The Great Fairfax Coffee Caper

You know that feeling when you’re looking for the UPS drop box because you got a Nespresso machine for Father’s Day and you’ve finally filled up the bag they give you to send the canisters (don’t call them pods, dear god, not making that mistake again) back for recycling, and you’re in a bit of a hurry to hustle those suckers out of the house because the bag with the used coffee pods, pardon me, canisters, had that nice coffee smell for about the first 3 hours but for the last 2 months it’s just smelled of rancid coffee mildew death, as does the cabinet it was in, and now that the bag’s in your car you’ve got maybe 30 minutes before the odor permeates the supposedly impregnable plastic of your simulated rosewood dashboard and interior trim? 

That feeling?  No? 

Well, let me tell you.

UPS Drop Box!
Who the hell is Carolyn?

There we were, dropping the Human Tape Recorder off for her appointment at the Carolyn Building.  We knew that it was call the Carolyn Building because it said on the UPS App.  There are no other recorded instances of anyone ever referring to it by this name.  We wondered who Carolyn was, and the Human Tape Recorder replied that it was very likely some chick named Carolyn who’d had a package delivered there one time in 1993, and they figured, what the heck, good a name as any.  I mean, Carolyn sounds like something your kid sister would have as a middle name in the ‘70s or something.

But there was the UPS App, claiming that there’s a drop box there, into which we can drop our UPS postage paid package of rancid coffee grounds. 

Of course the Carolyn Building was locked, but the Human Tape Recorder had the code. The primary code didn’t work, but the universal code worked.  (The universal code is “knock twice and show some cleavage.”  The guy with the cleaning supplies almost tripped letting her in the door.)  The Human Tape Recorder vanished up the elevator for her appointment and we drove around back to find the UPS drop box. 

It wasn’t there. 

Luckily, the App showed there was another box a few buildings down.  And there might be, too, but if so it wasn’t outside, and the building was locked.  No box.

Next building.  No box.  Drive a little farther.  Next building.  No box.  Drive a little farther.  Next building.  No box.  Check the door.  Locked.  No box.  The car is starting to smell of fair trade privilege and decay.  Hurry to the next location on the UPS App, around the parking lot, in the back – there, two boxes!  Saved!

No.  One box was USPS and the other might have started life as a UPS box, but it had turned into a FedEx box since the UPS App pushed its most recent update. 

I came close to dropping it in the FedEx box.  Same concept, right?  People must mix those up all the time. 

I can just hear them in the Great Shared Sorting Facility:
“Fred, got one of yours here.” 
“Thanks Bob, here’s two for you, Texas.  What’s that one say?”
“Nespresso pods, er, canisters.”
“Aww shit, really?  Trade ya?  Those things stink.”
“Heh.  All yours good buddy, says UPS on it.  All yours.”

But I’m not sure I really believe in the Great Shared Sorting Facility, and so, being a responsible coffee drinker, I continued to risk my car and nasal cavities by driving a little farther down the line.  We found a dead end, which held some merit but didn’t seem sporting, since there were houses there, and we found a Dumpster, which I have a really hard time distinguishing from a UPS Drop Box some times.  (The reverse is also true, which is also why I’m never going back to a certain business park near that bar in Cleveland.)

Finally, the UPS App map swore there was supposed to be a drop box at Building 3251, which is called Building 3251.  We found it by dint of winding up parked right in front of it; SOBUMD asked what the address was, and I had to open the sunroof to check the numerals, which are two stories high, declaring themselves to the world, from the rooftop.  Right building…  And, closed.  Box inside.  I could see it. 

As with the Carolyn Building, there was a person inside 3251 with cleaning supplies.  As an overweight, middle-aged Big Ugly Man Doll, doors DO open when I flash my cleavage, but they’re usually doors that you can’t unlock from the inside, and sometimes the officers bang your head on the car as they put you through them, and besides, the flashing lights give me the headache.  So, that was out.

