I must preface this morning's rambling with a few words. The "incident" of which you are about to read took place about one month prior to 9-11. I have always looked back on this experience with humor. Humor mainly over the events that took place(Of which I take full responsibility) leading up to the "incident." Please do not in anyway think that I am making light of the USAF, or its members. The proper protocol was being followed as the safety of the base and the people on it were of major concern. The tragedy of the following month more than validates how the situation was handled by the Air Force.
The kids and I had only been in Biloxi, MS for about two weeks. My husband had already deployed. We were brought to Mississippi by the military for my husband's current special duty assignment with the Navy SEABEES in Gulfport.
I was on my way home from dropping my older three children off at school that morning. Rose, who was two at the time, was with me. As I drove into military housing, I saw a security police car pass me in the opposite direction. I immediately checked my speed. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that the SP had turned around. "Great and what did I do" were my initial thoughts? When I got out of the car, he addressed me by name. Panic set in. Did something happen to my husband? This current deployment had him working with explosives. As the Airman started to explain why he was here, I started to relax. Apparently, a suspicious package had arrived at the base post office. It was addressed to my husband. There was no return address, no postage and to make matters worse, the package had oil stains! Do you see where this is going?
Relief! I knew what it was. It was the package I had mailed prior to leaving Hawai'i. It is now necessary that I give a brief history on the package in question.
After our initial packing up of our household goods (about two months before we would be leaving), some items were forgotten. My husband's ratchet set and about 5 bottles of ArmorAll. We would have one more pack up about a week before leaving. This was a small container of "necessary" items that would arrive at our destination quickly. My hubby said to be sure these forgotten items were in that packing. Really, ArmorAll?! Is it that important?! Hubby had to leave 2 months ahead of us for training, so he was entrusting the care of his ArmorAll to me. As you will see, this was a mistake on his part!
Final pack up day arrives, and I sort of forgot about the ratchet set and the ArmorAll. Was this my subconscious trying to get rid of the blasted ArmorAll? I could give the stuff away, and then just tell hubby it got lost in the move. I have done this before. Hubby: "Honey, have you seen my soccer cleats?" Me: "Why, no sweetie, they must have gotten lost during the move." Mind you, I got rid of those cleats two PCS's (Permanent Change of Station) back, and he is just now noticing he no longer has them.
Alas, some of my items got left out of this pack-up, so I needed to pack everything up and send it on in the mail. This was mistake number #2. Mistake #1 was forgetting the items in the first place! I put together a rather large box, full of the ArmorAll, ratchet set and some minor items of mine. I wrapped the box in brown paper (mistake #3). I addressed it to my husband's P.O. Box at the base in Mississippi, and finally, I put a return address label on the box (mistake #4). I mailed it from the main post office at Honolulu International Airport.
Rose and I climbed into the SP car to be taken to the base. The Airman radios into the base commander, General***** that we are on our way. OMG! They called in General ***** over my box of ArmorAll? Once we are on base and close to the post office, I notice that they have cordoned off a wide area around the post office. I say to the Airman, please let me look at the package as I can confirm that I sent it, and it is safe. He relays this information to the General who says absolutely not! (I bet General Hammond would let Carter check it!) In the meantime, I can hear the chatter over the radio. They are getting the robot ready to go in to check the package, as well as some talk of fire hoses! Can it get any worse? At this point, the Airman has been told to take me back home.
Needless to say, I was stewing for the rest of the day. Frankly, I was worried about that damn ArmorAll! (Seriously, I was feeling terrible over what had unfolded due to my lack of forethought.) Later that afternoon, I went over to my neighbor to talk to her about the "incident." Her husband overheard the conversation and came out, saying, "That was YOU?!" (Did I mention that he was the Chief of the Security Police at the base?) Me: "Yeah, that was me--sorry." I then asked for any news on my package. He told me to wait about 1-2 days, then I could pick it up from the base post office. Fantastic! Now, you are probably thinking the story ends here. Not quite.
After two days, I went to the post to pick up the package only to be told that I have to pay the postage. "Excuse me, " I said, "Do you really think that the post office in Hawai'i would ship a package (that cost me $50, I might add) for free?" We are all about Aloha, but not $50 worth of Aloha! "You do understand that I paid for this package to be shipped? One of the reasons this "incident" occurred was the fact that the postage label fell off along with the return address label." After my tirade, I was told to furnish a receipt, and I could get my stuff. Normally, this would have been a problem, but as fate would have it, a receipt existed some where in Hawai'i. At the time I was mailing this box, I was sending out some mail for a certain organization(the one that is the foremost authority in the world on breastfeeding). Both transactions were on one receipt. We had the best ever treasurer, to whom I gave the receipt; and of course, she filed that receipt. A phone call later, a copy of said receipt was out in the mail.
About a week later, I am back at the base post office with the copy of the receipt in hand. I turned over the receipt. After scrutinizing the paper, I was then told by the clerk that I still owed postage. Apparently, I was not charged for the full weight of the package. My response was that "there was no way that the Main Post Office at Honolulu International Airport would make this mistake! And did it occur to you that the damn package weighs more now as the box and its entire contents were drenched by a fire hose?!" After the clerk conferred with the supervisor, I was told that indeed, I did not owe any extra postage, and I could drive around back to pick it up. And there it was.....a soaked box that looked like it had indeed exploded with the contents all over the place. And there was every last bottle of that ArmorAll! By the way, we are still transporting this stuff with every PCS; however, I did learn my lesson: Never, Never Send ArmorAll in the mail!
Unfortunately, for my husband, this was only the first of "incidents" to come that have forever ingrained our family name into the the history of the USAF.