I know this is categorized in the “humor” section. But dear reader, please take note: Everything in this story is absolutely true, with no exaggeration or hyperbole.

I’m typing this in a food court overlooking a highway I’ve never traveled before. How did I get here? It all began when a representative from Diamond Comics Distributors and I had the following conversation, about a shipment of Guilded Age Volume 1 that they’d ordered, which I’d shipped just prior to (this will be important) driving to New York to attend a crossword tournament.

DIAMOND GUY: USPS seems to have cut off the mailing labels and shipped those without shipping the boxes. We’re missing 201 copies.
ME: …Why would someone do that?
DIAMOND GUY: Our best guess is they damaged the books.
ME: And so rather than take responsibility for the damage, they sent the labels so that the shipment would display to me as “delivered,” and hoped that either the recipient wouldn’t care, or that I wouldn’t believe the recipient over the electronic messaging?
DIAMOND GUY: That’s our best theory.

The good news was that Diamond wouldn’t demerit us for this mishap, or the resulting lateness of the books. Say what you will about Diamond, but they do give small publishers a few breaks that they’re not legally or economically required to give. The bad news was everything else.

So that was that. This left me with three tasks:

1) Nurse dark thoughts of revenge against USPS. So far, my plans on this front include:

a) Call them up and yell a lot
b) Call them up and just sort of casually mention how much debt they’re in
c) Call them up and point out that their name anagrams to PUSS, which is close enough to vulgar slang to be funny, if you say it and giggle like Beavis afterward.

2) Tell Phil, my co-writer, the bad news. This turned out to be surprisingly easy, “surprisingly” only because I was so upset about this I expected anyone else would be chair-throwingly upset too. Phil is cool to work with like that. He knew I was as frustrated as he was, so he didn’t rub salt in the wound. Much.

PHIL: I’m utterly stunned that you trusted USPS with this.

Well, Phiiil, the reason I’ve elected to use USPS in the past is their cheap, cheap media-mail rates, which have, up to this point, offset the occasional need for reshipment. I am never using them again, but while FedEx or UPS are more reliable, they’re also costlier. Which leads to point 3:

Guilded Age Volume 13) Ship replacement books. Thankfully, we had replacement books… we printed a boatload of Volume 1. Still, prices to ship them ran well into the hundreds, and I was wondering if I’d need to lean on friends or family to make that expense.

But in my talks with Diamond, one other option emerged.

I could drive the books up to Diamond’s New York warehouse in person.

Even with gas prices where they are today, that would be hundreds of dollars cheaper than either reliable service. I’m currently between full-time gigs (employers! See how dedicated I am to completing a task? Call me), so I’m rationing dollars, but flexible in the use of time. I’d had experience making long car trips before, and knew how to grab quick naps on the way. It would certainly be a memorable experience, if nothing else.

And this way, I could be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the mail service was doing what it was supposed to do. Because the mail service would be me.

What could go wrong?

To be continued.