We went around.  The back was no good.  Well, it might have been good, but there was a party happening in the rear of the parking lot, with a nice fire going.  It seemed like a very well-attended party.  Since we hadn’t been invited, possibly because of our having a fixed address and boring shit like that, we decided discretion was the better part of valor. We went around to the front of the building and pulled into the exit lane, to return to the open road and continue our quest. 

I just needed to wait for that UPS truck to turn in front of me.

Picture it!  There I was, about T-minus 3 minutes before our stinking rattle-sack pillow of coffee bones and despair leaked enough malodorous malevolence that I’d have to buy a new car, and there’s a big brown box truck of deliverance turning left right in front of me!

“Follow that truck!” I shouted. 

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” said SOBUMD.  I did a right and proper, by which I mean highly illegal, U-turn and pulled in behind the truck, as he stopped at Building 3251.

I pulled in right behind him, looked at SOBUMD again (she was holding the baby), and said, “Right, out you pop!”

“You have GOT to be kidding me,” she repeated, handing me the flopping aluminum stink-sack.

I got the bag out of the car with only seconds to spare – the paint was starting to peel, and that was on the inside. 

The poor UPS driver climbing out of the truck had clearly been busy hating his life to start with, and being handed a squirmy baby made of shifting aluminum and sustainably harvested, eye-watering compost canisters did nothing to change that. 

“I didn’t find the box, but I did find you,” I said with the good cheer of a man who now doesn’t need to file a dubious insurance claim about that smell in my car.  He took the bag.


He tossed the bag onto the floor of the truck.  Clang-kerclunk-rattle-pew-thud.

“Thank you!” 


I could see the delight in his eyes, and by delight I mean the flashbacks of loves lost, poor decisions, and bad fashion choices that had lead him to this job, this truck, this route – on this night.  The pod people were always coming for him.  Or canister people.  Whatever. 

We left the poor UPS man with the steaming sack of a hundred used cups of Joe and peeled out of there before he could change his mind and/or quit his job.  As luck would have it, the final UPS App Drop Box effort had landed us across the street from a dessert store called, in an example of truth-in-advertising gone too far, The Dessert Store.  (I have to assume they share an ad agency with Building 3251.)  It’s in a strip mall with not one, not two, but three hookah shops, two of them actually adjacent to one another, and a clock and watch repair guy who probably closes at 5pm on the very, very, precise dot, presumably for a smoke.

We got some desserts, because how else does one celebrate one’s emancipation from certain coffee mildew death, and besides, it’s what they sell at the Dessert Store.  We watched the rain, raining sidewise for a bit.  Two young women walked out, decided they’d wait on the bench outside, started to get drenched and came hesitantly back in.  I told them that rain like that was a good reason to stay for more dessert.  I guess I sounded convincing, because they were still eating when we left, as the rain dissipated.  I should be in sales.

From there, we still had a nominal amount of time to kill before picking up the Human Tape Recorder at what we now knew to be the Carolyn Building, and we’d already called Geico.  (Geico has actually blocked my number at this point.)  We went to Starbucks.  Closed.  They roll the sidewalks up early in Fairfax.  We drove past enough other places that I wondered what these people do for fun in the evenings, other than smoking hookah and dreaming eponymous dreams.  Finally, we found Earth Fare, with 9 minutes remaining to shop before they closed.  We shopped in 7 minutes, because we’re professionals, and because I dragged SOBUMD out, to her consternation, with only 4 bottles of coconut amino acids.  Her coupon is actually good until December, which is good, because we’ll be back.  The checkout person was throwing things into our bag at near relativistic speeds to ensure our timely departure, while maintaining a smile all the time.  She may have been a robot. 

Thus happily unencumbered by coffee canisters of dubious odor, equally happily encumbered with snacks, and grave with desserts, we pressed on our appointed rounds in time to retrieve the Human Tape Recorder.  She emerged, asking after our evening.  We launched into this recitation and she said something on the order of “Oh, yeah, the UPS box is right inside, I could have brought that in.” 

Next time.  Next time. 

And so ends the saga of The Great Fairfax Coffee Caper. 

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment