A lifetime ago, my Nana Beem sat in her maroon platform rocker in the front window of her Ludlow Street home in Portland and watched her favorite soap operas. I hadn’t seen the old rocking chair since Nana died in 1987 until a few weeks ago when my brother Paul, who had had it in a guest room for 32 years, dropped it by for safe keeping.

I offered it to anyone in the family who might want it for sentimental reasons. One of my Georgia cousins spoke for it and thus began a wild goose chase getting a worthless rocking chair shipped from Maine to Georgia.

Calls to UPS and FedEx came up with estimates between $500 and $1,000 to ship it, so I figured that was the end of that. But no. My cousin wanted the rocker to surprise his mother, Nana Beem’s sole surviving child, and he offered me $1,000 to drive it down myself.

That Friday I drove to the FedEx office out beyond the Maine Mall and was told the chair was too big for them to ship. They sent me to the FedEx office at the Pine Tree Shopping Center, where I was given an estimate of a mere $329. The catch was that they could not ship boxes bigger than 36 by 33 by 31 inches. Because they did not have such a box, they sent me to Maine Shipping & Packaging Supply over on Riverside Drive. Yes, sir, they could make a box that size for $46.

On Monday I borrowed my son-in-law’s pickup truck and took the rocker to Maine Shipping & Packaging Supply. The box maker measured it and said he could make a box for it within FedEx specs. But when I went to pay a deposit on it, the woman in the office made sure I understood that what I was buying was a flat, folded box.

“But I thought when I came back the chair would be in a box?”

“I’m afraid we’re not a packaging company,” the sympathetic woman in the office told me.

“But the name of the company is Maine Shipping & Packaging,” I objected.

“Supply,” she added.

Well, I went ahead and ordered the box anyway, figuring I’d have the FedEx folks help me box it up. But later that day, the box lady called to say the box maker had not allowed for the fact that the rocker is taller when upright than when standing, so the box would have to be 40 by 33 by 31 – too big for FedEx.

When I returned to pick up the rocker, the helpful woman at Maine Shipping & Packaging (Supply) referred me to Sure Express, a shipping and packaging company out behind Allagash Brewing on Riverside. I took the rocking chair over there and the woman in the office told me they could crate it and freight it to Georgia for $550. Not just some flimsy cardboard box either, but a sturdy crate with the chair bubble wrapped inside. Deal.

In talking to the freight lady about all the running around I had done, she informed me that FedEx Freight out on Presumpscot Street could have shipped it for me with no size restrictions. Funny, the folks at FedEx Office never mentioned that.

Oh well, in the end, Nana’s rocker made it to Georgia and my Aunt Jan was most pleased to have it, so it was worth my time and my cousin’s money.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.


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