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DHL, Serial Disorder and T.S. Eliot


I am using DHL to ship for the first time and getting odd results. They charge a premium price but the service isn’t premium.

To hurry up a mineral identification I had my local shipping store send a tiny package to Canada using DHL. Or, at least I thought it was sent to Canada. At 5:05 PM I got a call from an unidentified number which I didn’t pick up. They did leave a voice mail, though, so I did listen to that.

It was Las Vegas DHL hub, saying that they had opened the package to inspect for customs and discovered a ten dollar bill. “We don’t handle cash so please call us back to let us know how we should proceed.” Darn. I often send small amounts of American money through the US Postal Service without any problem.

I immediately called back, only to get a recording that said the office was closed and to call back during regular business hours. Which turned out to be 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. What? An international shipping company that closes at five? There weren’t any online or phone resources to help me since the package hadn’t fully entered their system.

Delaying my trip for today, I called this morning and was told the package could proceed but that I would need to fill out a commercial shipping form. DHL marks everything that isn’t a document as commercial, even if the value of a package is worth nothing. Like my crystal samples. My postal store hadn’t told me anything about such a form.

The hub said I needed to come downtown to fill out the right form but then later agreed to e-mail me one I could fill out. Instead of a clickable .pdf, they sent an Excel file that dated back to 1997. Whatever. If you don’t have Excel, Google Sheets can be used to read Excel spreadsheets and save them in that .xls format.

With that filled out and e-mailed back, my package is now supposed to be on the move, fully 22 hours after I first dropped it off. I will now send a check through the USPS to Canada, hoping the mineral dealer will understand the delay.

Serial Disorder

During my conversation with the DHL rep, I constantly tripped over the waybill number. I had carefully written it down after listening to the voicemail, but the rep couldn’t get find it in their system. I thought it might be that my serial disorder acting up [internal link] but I hate to blame my own carelessness on my condition. Besides, how could I know if it was acting up at this moment? Maybe, in recalling this number, I was just being stupid. Like all my math teachers thought.

The rep finally looked up my account with my street address as a key. He then said I had been telling him the right numbers but they were mixed up. I hid a depressed sigh and said I understood. After getting off the phone, I sent a text to my brother who also lives in Las Vegas. I needed to pick up the air compressor he had borrowed. I said I couldn’t remember, was his apartment number 1146? The reply, 1164. It never leaves!

As I said in my previous post on high school, a terrible problem with math and this condition is that you can never safely double check your work. Even in being careful, there is no guarantee that your numbers will ever match up. A pox on all those self-righteous self-help advocates [internal link]  who say you can overcome anything with hard work and dedication. No, some things don’t bend neatly to the system that you are selling. Peddle something else other than guilt and blame.

T.S. Eliot

I was trying to remember a quote by Eliot and found out I was instead quoting myself. The line was, “By that virtue that leads you to the top of the stairs, think of me in my time of pain.” It describes the plea of a wretch condemned to the pit who sees Dante moving through Hell, finally alighting on a staircase, seemingly able to leave.

But I couldn’t track down the quote. Where was it? With Eliot, as with the writing of Kurtz in Heart of Darkness, “The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember.” Turns out the quote derives from the epigraph in ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. But not the published epigraph, a draft. I’m sure I read this draft in hardcopy a long time ago but the best explanation is now here:

“The draft version of the epigraph for ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ comes from Dante’s Purgatorio, Canto XXVI, lines 147-148:

‘sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor’.
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.

More fully (lines 142-148):

‘Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo jorn qu’esper, denan.
Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l’escalina,
sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor!’.
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina.

In his essay “Dante” (1929) [87] Eliot provided this translation (emphasis added):

‘I am Arnold, who weeps and goes singing. I see in thought all the past folly. And I see with joy the day for which I hope, before me. And so I pray you, by that Virtue which leads you to the topmost stair–be mindful in due time of my pain’. Then dived he back into that fire which refines them.

I may have reduced Eliot’s quote to what I was comfortable with, “By that virtue that leads you to the top of the stairs, think of me in my time of pain.” I can’t find that exact quote on the net. Thinking about it now, though, that distillation isn’t bad. Not bad at all.

Finally, Dante’s Inferno is well worth reading, just find the translation that works for you. Too often a classic book in a foreign language is intimidating because it is poorly translated. Too many students give up on great literature because a teacher assigned them a difficult to read version. Usually, like Eliot, the greatest writers and poets make the greatest interpreters.

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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