The veil between worlds became thin for me today.
I have my U.S. passport, along with the appropriate visa that was issued by the New Zealand Consulate General in Los Angeles.
You better be sitting down for the story about how I happened to come into possession of this little, blue booklet. If you choose to read this, get comfortable. This is probably longer than it needs to be.
As I wrote earlier
, FedEx didn't deliver the package on schedule. They told me it would be delivered today.
This afternoon, I noticed (from tracking online) that there had been no additional scans on the package since it arrived at the hub in Los Angeles on the day it was shipped. That was a bad sign.
I called FedEx and said that I wanted to know what the story was on this thing. They gave me the name of a person who was working the trace. (A 'trace' is FedEx lingo for the process of hunting down late/lost packages.) The customer service person said that the trace agent would be calling me soon. I think about two hours passed without a callback. I called again and got the person who was working the trace. She seemed befuddled, no explanation, "we're going to keep investigating," etc.
I said something like this: I didn't feel that FedEx was taking this matter seriously enough. This was a life-altering f*ck up for me, and it was their fault. I said that I wanted FedEx corporate security involved with this right now. (From working at FedEx for all those years, I know that FedEx corporate security is a VERY serious outfit. They get to the bottom of things. It's all former spooks and FBI.) I also told the person on the phone that I was calling the FBI because we were potentially dealing with a federal crime; the theft of U.S. government documents, and the documents of a foreign government.
She said something like, yes sir, I understand sir, we'll call you sir, etc.
As soon as I hung up the phone with FedEx, I called the Los Angeles FBI field office. I told the person who answered that FedEx was saying that they had lost track of a package containing my passport and the visa documents issued by a foreign government. I told the FBI that I thought that this was a serious matter and that I wasn't sure if FedEx was taking it seriously.
I might as well have called the county dog catcher. The FBI told me that this was a matter for the State Department. They told me to call the State Department and go through the process of canceling the passport, etc. They gave me the number, blah blah blah blah.
At this point, I pretty much sank into my chair and let the shock and awe of this nonsense wash over me. I was going to have to apply for a new passport and somehow get that visa from the New Zealand consulate again, all in time to make my flight date, which is fast approaching.
Hours pass. I figured that I'd give FedEx 24 hours before I started the process of getting a new passport (which is a major pain in the ass).
I called FedEx again and spoke to the same woman. The package was nowhere to be found. FedEx security was now involved, she told me.Here's where the weirdness begins:
Around 7:45pm, I got a call from a man in Huntington Beach who told me that he had my passport!
He said that he had ordered some suits from Barneys New York and that the package containing my passport was in that suit box, at the bottom.
I wish someone had a picture of my face at this moment. The expression must have been pretty good. All I was thinking was, "I don't care what the story is, I just want my passport back." I wasn't yet thinking about the fact that it made no sense at all that my FedEx envelope was inside some guy's sealed suit box from Barneys New York.
He gave me his name, his address and directions to his house. Conveniently, it was only about twenty minutes away!?!?! Wasn't that convenient? How many different places could that thing have ended up? You know, since it's jumping out of FedEx's document management system (which I dealt with for years as a FedEx courier) and into sealed boxes from Barneys...
I immediately drove over there.
It was a VERY wealthy, gated community near the beach. I had to give my name to the guard, etc. He let me in. Big houses. Shiny sports cars and SUVs. I found the house. I rang the door bell and a man came out holding the FedEx letter. His young son was with him.
It was kinda weird. The man took a really good look at me, and then pulled out my passport and looked at it under the light.
"I just want to make sure it's you."
He (or someone) had previously ripped open the FedEx letter. He said he thought it was an invoice for the suits... With an airbill on the outside that clearly listed the sender as the New Zealand Consulate General and the recipient as Kevin Flaherty.
I just wanted my passport.
He handed it over. And that's when it all started to hit me: This sh*t isn't adding up!
I asked, "That letter was inside the box that contained your suit order? The box from Barneys?"
