I don’t like any kind of shopping except the online kind. When my first son was born, you could get formula and diapers on Amazon cheaper than the grocery store and delivered right to your door for free. Which is why I totally heart Jeff Bezos. And Al Gore, for inventing the Internet. It has saved me from having a meltdown after 20 minutes in any retail store. Whenever I go on Amazon, there is no way I’m leaving without getting my $25 purchase to qualify for free Super Saver Shipping (best invention after TiVo and Take 5) so I would generally order at least two large canisters of formula at a time. And that worked great, usually.
But then one day I opened my nifty Amazon box to find that one of the cans of formula had been dented and the container broke, so a little bit of it had leaked out. I promptly took out the one that was okay, taped the box back up and went to the post office to send it back to Amazon.
This was in the summer of 2004, a month or two after my son was born. I lived in the downtown area of Chicago at the time but I still had to drive to get to the nearest post office, and I always had to take my baby in his 1,000 pound infant carrier with me wherever I went. Parking there was a bitch because of course the post office doesn’t have a parking lot. So I just kind of sidled my little CR-V up to the fire hydrant and put my flashers on and balanced the box on the huge carrier thing and lugged the box and baby inside. There was a really long line. But I already had the postage paid and everything, so I made eye contact with one of the postal workers and motioned that I was just going to put the package on the counter so they could put it on the truck or whatever they do in the back of the post office. The postal worker nodded in recognition and seemed okay with that arrangement. I could tell she was a mother too, the way her steely eyes went from me, to the baby and then back to me, but this time with empathy in those steely postal eyes. No, really. Empathy. From a post office worker. Seriously. So it was all goodness and I was in and out of there in no time. No ticket either. It was totally my day.
Then about 5 hours later, the baby is sleeping, I’m watching Dr. Phil and there was a knock on the door of my condo. Like most buildings, people have to be buzzed up and I did not buzz anyone up, so it was really odd, and annoying. I was on the fourth floor at the end of the hall, so it would be unlikely anybody would come to my door who wasn’t looking for me specifically.
Like she is wont to do, my dog was barking her German Shepard head off and the baby woke up and started crying and the Dr. Phil family was on, so I was pissed at whoever the hell was knocking on the door because it was a very bad time. I think the Dr.Phil Family dad was just about to meet his biological family for the first time and it was really going to be a moment. I mean, WTF? Can’t I watch Dr. Phil in peace? I checked the peep-hole to see if it was a serial killer, or if it was Oprah because you know, sometimes she surprises people and if it was her, I probably would have changed out of my pajamas and retrieved my binder with all of the letters I sent her starting in 1990. But it was not Oprah. And it was not a serial killer. It was two men. Dressed in suits. Looking super serious. WTF?
So I wasn’t sure what protocol was. I know that you’re not supposed to let men you don’t know, who you didn’t invite, in your house. I’ve seen enough Dateline Mystery!’s to figure this out. On the other hand, I also know from Oprah’s show that burglars and serial killers think dogs are a pain in the ass to deal with and my dog and her very deep German Shepard bark should have been a tip off that they should probably move on to my neighbor’s dog-less house to rob or murder her instead. But they didn’t leave. They seemed quite unperturbed by the dog. So WTF?
So I yelled through the door. “Who is it?” and that’s when they yelled back, “FBI.” Holy shit. For real? I wracked my brain for any offenses that I could have committed that they would send the FBI out for, and I came up with nothing. Then I started to panic because maybe BD was dead or someone in my family and it was a really bad thing because god damn, its the F-B-fucking-I. But don’t they usually send cops first to tell you bad news? What’s the FBI got to do with me? I didn’t witness a murder or anything. So then I rationalized that it was totally not the FBI because that didn’t make sense because I’m a good citizen and my family has to be okay. So the goal was to get these joker FBI imposters to go away. And I knew just the trick – I said what everybody learns at some point in their lives, though I’m not sure why or when.
“I need to see your badges.” They pulled out these ID card type things that looked a lot like the FBI badges I’ve seen on movies. I mean, what do I know about what a real badge looks like, and it isn’t like I could really get a good look at them through the peep-hole. So maybe this plan wasn’t all that good because they could be fake or real, who knows. But they still don’t seem to be afraid that I’m on to them. Holy Shit. The FBI – really? Then they took matters into their own hands. I think maybe they were used to this question, because every American knows that’s just what you do. I think. Just so you know they are real.
“We’re looking for [my full name]. Is this her residence?”
Oh my God. They’re after ME? What do they want? I’m totally panicking and trying to get my dog to shut up and wondering if I need to check on the baby. Maybe child protective services sent them. I wasn’t breastfeeding and I think that might be a capital offense by now. And now the baby is screaming and they’ll have more evidence against me.
“Um. Yes. But let me put the dog away.” I forced her into the bathroom. I thought if I didn’t they might shoot her because of all the noise she was making. I would have if I had been armed at the time. I went back to the door and opened it.
“Are you [my full name]?”
“I’m Sargeant [Whatever] and this is Agent [Whatshisface]. We’re with the Chicago bureau of the FBI. Did you attempt to mail a package from the post office located at [whatever the address was] this morning?”
“What was in the package?”
“Ba.by. form.u.la.” I drew it out. Trying to have more time to think through my crime.
“Who were you sending the package to?”
“Amazon. They sent it to me and it was broken, so I was returning it.” Now it dawns on me. Holy shit!! The box was full of white powder. Oh my God! Do they think I’m running a drug cartel?
“Miss, there was powder coming out of the box. The postal worker believed it may be an anthrax threat and the post office has been shut down for the last 4 hours while we examined the box and its contents.” Oh God. Worse than a drug lord. They think I’m a terrorist. And that is a really bad thing to be when Halliburton George Bush and Dick Cheney are running the country. Oh shit.
“Oh. My. God! I didn’t even think of that! It was baby formula! I just….I didn’t even think of that.”
“Well, it caused quite a problem.”
“Am I in trouble?”
“Do you want to go tend to your baby? I hear a baby crying.”
“Um. Yeah. But…so what happens now? This sounds like it could be bad. Because you’re here….Do I have to go with you, because I have the baby and there is nobody to take care of him, and maybe I should call my husband. Do I need a lawyer or something? I just mean I’m –”
“We just came here to let you know what happened. The box and its contents were tested and destroyed and what you told us checks out with the evidence we’ve collected in this investigation. However, your actions shut down a US government entity, which is a very serious issue. You’ll need to be more careful. Don’t ever try to mail anything with loose powder in the box again.”
“Yeah. I mean, no! I won’t! I’m so sorry. I just didn’t even think of it. So…um…so I’m not in trouble?”
“For now, no. We’ll contact you if we need to do any more follow up.”
“Better get that baby.”
And then they turned and left. And, shaking, I went to go “tend to” my baby. Wow. The FBI was after me. And I came out alive and untortured. It was a banner day.
So a week later after the ordeal became just another random, funny story to me instead of insanely fucking scary, I wrote Amazon a little love note about my pleasant little visit from the FBI due to the broken formula canister and how I wasn’t going to be able to send it back because the US Government fucking destroyed it, but I still wanted my money back. They gave me the refund.
So what can we all learn from this? Don’t try to mail a package with white powder coming out of it all over the place and abruptly leave. Yeah, I know. Well, maybe it isn’t that obvious to everyone. The other moral of the story is, ordering stuff from Amazon might get you in trouble with the FBI, but assuming they don’t turn you over to the CIA and fly you to a secret torture chamber in Europe, you should be alright. Amazon’ll give you your money back.
And the third moral of the story is that I’m kind of a bad ass. It’s how I roll.