to design and build the box myself. I immediately purchased it rush order to my dad’s house. (The cost of the cardboard combined with the shipping shall not be mentioned... Lets just leave it that it was not a good day for my bank account.)

Step 2- Get address of shipping dock, and reference number I would need to ship the box.

Step 3- Call out of work.

Step 4- Get as much homework done as physically possible before heading back to Western Mass.

Step 5- Try to keep my sanity, and take deep breaths.

A few days later, I found myself on a bus, rush ordering myself from Boston to Western Mass. All weekend my dad and I worked designing this box, and packing everything up. It turns out that along with sending the costume, I needed to write comprehensive dressing instructions, attach fabric tags for each garment piece, and get my shipping documentation in order. All of these last minute to-do’s were discovered on the last day before the big drive to New Jersey. Sleep was exchanged for work, as RedBull unofficially sponsored yet another night of urgent productivity.
All too soon Monday morning had arrived, and everything was go...down! We were finally off and driving to New Jersey. The packing list had been triple checked, my costume was snuggly packed in a custom created box and it was HAPPENING! Little did I know, getting this thing to the shipping dock was an adventure in and of itself. 
  For those of you who have driven the route between New York and Atlantic City you might have noticed the industrial parks, shipping docks, and building size oil storage barrels featured on the side of the NJ highway. For those who do not know what this looks like, I found a picture on google images to illustrate it for you. The international shipping dock we had to drive to is in the mist of all of that. Words like sketchy, shady, and unsure come to mind when remembering the drive through the desolate road. I just remember being surrounded by sky high, cylindrical oil storage units and thinking “Really?...REALLY?!...this HAS to be wrong, no building could possibly have been built here.” It was one of those classic moments when you start to wonder if the GPS is trying to kill you. Fortunately, this was not one of those times.
    Eventually we get to this big warehouse, in front of which there was a line of semi-trucks waiting to pick up shipments. Armed with a measly reference number the sponsored shipping company gave me, I gathered my courage and walked into the warehouse to get the necessary paperwork to drop off my package. 
Inside, the warehouse turned out to be one GIANT room. Its size is comparable to about 4 football fields worth of space composing a large square. Trying my hardest to look like I have been there before, and that I wasn’t utterly nervous, I got in the line to turn in paperwork. Standing there, I suddenly became very aware that other then the woman at the help desk situation behind a dirty glass window, I was the only female in sight. Looking down at my hands I assessed what I was wearing, and thought to myself that I could have definitely dressed down a bit more for this occasion. I was wearing a flower-pattern chiffon blouse, sharp looking low-rise jeans, and high heeled close-toed shoes. Fortunately, my makeup was definitely not in any state of glamour, as I had put just enough on to cover up the bags forming under my eyes, but I still couldn’t help feeling like perhaps I could have chosen a t-shirt over a chiffon blouse. Looking around me at these big men with dirt under their fingernails, facial hair left overgrown, wearing plaid shirts with ripped off sleeves, I couldn’t help feeling like a stripper in church. Maybe stripper is the wrong analogy, perhaps “a diva working on a construction site” would be more a appropriate one. No matter how it is described, the point became clear, there would be no camouflaging in this crowd.
As me and my new burly-trucker friends were standing in line I began noticing the stares. The mens facial expressions looked at me as if torn between checking me out, and asking me if I was in the right place. Awkward does not even begin to describe the feeling that hung in the air. I felt like Alice, who had accidentally stepped into the wrong wonderland. Instead of magical trees, these burly men stood triple my size on either side. Instead of smelling sweet flowers, I smelled dusty cardboard, sweat, and stale air. All I kept thinking is “thank god my dad came with me,” although at this time he was little help for comfort. As I stood in line, he stood on the side, “discreetly” taking photos of the whole scene unfolding with his phone. This went on until a sharp voice from the woman behind the desk, cut through the air as she asked what it was he was doing, and did he know that there was no photography allowed inside the facility. My dad acted confused and there were no more photos after that. 
Finally, It was my turn to be helped. I cautiously approached the window, and said bluntly, “I have a package to ship and a reference number the shipping company gave me, they told me to give it to you and you would take care of it.” The woman then asked me something about the tracking number. In response, I attempted to explain what It was that I was doing. It was at this point I realized how confusing and crazy the World of Wearable Art competition sounds to someone who works in a shipping dock. Realizing I was in over my head, I immediately switched to a safer tactic: confusion. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what your asking. The shipping company just gave me this reference number and told me to come here.” I said, being sure to emphasize the lost demeanor I had been attempting to cover up earlier. Eventually the woman gave up on trying to ask me anything, typed in the reference number, and handed me back some papers. She then pointed to two men at a desk 20 feet away and told me to bring it to them, they would take care of the rest. I asked her if there was some sort of receipt I could have for a reference. The answer was “No, we don’t give receipts.” I don’t know if it was the panicked look on my face, or the fact that I probably looked a bit like a lost puppy, but after a long pointed look at me, she sighed and said, “let me print out of copy of the paper you are giving to the shippers.” 
Taking a breath of relief, I said a gracious “thank you” and proceeded to walk over and turn in my paperwork to the ship desk. They stamped the papers, handed one back, and told me to drive the package around the back of the warehouse and give the guy who met me there this. As they spoke they handed me another paper. I asked if there was any sort of receipt I would get in exchange and they shoot their heads no. 
On my way out I saw a sign near the first window that said no receipts. Inside I reflected how amazing it is I got any copy of anything for my records. Soon, we were outside, at the back of the warehouse. A man came out to meet us, he took the package, I handed him the piece of paper, and then he looked at me as if there was supposed to be more. I tried to ask him if that was correct but soon discovered he could not speak or understand a word of english. We drove away with no receipt, and unsure of wether what we did was correct. 
A few days later after emails were exchanged I was notified the package was shipped. A few months later I got notified World of Wearable Art had my costume in their possession. HOWEVER, I would not find out if I passed the second round of judging until July 16th. It was months away, so I blocked it out of my mind. But in the time following graduation, the anticipation would build bearing a question-mark for what might come in the future. I would eventually find out how heavy the weight of that question-mark was, but as this day concluded and I started thing about school and getting back to Boston, all I could feel was relief. 

NOTE: there is one final part to this adventure, for those of you wondering how many parts there would be in all.

No comments:

Post a Comment