Sometimes I look, fascinated. At tracking info, that is. I once ordered an item from Montreal, which is, I’m told, in the province of Quebec, Canada. The estimated shipping time was five days. It ended up being quite the tourist package. Its first US port of call was Plattsburgh, New York, which makes sense. The strange thing is the Canadian tracker didn’t include the states—just town names, all of them small, as if this were a covert operation. From Plattsburgh it went to East Syracuse, because, well, who wouldn’t want to go to East Syracuse? From there it leapt right over Pennsylvania, where I live, to Hodgkins, Illinois. This is a town so small that you really have to be a fan of package vacations to find it. From there it went to Maumee, Ohio. It seemed to be heading in the right direction, in any case. Maumee led to Middlebury Heights, still in Ohio. Finally it reached Pennsylvania, in New Stanton, not terribly far from my childhood home. Then Carlisle, about halfway through the state. Finally to Easton, from which it reached me. Surprisingly, on time.
Logistics baffle me. I had it drilled into me as a child that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Montreal is about 400 miles from here, pretty much straight north. I wouldn’t venture to tell UPS (the carrier in this instance) how to do its job, but when you’re ordering something carbon neutral (that, of course, you can’t get close to home) it feels kind of excessive to have to stop in so many small towns only to skip the destination state by flying from New York to Illinois so you can drive it back to Pennsylvania. Logistics people need jobs too, I guess.
Amazon has made many people ask why things can’t arrive more quickly. The fact is, shipping companies have their own protocols. It’s like when you have to fly south from a regional airport to get onto a flight north. You have to reach a hub where they know how to direct your package. And if your item requires sea freight, well, all bets are off. There may be no tracking points between Shanghai and Los Angeles. No matter how much some people may say they hate it, we live in a global society. We rely on China, and Canada, and everywhere else, to make life go in these United States. Even following your tracking information can, in that way, be an exercise in thoughtfulness as well as a learning experience.