The Russians have the Winter Olympics.
They also have a box of 60 small, plastic goose-shaped night lights that were intended for veterans who served aboard the USS Honolulu, a World War II ship nicknamed the Blue Goose.
Just how the trinkets wound up in the former Soviet Union, instead of in southwest suburban Frankfort, remains a mystery, obscured by miscommunication and contradictory tracking numbers.
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Frankfort, IL, USA
"It is crazy," said Cynthia Reynolds, who ordered the night lights from a toy company in China. "It's kind of frustrating. If it had been mittens or something, I wouldn't have even cared. But when it comes to the men of the Honolulu, I get all fired up."
For Reynolds, it's personal. Her late grandfather was a Marine aboard the naval cruiser during World War II.
How she got involved with buying night lights for veterans traces to a shopping trip to an Aldi near her house several years ago.
Reynolds saw a car in the parking lot with "USS Honolulu" on its license plates. She tracked down the owner and learned that he had served on the ship. The veteran told Reynolds he was helping plan a reunion for the men of the Honolulu, and asked if she wanted to help.
"The next thing I knew, I was running them," she said of the gatherings.
Last year's reunion, at the Palmer House in Chicago, attracted a dozen USS Honolulu veterans and about 50 of their relatives. Because of the vessel's nickname, Reynolds had ordered 10 of the blue goose night lights from a toy company in China, to be handed out as prizes.
The trinkets were a hit. Afterward, several family members asked Reynolds if she could order more.
She contacted the Chinese toy company and was told the night lights were sold out.
In January, she ordered 60 from another Chinese company, paying $180, shipping included. The company sent her a tracking number for the package, which was supposed to be delivered via express mail.
The tracking number shows that the box left Shanghai on Jan. 24, arrived in Chicago the next day, then cleared customs Jan. 28.
A day later, the package was delivered — to an apartment in Lincoln, Neb.
Upset that her night lights went to the wrong address, Reynolds contacted the U.S. Postal Service. She said that in a series of calls to postal workers in Illinois and Nebraska, she was given confusing and sometimes conflicting information.
Thinking her package was lost somewhere in the Great Plains, Reynolds emailed What's Your Problem?
"These men are my heroes, and I know it seems silly to be upset about little goose night lights, but if that is what makes them smile or feel good, then I'm going to make sure they have it," she said.
The Problem Solver contacted Beverly Howard, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service. Howard did some sleuthing and discovered that the tracking number Reynolds received from the Chinese company was for a different package, which was correctly delivered to the Nebraska address.
Howard then spoke to Reynolds, instructing her to look up the customs number the toy company provided. Reynolds typed in that number on an Internet search and found that the package had apparently been sent from China on Jan. 20 and was delivered to an unknown address in Russia.
A Chinese-based online tracking system shows that the package was marked as an "unsuccessful delivery" Feb. 8. Reynolds was floored.
"It's the freakiest story," she said. "You couldn't even make this up if you tried."
Resigned to the fact that the shipment would never arrive, Reynolds contacted her credit card company and disputed the $180 charge. She expects the credit card company to return the money to her account, then retrieve the $180 from the company in China.
Reynolds then ordered 60 blue goose night lights from a different Chinese toy company.
The silver lining? That company charged her $130, meaning that, in the end, she will save $50.
That assumes, of course, that the shipment of night lights arrives at her Frankfort home. She said the most recently contacted toy company has not yet supplied her with a routing number, but she's hopeful.
"I'm like, holy moly, how much stranger can this get? It's like a 'Twilight Zone' episode," she said. "But the veterans will love this story. They really will."