This morning, my doorbell rang. I came to the intercom.
"UPS," came the reply.
I buzzed him in, and open my front door. Before me was a UPS deliveryman, Filipino or possibly some other kind of South Asian, with his hands behind his back. He was grinning in a vacantly pleasant way. He did not have any apparent sort of package.
Have I ever mentioned that people with their hands behind their backs make me a little nervous?
"Hello," I said.
There was an awkward, too-long pause. Tick-tock, tick-tock. He rocked back and forth on his heels once. The Jeopardy theme song began to play in my head.
By the way, the Jeopardy theme gets a lot of airtime in my head, especially during awkward moments. Have I ever mentioned that?
"May I help you with something?" I finally asked, wondering if I should prepare to defend myself.
He looked like someone had woken him up. His mouth broke into a wide grin, and he regarded me as one might a fast friend.
"Yes!" he said, with heavily-accented enthusiasm. He took two eager steps toward me. Okay.
"I have here," he exclaimed with reverence and obvious confusion, "a form."
His hands snapped from behind his back, and revealed a standard sheet of paper, folded and careworn. Sure enough, he did. I looked at it, then back at him. He looked back at me. I looked back at the form. So did he. His hand found his chin in a pensive expression. I looked back at him. He was clearly as confused about the nature of this form as I was. He looked back up at me. Smiled.
In my head, Jeopardy again.
"Well, this is a neat form, dude," I said, hesitatingly, "so what are we supposed to do with it?"
He drew a pen from his pocket. "I wish for you to sign it."
I took the pen, and looked at the form. There were no terms on the form; there was some internal tracking information that I couldn't understand, and then a box labeled SIGNATURE.
"What is this?" I asked.
His hand went back to his chin. He studied the paper some more. I further noted the creases and worn edges of the form. He had been studying this document for quite some time.
I could feel Jeopardy winding up in my head. Thankfully, he beat it to the punch.
"It is a form, sir."
Our eyes locked. We clearly did not have an understanding, here.
"The shipping center sent me to get you to sign this."
I was beginning to get annoyed.
"Okay, why am I signing it?"
He began to get annoyed in turn. After all, what else does one do with a form?
"Because it is a form, sir."
"I can't sign that without knowing what it's a form for, dude. You don't know what that form is for. I don't know what that form is for. I could sign that form and wake up tomorrow morning in a bathtub full of ice with only one kidney left, and when I call the police, they could say 'Well, we can't do anything about it; you signed the form'."
That was way too much information for him. His eyes became pleading. My imagination conjured up images of this man's career, nay, the life of someone close to him, or perhaps even his very soul hinging on my signing of this form. I imagined him, an archaeologist, digging up this magic form in the desert, and discovering prophetic texts stating that said magic could only be unlocked by the signature of a stocky, misanthropic yuppie from the South Side; I could see him kidnapping my regular UPS guy, and stealing his clothes to obtain it, and here he was, after years of research and hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles, foiled by my obstinate and uncommon refusal to sign a form I didn't know shit about.
My heart began to go out to him.
Also, Jeopardy began to play again. Can't have that.
"Alright, dude, I tell you what: I'll call the center, and we'll sort this out."
I deal a lot with the UPS shipping center for business, and happen to have their direct line. I dialed them on my cell phone.
"UPS, Dobson center."
"Hello, I'm [scathedobsidian] here at [my address], and there's a driver at my door with a form that doesn't have any real information on it. Can you tell me anything about that?"
"Yes, sir. Let me check your address... yes. That is a liability form for a computer that you returned to Systemax Systems two months ago, citing damage to the unit in the package."
"Okay, so what happens if I sign this form?"
"You accept liability for the damage to the unit, sir."
"Uh, miss, why in the name of God would I do that? That computer was worth $800, and it was damaged in shipping, not here."
"I don't know why you would sign that, sir. I just send out what they ask me to."
"You know that I'm not going to sign this, right?"
The driver looked crushed. The woman on the phone sighed.
"Well, I'd expect that you probably wouldn't."
"You guys really should start labeling this stuff. This is deceptive."
"Well, I guess that if we labeled it, nobody would sign it."
Dumbfounded, I hung up.
"I can't sign this," I said, handing the form and pen back to the driver.
"Very well," he said, storming down the stairs.
He waved the form in the air with his pen as he exited the front door.
"I'll be back!" he exclaimed.
Well, that was ominous.
That's the whole post, but you can find it here. QWP.