Back in D.C.—with more than two months to go before we could return to Vieques to put the downstairs level in order—we asked ourselves what we could accomplish in the meantime.
We couldn’t easily buy more furniture without another kamikaze San Juan shopping spree, but we could order smaller decorative items and ship them down.
First up: rugs.
I’ve always liked seagrass rugs…
…which I associate with tropical interiors, so I began surfing the Internet for carpet vendors.
Our criteria were simple enough. We wanted rugs that were: (a) stylish; (b) reasonably priced; and (c) easily shipped to Puerto Rico.
Sounds easy, right?
I might as well have been trying to ship a Hummer to Micronesia.
After several frustrating hours I stumbled across a Web site offering a whiff of promise—the rugs were attractive, the prices were within our range (though near the top), and the drop-down “shipping destination” list included Puerto Rico. I decided to call.
The man who answered the phone was a dead ringer, vocally, for Foghorn Leghorn, the windbag rooster from Looney Tunes cartoons.
“Where are you from?” I couldn’t help asking after a few moments of preliminary chat, half expecting him to say the Warner Brothers animation department.
“Chahlston,” he replied. “In the great state of South Carolina.” A pause. “And how about you, sonny?” I’m not making this up, he actually called me “sonny.”
“Oh mah.” I was surprised he didn’t say “shut yo mouth.” Having obviously decided the less said the better about our nation’s capital (which, after all, was Union territory during that unfortunate act of northern aggression sometimes known as the Civil War)…
…he launched into the business portion of our call. “And Wawshington is whey-ah you all want yo roogs shipped?”
“Actually, no. I need them shipped to Puerto Rico.”
“Puerrrrto Rrrico,” he repeated, in a mock Spanish accent overlaid with a thick Southern drawl.
“That’s right,” I confirmed, fully prepared for him to tell me gasp and tell me that such a thing was “impawsible.”
But he barely missed a beat. “They-ah ah no problems, my yoong friend,” he said, “just solutions.”
“Actually our place is on an island off the coast of Puerto Rico,” I countered, determined to burst his Southern fried bubble. Surely that would give him pause.
But not a bit of it. “If Federal Express goes they-ah, we can get you yo roogs.”
I’d heard this before, too. American’s faith in Federal Express is almost touching in its unshakability. It’s right up there with fad diets and Oprah (or a combination of the two).
But we had learned the hard way that FedEx in Puerto Rico is a very hit-or-miss sort of enterprise, dependent on the whims of its lackadaisical local staff. Also—and I truly dreaded breaking this particular news to Colonel Sanders lest he go into cardiac arrest—our house didn’t have an address. Neither street nor number.
“FedEx isn’t all that dependable on Vieques,” I tried instead.
This elicited a hearty belly laugh. “I’m sure they can find yo little hacienda,” he gurgled merrily.
“I wouldn’t bet the farm on it,” I went on. “We don’t even have a street address.”
There followed a pause so pregnant it needed an obstetrician. “Uh, how’s that?”
Or so I thought…