Merry xmas!: Avoiding a near tragedy!

Everything was set. We had gotten everything we needed to make sure that Haru would have a happy xmas this year, so we thought. We wanted to get Haru a bicycle more than anything this year, so we made a few trips to the department store to make sure we get the one Haru likes. Of curse we had to do this under the guise that Santa was going to bring this to her, which wasn’t easy. Luckily, she is still a strong believer in Santa Claus, so we were able convince her that we were going to tell Santa exactly what she wanted.

A week before xmas, we were able to narrow it down to the exact model she wanted. The bike is called Hard Candy, a single speed, 18 inch, pink colored bicycle complete with a cargo basket, hand brakes, and floating red hearts on the frame. It was easily far more expensive than any bike I ever owned as a kid, including the $150 Schwinn Sprint 12-speed bike that I had in junior high school. But, that’s just the way things are these days: ridiculously expensive -especially in Japan. In Haru’s eyes, it was the most beautiful bike in the world except for one thing. The model on display at the nearby department store had baby blue colored seat and tires, and part of the fenders were also dressed in baby blue which Haru didn’t really like. She wanted the bike to be completely pink , but unfortunately, the only model that was available in the colors that Haru wanted was 16 inches -a bit too small.

Rather than risk getting the 16 inch model and having Haru (whose growing an average of 1cm a month now), and having grow out of it before she even starts elementary school, we asked if we can order the all-pink model in the 18 inch size. The store manager assured us that it shouldn’t be an issue IF the warehouse has them in stock. The problem was that the warehouse was closed until the following Monday, and if it turns out that it wasn’t available, we would have to scramble to get a bike, and perhaps risk getting something she doesn’t even like. Since we couldn’t do anything anyway until the following Monday, we went ahead and ordered the all-pink model and crossed our fingers that it would be in stock and sent to us on time.

On the following Monday, we got a call from the departments store manager. It was bad news. The 18 inch, all-pink, single speed, Hard Candy bicycle complete with a cargo basket, hand brakes, and floating hearts on the frame, were COMPLETELY out of stock. It was officially time to scramble.

While my wife made calls to different shops around town to see if the carried the same or similar model, I spent the morning surfing the web from work. My wife had no luck. Most places were either out of stock, or didn’t carry the model at all. I managed to find a few places on the net that did carry the exact model that Haru wanted, but since it was now less than week from xmas, none of them could guarantee delivery before xmas. Most places needed at least 3 days for time to assemble the bike, and then another 2 to 3 days to deliver. It was 7 days until xmas eve, which means that if everything went right, we might get the bike by the 24th. I scoured the net for at least another hour until I found what was the closest thing to guaranteed delivery before xmas eve.

I found a site that stated that they could deliver before the 24th IF the order is placed 6pm, but it was a best effort and not a guaranteed delivery. I still had some time before the 6pm deadline, so I emailed the company and asked them if they could really deliver on time. They replied an hour later stating that they could ship it out in a day or so, but it would be entirely up to the delivery company to deliver by the designated date, and that if it didn’t rain or snow heavily, that the chances were pretty good that they could have it delivered by the 21st. This was perfect! Haru would still be in kindergarten class on the 21st which means we could have it delivered without her catching on. I ordered the bike immediately.

For the next 3 days, I tracked the bike’s progress religiously on the company’s online progress tracking page. By the second day, the bike was fully assembled and ready for shipping. If weather permitted (and according to the weather forecast, it was a good outlook for at least the next several days) the bike would be delivered on Friday -4 days before xmas. Although the chances of an on-time delivery looked good, I was rehearsing excuses to give to Haru just in case the delivery is delayed for some reason. I didn’t think it was a good idea to say that Santa had forgotten, so the best I could think of was to tell her that Santa’s sleigh must have broken down, and that he was running a day late. It was such complicated answer to give to a 5 year old for such a simple situation, but all I could do was hope she’d understand and most of all, buy my lame excuse.

On Thursday evening, the day before the expected delivery, the courier’s tracking site was reporting that the bike had arrived at the courier’s base in Yokohama, and was being staged for delivery. I was deeply relieved to know that the bike was on-time. Now it was just a matter of hiding the bike in the garage underneath the car cover when it finally arrived the next day.

* * *

The following day was the last day of work for the rest of the year, and the last day of kindergarten class for Haru until 2013. When I arrived at work, I immediately checked the courier’s tracking site to see where the bike was. The status hadn’t changed from the previous evening, but I wasn’t too concerned. I figured it wouldn’t change until the bike was finally delivered later that morning as I requested in my order.

The morning came and went. I checked the tracking site again at about noon, and the status had yet to change. At that moment I got a text message from my wife: “It hasn’t arrived yet”. Highly irritated, I phoned the carrier to get an explanation of the late delivery. It was already 1pm and Haru was already home from kindergarten. It was too late to deliver without having her find out that it wasn’t Santa who delivered her bike, but it was in fact Seino delivery company. After I gave the tracking number and all of the details of the shipment, the woman at the other end casually asked, “what’s the problem?” I felt blood rush to my head but tried to keep calm as I explained to her that the problem is that I explicitly asked that the bike be delivered in the morning, and it was already the afternoon. She gave me a very fake sounding apology and told me that she would have the driver deliver immediately. I then explained to her that there was a VERY specific reason that the package needed to be delivered in the morning and not any later, and that EXPECTED that since the delivery offered to the option to deliver at a specific time of day, that they would honor without giving excuses. Again a fake apology.

