Even though there’s rarely anything interesting or unexpected, I still love to get the mail. A magazine, a package from Amazon, even a packet of coupons from my grocery store – it’s like when I was a kid and would grab the prize in the cereal box before my little brother could get it. Though I usually expect what’s coming, and most of the time it’s not anything I want, the anticipation never grows old.
And then there was the day I got the package from a stranger.
I was watching “Scandal” on my DVR and waiting to leave for a weekend away when the mail arrived. I checked on my porch to see if there were any packages, which there were, of course (I wish I could quit you, Amazon Prime!). One of them, however, came from an unknown-to-me person in Jackson Heights, New York. It was a simple white package, heavily taped up, and it had a note on the top that said this:
DO NOT SHAKE!
DO NOT DROP!
DO NOT TURN UPSIDE DOWN!
As Olivia Pope contemplated poisoning the Vice President on “Scandal,” it occurred that what I was holding could be a dangerous package meant to do me harm.
As it dawned on me that the threats I’d been hearing about and reading about for a long time were finally reaching me in my little house by the beach, I gently placed the package back outside and called the local police department.
“Long Beach Police, how can I help you?” said the dispatcher.
“I received a package, and I don’t know who it’s from or what it is,” I replied.
Even as I was saying those words, I was imagining the dispatcher rolling her eyes at me, an overly-paranoid, politically obsessed middle-aged woman who was particularly anxious after watching Olivia Pope pushing cyanide-laced wine on Cyrus Bean (he didn’t drink it, FYI).
“I’ll send someone out to take a look,” the dispatcher said.
In the meantime, I started Googling the name and address of the sender, which was on the package. He looked like a nice enough guy, with two kids, and a Facebook page that seemed run-of-the-mill. He liked showing off his muscles, but that’s normal on social media.
When my husband arrived home, 45 minutes after I had called the police, who still had not shown up, I broke down in tears – afraid, sad, worried – and he called the police again. Our departure for the weekend would have to wait.
A few minutes later, two officers were at my door. They were concerned, but I could tell they were also a little doubtful. Why would anyone want to send me a dangerous package in the mail, I’m sure they wondered.
It was clear they hadn’t seen my Twitter feed.
I have become, in recent months, a Twitter maniac. All I want to do is have conversations with people who think differently than I do, but more often than not I get called names (libtard, elitist, idiot) and that’s the end of any quality discussions. The more I tweet, the more I understand how deeply divided our country is, and the more I understand how many furious people there are. It’s a fine line between challenging someone’s opinion and inviting personal attacks.
Maybe one of those Tweeters was really, really mad at me? It wasn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Where was Olivia Pope when I needed her?
Then one of the police officers asked me ”Have you ordered anything from eBay lately?”
At that moment, I knew I had overreacted. I ran to my laptop to check, and sure enough, a few days before I had bought 3 packages of Entenmann’s cakes that you cannot buy on the west coast for my brother for his birthday. He had been texting me links to them, reminiscing about our childhood and the pure bliss of crumb coffee cake and black and white cookies. How clever I thought I was, buying those for him – which I had completely forgotten about by the time the package arrived.
I apologized profusely to the two police officers, both of who were kind enough not to laugh at me and even told me of an episode a few weeks before when the same thing had happened with someone else (though I doubt they had bought Entenmann’s cakes).
Living in fear is something we all have grown used to in this post-9/11, Isis, school shooting, church massacre world. Our peace of mind has been rattled by a continuous loop of cable news, newspapers and, yes, Facebook and Twitter. That afternoon, for about and hour, I was convinced I was yet another innocent victim of a random act of violence.
Instead, this time, it was just cake.