Shipping And Handling Cost

What’s your traveling mistake? Here’s mine, in Random Sample Review

Dawn Gernhardt

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Photo by Francesca Tirico on Unsplash

When asked about being an overseas volunteer — working for little pay and room and board in another country — people often make assumptions, saying things like, “Oh, you’re a giver!” or “You must be a good person.”

Not exactly.

Poverty, Inc. discusses the pros and cons of the “giving industry.” As for me, like most people, we’re muddling around, trying to be somewhat decent people out in the world. Well-meaning kindness can have surprising consequences. And sometimes “generosity” backfires like an old truck with a poor transmission.

At an airport in Senegal, traveling back to my volunteer assignment on the multi-island nation of Cape Verde, I thought I’d done my solid deed for the day.

Starting at check-in, I stood in line with one compact backpack. Due to my lack of checked bags, I obviously hadn’t stocked up on goods from the mainland — like all the other passengers flying home with stacks of boxes and bags — crammed with electronics, clothing, music, and more they’d be selling at their open-air market stalls and small corner stores.

Allotted two items for free, each extra item onboard cost several hundred escudos. The cost of bringing merchandise home cut into these small-time vendors’ profit margins or necessitated a high markup to account for large “shipping and handling” costs.

A sweet-looking, portly, middle-aged woman glanced at my one bag and approached. “I have so many bags and you only have one,” she said, conspiratorially, and low. “It won’t cost you anything to bring a second bag. Will you check in one of mine as yours? No one will know.”

In the days prior to 9/11, I considered being overseas in a small airport. Sure, I’d heard the constant warnings broadcast through crackling speaker systems around American airports.

“Don’t leave your bags and personal items unattended. Don’t take packages or candy from strangers. Report any suspicious baggage to authorities.”

Scary airport possible scenarios back home included hairy unabombers, smarmy drug lords, and strange substances leaking from oddly shaped totes. White powder in…

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Dawn Gernhardt

A writer: nonfiction in Random Sample Review and Pink Panther Magazine and humor in Defenestration, Wry Times, Funny-ish, and The Haven. Working on a novel.