I told her to have the driver call me wife and schedule a time in which it is safe to deliver, and hung up. 20 minutes later, I got a a text message from my wife saying that she had rescheduled the deliver for the next day and specifically instructed the driver to call 10 minutes before he comes so that she can get Haru out of the house. The driver agreed.

* * *

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012. It was crunch time. We all got up early despite it being a Saturday. My wife and I anticipated a phone call to come from the driver at any minute as Haru quietly watched TV, completely oblivious of the scheming and planning that had gone on to get her a new bicycle in time for xmas. At the moment, we heard the familar roar of a two ton diesel delivery truck roll up our street and stop directly in front of our house. My wife and I looked at each other with astonishment and then at Haru who was still watching TV completely unaware of the complete panic that was about to take place.

The door bell rang and the video intercom immediately flashed a real time view of the delivery man unloading a fully assembled and ready to ride, pink colored single speed 18 inch Hard Candy bicycle, complete with a pink seat, tires and fenders, cargo basket, hand brakes, and floating hearts on the frame. Haru ran to the video intercom screaming “I’ll get it!!!” My wife immediately intercepted her and covered her eyes, “Your father will get it; it his car parts -nothing interesting,” she said.

I sprinted to the front door, as Haru screamed, “I want to see!”, in the distance. I jumped outside and ran down the steps and was greeted by the delivery man who already had the bike off the truck and in full few of the video camera for the video intercom. I hastily instructed him to put the bike in garage and immediately covered it up with the car cover. The delivery man looked at me as if I had gone mad. I gave him the most angry glare I could muster up at the moment. “Do you people know how to follow instructions? THIS (as I pointed to the bike) was suppose to be here YESTERDAY MORNING,” I screamed.

“A woman told me to deliver it today,” the man responded.

“Did she not ask you to call FIRST before showing up, since YOU obviously had forgotten to deliver it yesterday,” by now I was furious. Don’t respond! Just nod your head, apologize, and LEAVE, before I give you a ripping of a lifetime, I thought in my head as if he could hear what I was thinking.

“Oh, yes…I forgot!” he said unapologetically.

“YOU FORGOT??!?!” I yelled, “Are you the regular delivery driver for this area?” I asked in complete disbelief of his complete disregard of specific instructions given to him.

“Yes.” He said, almost regretfully.

“Don’t EVER show up in front of this house EVER again without calling first! Got it?”

He turned and shrugged as if he were use to people yelling at him. From the reputation of his delivery company, they rarely follow delivery instructions, which I later learned from various online reviews, so the driver was probably perfectly use to people being angry with him.

I went back into the house somewhat expecting that the cat would be out of the bag. Haru probably saw the bike and now knows that her bike was not being delivered by Santa, but by a straggly middle aged man in a light green jumpsuit, unkept hair, and a partially grown beard. From this day forward, her belief in the existence of an old, overworked, morbidly obese man with hefty three syllable laugh, long shaggy beard, in red and white long underwear is no more, and she probably knows now that the reality is that all presents are delivered by delivery trucks in which the driver gets hollered at by her ill-tempered father for not following instructions. From this day forward, a part of her innocence will be forever lost because of a man who couldn’t remember the day of the week, the time of day, or to call when being told to call before delivering a package so that the child in the family continues to be an innocent child until she is ready to know the realities of life. She will never write letters Santa, or make a wish to Santa when she sees something on TV that she wants ever again. I was deeply saddened and not ready to accept all of this.

As I entered the living room, Haru was watching TV again, and turned to me and asked, “where is your car part?” I looked at my wife and she signaled to me that everything was okay and that she didn’t see anything. “It’s in the garage, where it belongs,” I responded…whew..what a day!





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Another Year Another Tree

Last weekend, we went Xmas tree hunting.   Like last year, I wanted to get a real tree, instead of the usual artificial tree, but real trees are pretty rare in Japan.  We got our tree from Ikea (the Swedish furniture store) last year, because they have a deal where you can buy an Xmas tree, and get a coupon if you take it back to them when you are done with it.  Its a good deal, because the tree is then pretty much free.  However, this year the trees sold out early.  They sold out in November, a few days after Thanksgiving, so we were out of luck.

Rather than breaking out the old tiny desktop Xmas tree, we looked for another artificial one.  I really wanted a real one, because I like the way makes the whole room smell like pine, but I didn’t want do Xmas without a tree.  I want to make sure that Haru has good memories of having an Xmas tree every year complete with presents.

Real trees bought anywhere else besides Ikea would be expensive, and of course there is no tree to exchange deal, so you’re stuck with having to throw it away yourself..  So we went to a nearby flower/DIY shop and  found a nice assortment of artificial trees…nothing real, except for “live” trees that cost many hundreds of dollars.

So after much deliberation, we decided to get another artificial free.  This is the biggest tree we’ve ever had.  It’s 150cm tall, so the tree is taller than Haru this year.  The fun part was that Haru was able to help us decorate the tree.  Previously, she didn’t understand the concept of Xmas trees enough to know how to decorate them, but this year she actually made some ornaments out of some her toys and hung it on the tree.


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