"It was inside, at the bottom. Look, I'll show you. Go over to the garage."
I walked over. One of the several garage doors went up.
Yep. There was a very large box that definitely looked like it had been used to ship suits. The metal thing---that the suits hung from to prevent them from getting wrinkled---was at the bottom with some other shipping debris.
Now, I don't remember exactly how this got started, but I mentioned something about this passport being very important to me because it had a visa in it that would allow me to stay with my wife in New Zealand. The young boy said something like, "Oh yeah, we have to get visas all the time. We travel all over. To Africa and stuff."
* The gears in my head were really turning at this point *
I asked the dad what he did and he said that he ran, "a copier business." (I have since determined the business name and what it purports to be, etc.) There were some other details that I'll hold back for now.
As I left, he said, "If you need anything else give me a call."
? ? ? ? ? WTF ? ? ? ? ?
Pause a moment. Let all of that sink in.
Did my call to the FBI upset the apple cart? Maybe They weren't expecting that move. (Even though the FBI didn't seem to give two sh*ts about this...) Maybe the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is up to. Maybe They came to assume that FedEx corporate security would start reviewing the surveillance video from the sort facility, and check the exact time and place that the package was last scanned. Maybe They thought that FedEx corporate security would indeed determine who pulled that package out of the system, and then go have a talk with them. Weird questions might be asked.
Just think about this for a second. Within about five hours of that call to the FBI, I got a call from a man telling me that my passport was INSIDE his suit box! And of all the places on the planet my passport could have wound up---after magically jumping into a sealed box---it was no more than a 20 minute drive away... at this dude's mansion! Come on over and pick it up! Sure! I might be so happy that I'd call FedEx and tell them I got my passport and they might call off the corporate security investigation into missing passports and visas in the Los Angeles hub.
My best guess is that I'm on some sort of sh*t list and that my private correspondence with a foreign government was too tempting a morsel to pass up. They wanted to know what the NZ consulate was sending me. When I flipped out, announced the "loss" of this package on Cryptogon, b*tched about wanting FedEx corporate security in on this and then called the god damned J. Edgars, I don't know.... Maybe They thought up this Barneys scheme to have a "good Samaritan" get that passport back to me so I'd shut up. They couldn't say it was mis-delivered to that guy's house, because there were no more FedEx scans past the point where it arrived in Los Angeles! Nevermind the fact that it's a totally different local FedEx station. It would have had to have been shipped to the wrong local station and then delivered to a house with an address that bore no similarities to mine. Oh yeah, with none of the "last mile" FedEx scans. The Barneys box scheme made much more sense. ;)
You can almost see the cracked lightbulbs going off above Their heads. "Tell him it was inside another box. That will explain how it got to your house without any FedEx scans."
Maybe the guy has absolutely nothing to do with this, and he's just a nice guy trying to return my passport to me. That's possible, maybe even likely. How in the Sweet Jesus my passport would have wound up on the inside of that sealed suit box is, however, the $64,000 question.
All I know is that the last FedEx scan shows it arriving at the Los Angeles sort facility. That's it. Two days later, according to legend, it wound up in a random man's suit box. Just a hop, skip and a 20 minute drive away.
That's it boys and girls. As always, I couldn't make it up if I tried.Question for Current FedEx Employees:
At some early stage of a domestic package's trip through the FedEx system, is the airbill electronically imaged? (All international airbills are immediately imaged. FedEx was doing that even when I worked there in the 1990s.) From the first contact I had with the trace agent, she knew where it was coming from. She said, "Let's see, this was coming from the New Zealand Consulate General. What was in the package?"
My response was, "I don't know why that matters, but it was my U.S. passport with a New Zealand visa attached."
So, if FedEx electronically images every domestic airbill, early on, this would explain how she knew where it was coming from. If, however, FedEx doesn't electronically image every airbill early on, that's weird.Related: FedEx: One of Homeland Security's Best FriendsPossibly Related: The Trickster
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