July 23rd, 2007

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A Good DHL Experience

Since I recently complained about a less-than-stellar performance on the part of DHL, it's only fair that I also note a recent good experience I had with them.

On Monday of last week, I requested replacement earbuds for my iPod from Apple, since the right earbud had been losing volume ever since I got the device. Since I bought the device less than a year ago, Apple's policy is to replace the earbuds for free, on the condition that I return the defective ones. I went to their website to request a replacement, and they emailed me to say that a replacement had been sent and that the envelope would contain instructions on how to return my old set so I wouldn't get charged for the new ones.

On Wednesday, I arrived at home to discover that the earbuds were waiting at my front door. I thought this was odd, because Apple only has my PO Box address, so I expected to find them at the post office. Well, it turns out that Apple uses DHL to send out replacements. I've had the occasional experience in which a non-USPS carrier was given my PO Box and then just decided that trying to deliver the item in question wasn't worth it. In this case, though, DHL apparently tracked down my home address, most likely by checking with the Post Office to find out the home address of the Box owner. (For those of you who don't rent PO Boxes, when you rent one the Post Office asks for your home address and keeps it on record, for just this sort of possibility.) DHL then added a label to the package with my home address on it and delivered the package to my home.

As for returning the old earbuds, Apple uses a delivery label which can be ripped off, revealing a return label pasted underneath to the same envelope. I sealed my old earbuds into the envelope and left it at a DHL pickup box a block from my office. The pickup box was odd; it's basically a cabinet in a public mailroom with a recessed shelf on which packages can be left. In fact, someone else had left an envelope for DHL on the shelf already, which is how I knew I had the right place. I was mildly concerned that anyone could come by and steal the package, but I left it there anyway.

On Friday, I got an email from Apple saying that they had received my old earbuds and so I would not be charged for the replacement.

Kudos to DHL for this good delivery experience.
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Attending Parties in the Year of Mourning

As I began composing this post, I started to realize that I've been posting more often about Jewish issues than I ever expected to. Not sure if this means anything significant, but at some point I really ought to get back to things like science fiction and the Mets. Ahem.

What's prompting today's reflection is a few things. Tomorrow is Tisha B'Av, one of the most solemn days on the Hebrew calendar, and Wednesday, July 25, is the six-month anniversary of my Mom's death going by the Gregorian calendar. (On the Hebrew calendar, the six-month mark was 6 Av, which fell on this past Saturday.) Tisha B'Av itself marks the culmination of a period of national mourning, during which religious Jews tend to avoid scheduling weddings and other celebrations. After Tuesday, though, the restrictions will be over, and so a lot of celebrations will once again be taking place. Because of this, I've been thinking a lot about how someone in my current status under Jewish law is not supposed to attend parties.

To explain: during the year of mourning following a parent's death, there are certain restrictions one is supposed to place on one's activities. For example, one isn't supposed to attend live music performances. What I discovered right after Mom's death was that I wasn't in the mood to attend live music performances, and I'm still not; Mom's death seems to have had that effect on me.

And as I noted above, another thing one isn't supposed to do is attend parties or simchas (celebrations). However, there is a loophole, which is that if one is given a task or job to do for the celebration, then one is technically working the celebration and not attending solely to celebrate. (Also, if one's actual living comes out of attending parties, say as a party planner or a musician, one is allowed to attend.)

So, as in any year, I find myself invited to a variety of parties, and because of my status I've been dealing with them on a case-by-case basis. What I've tried to do this past year is strike a balance. Next week a woman I've known for a long time is celebrating her marriage with a party, and I was invited to attend. This is a simcha I dearly wish to be present at, so I made arrangements to be given a task to perform during the party. I also did something similar a while back to attend the engagement party for another friend. At the same time, however, I've tended to avoid parties that were unconnected to a specific celebration that meant something for a person.

Basically, if it's a life cycle event for someone I've known for a long time, I'm trying to find a task that allows me to attend; but if it's a casual party, and defined as such, I'm much more uncomfortable attending. And even in the first case, when I've been there, I've found myself feeling more out-of-place than usual. I actually left one party early because of my discomfort, even though I could justify my presence for a few reasons.

Is what I'm doing perfect? Probably not, but it's the best I can manage for the moment.