Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Today’s tribulations brought to you by my own carelessness

Once upon a time, when on my way to Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia for the Deformation in the Desert conference, I exhibited an unfortunate tendency towards absent mindedness, when I left my poster tube on the bus from the airport when I got out at my hotel. Fortunately, the hotel staff was willing to call the bus company, and they dropped the tube off for me on their next loop around, so no harm was done.

As a result of this history, I resolved to print my poster for AGU here in the US, rather than bringing it with me from Europe, as I knew there would be any number of opportunities between departing and arriving at my final destination to misplace an important item. This decision came with two additional advantages 1) more time to complete the poster and 2) not needing to worry about the recent tendency of the airlines to severely restrict how much carry-on baggage their clients may bring with them. However, this plan, as so many do, encountered a minor change. While my poster is still being printed on this continent, one of my colleagues called me on the Wednesday before I left asking if I would be willing to carry a poster to the meeting for them, since I was not flying until Friday, and the others on my research team were leaving on Thursday. I agreed, and the poster was delivered to my office on Thursday evening.

I successfully carried the poster with me to California, managing to keep my hands on it through customs and the change of plane in New York, and when disembarking in San Francisco. I kept it with me for the trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where I stayed with friends, and kept it with me for the trip to Berkeley for a Medieval Event. I even kept it with me when transferring to another car in Berkeley for the journey to San Rafael, where I transferred to yet another car before heading on to Petaluma on Saturday evening, though I managed to leave my pillows in the car in Berkeley. Unfortunately, after adventuring on Point Reyes on Sunday with friends I failed to put the poster back into the car before heading to Oakland for a Hanukah party (Judaism optional, our host said) at another friend’s house. We didn’t realize the mistake until they dropped me off in San Francisco on Sunday evening. I told my friends that the poster in the tube needed to be on display on Tuesday, and they assured me that they would bring it to the city on Monday.

Relieved that the problem would be solved in plenty of time, I wished them a good night and sent them on their way. However, on Monday I received a Facebook message from my friend letting me know that it was cheaper to send the poster tube to me via FedEx than to drive back down to the city again, so they did, and it should be delivered the next day. I thanked her, and didn’t really think about the timing issues, until later that evening, when I looked at my schedule, and realized that the next day was Tuesday, which is when the poster needed to be on display. Unfortunately my friend was no longer on line, I didn’t have a phone number for her, and she hadn’t given me a tracking number for the shipment.

I went to sleep Monday night hoping that FedEx would do the delivery first thing in the morning. They didn’t. I checked Facebook to see if she had replied to my request for a tracking number. She hadn’t. I tried calling another friend, for whom I did have a phone number, to see if I could get the number of the friend who had done the shipment, but he wasn’t answering. I consulted my schedule, and realized that there were two talks on Tuesday morning that I really, really shouldn’t miss (post on them later, I hope), starting at 10:20. Since it is an hour walk to the conference venue from where I am staying, I decided to leave at 9:00, and then return after the two talks (which meant canceling a lunch meeting with another friend). Accordingly, after the talks (which I enjoyed), I took a cab back to the house, in hopes that it had been delivered and I could rush it straight back to the conference. No poster tube. I checked Facebook. No reply. I called the friend whose number I had, he answered and gave me the phone number for the friend who had done the shipping. I called her. She couldn’t find a tracking number on her receipt, but she could find some other numbers, and she had a number for FedEx. Called FedEx. They managed to find the shipment without the tracking number, and told me that it was in Sacramento and hadn’t been sent to San Francisco yet. He also said that the sender could change the delivery address, but I couldn’t. I called her back and asked her to call them to arrange delivery directly to the conference, which she did. It still hadn’t been delivered in the time it took to return to the conference and type up the following, which I posted on the poster board. It is a sorry substitute for the poster they worked so hard on, but it is better than a blank wall, I think:


A Public Apology

Poster # V23C-2074, The basal fallout and surge deposits of the mafic ignimbrite-forming Villa Senni Eruption Unit, (Colli Albani volcano, Italy), was hand-carried safely from Italy to California on behalf of its authors. However, do to carelessness on my part, was inadvertently left behind in Petaluma on Sunday. The problem was discovered as I was dropped off in San Francisco that evening, and my hosts agreed to bring the poster tube in to the city during the day on Monday.

Unfortunately, it turns out that I failed to communicate the urgency of the need to have the poster delivered on Monday, and they chose to send it via FedEx that morning, rather than doing the drive back to the city themselves. As of 14:00 Tuesday, the day the poster is meant to be on display, FedEx has still not delivered the package.

I hereby apologize for the inconvenience to everyone who was interested in viewing this poster, and assure you that if the delivery is made before 18:30 I will put the poster up promptly. Unfortunately, FedEx gives their drivers the option to deliver at any time between 08:30 and 20:30, so it is possible that it will not arrive before it is time to remove it. The fault is entirely mine.


I signed the apology with my full legal name, but not the name of my University, as they don’t need their name associated with my failure to get the poster where it needed to be in a timely manner. I also printed a copy of the abstract and posted it, as well. If you would like to see this abstract, go to the AGU session planner and search for the poster number.

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