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Hollywood Russell and the Hotel Hustle, Part One

27 Mar

March 27, 2014

hotel hustle

The beach was windy and cold, but more importantly for Hollywood Russell’s bank account, it was off-season. The beach was part of Brigantine Island, just a short hop from Atlantic City, and if you had a car and a mind to do so, you could drive around the perimeter of the island, see the sights, and be back where you started in about fifteen minutes.

Hollywood had been promising Stella Warren, his current not-a-girlfriend, a trip to Atlantic City for what Stella said had been months. Hollywood was sure he had mentioned it off-hand once, and only once (and while distracted by a case, at that) but a promise was a promise and in a P.I.’s line of work, it was important to keep promises. However, for Hollywood Russell, work always came first, and what he was hoping would come next would be a case where he could somehow put this trip to the capital gaming capitol on his expense account. But all of his recent cases were local and Stella was about ready to walk out on him, hence this off-season escape to the shore.

The Brigantine Hotel had seen better days, and Hollywood suspected that those days were around the 1890’s. It was a very tall building, easily the tallest building on the island, and impossible to miss since the rest of the buildings topped out at two stories. Add the fact that this pocket skyscraper was right on the beach, literally, with no other buildings even close, and you had a hotel that screamed “late night horror movie.”

brigantine 2

Sand from the beach had blown all over the parking lot, the front steps, and into the lobby. Water from large waves came all the way up and into the back entrance. While Stella oohed and ahhed over the location, Hollywood wondered what kept the hotel from sinking into the ground.

The vacationing detective got their bags from the trunk while Stella turned up her collar against the wind. “It’s too cold out here!” Hollywood grunted something about wearing more clothes and less makeup and led her through the front door.

There was no one there.

 

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To Be Continued

 

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Imponderable #120: The Sewers of Lawton, Oklahoma

20 Mar

March 20, 2014

In these tough economic times, every penny counts. And if that penny happens to be a 20 dollar bill, then it counts 2000 times. So when a man in Lawton, Oklahoma, dropped $20, it was entirely logical that he would want to get it back, even if it meant that he had to climb down a storm drain to get it. That’s where the story starts to get good.

sewer

I’ve never been in a storm drain. In fact, ever since I saw Pennywise in It (when you’re dead you’ll float!) I make sure to stay far, far away from sewer drains. My other experience regarding sewers comes from the movie Them!

 

So if I dropped $20 into a storm drain, would I go after it? No way, Jose. The water in those drainage pipes? It isn’t exactly clean. There’s a reason that Lawton man came out of water-filled sewer system disoriented and dehydrated. If that was the NYC sewer system, he’d also be covered in boils and CHUD bites.

If you dropped $20 into a storm drain, what would you do?

 

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United Parcel Service: Going Halfway Is OK By Us

10 Mar

March 10, 2014

mail innovations logo

The United Parcel Service (UPS) has a brilliant new delivery plan that is guaranteed to save them a fortune. It is ridiculously simple. They take your package and do not deliver it. Genius! They call it Mail Innovations and despite the name, it is not innovative. What other service does that? Why, the United States Post Office, that’s who!

And that’s the problem.

I ordered a book from Barnes and Noble on February 20th. As a member, I get free 1-3 day shipping. Great! So far, so good. This was a Thursday and on Friday the 21st I was informed by email that UPS had picked up my package and the estimated delivery was Monday, February 24th. When it did not arrive on Tuesday I followed the link they sent me and tracked it. Or to be more accurate, I tried to track it. The trail led to a dead end.

On Friday the 21st, the UPS not only picked up but delivered my book… to a US Post Office sorting facility in Staten Island, and not, as you would expect, my home in Brooklyn.  It turns out that UPS has a shipping service called Mail Innovations in which they pick up your package, zoom it across country, and deliver it not to you, but to your local post office, and they make the final delivery.

Sound stupid, right? I live in a large apartment building and UPS trucks stop here at a set time every day, sometimes twice a day. We are actually part of the UPS’ regular route.

And also, you may have realized that my local post office is not in Staten Island, another borough on the other side of Gravesend Bay, across the Verrazano Bridge, and most definitely not 8 blocks away.

Mail Innovations is an unholy alliance. UPS has generally been reliable, and the post office has been as dependable as your average election year promise. I always have trouble getting deliveries from them and usually go to the post office to complain. No good can come of Mail Innovations.

So when the book did not arrive on Tuesday I knew I had to go to the post office. I tracked the package on the post office site and they had the package arriving in Staten Island and, for the next three days, nothing. No movement. And on Wednesday, still no movement. This was four days of limbo, and so far I had been waiting five days for my guaranteed 1-3 day shipping. (I did not count Sunday.)

Average US Post Office facility.

Average US Post Office facility.

I went to the post office with a printout of the tracking, such as it was, and what did I learn? Nothing. They looked all over the post office and it was not there. They then sent me to the automated machine to track it and it spit out the same information- nothing for three days. This was, I must tell you, the same information they found when they looked it up themselves.  They then told me to call an 800 number and I could more information.

No I could not. The 800 number was automated and even less help then the post office tools. I then wrote a complaint on the website, sent an email to my local post office to complain, and lo and behold, the next day all kinds of shipping info became available. None of it good. After it finally left Staten Island, it arrived in Brooklyn, bounced around three different zip codes and two sorting facilities, and twice was in a nearby (but not my zip code) post office before bouncing away to the edges of the borough.

And then, on Saturday, March 1st, over a week after it left UPS and was handed over to the post office, my guaranteed 1-3 day delivery package was delivered to me.

Mail Innovations, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. And as usual, the US Post Office is the weakest link.

Thanks a lot UPS.

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