Unreasonable Fear #1: Mailboxes

I had six letters to mail today. It is rare that I mail letters, so six in one day was a big deal… and it caused me a lot of anxiety.

I have no “outgoing mail” box in my apartment building. Some tenants just leave outgoing letters sticking out of their individual box so that the postman will see it and take it, but I don’t like to do this. Instead, I deposit my mail into one of the blue streetside mailboxes. Today, I was walking out my door to go jogging, and it seemed like a good opportunity to drop off the mail. The depository two blocks north of my apartment, however, seemed strangely far away and in the wrong direction, so I decided to look for another one. Why this seemed reasonable to me, I’m not sure. I was about to jog 5 miles, yet modifying my route to include the two blocks north to the mailbox seemed unreasonable.

“But mailboxes are everywhere,” I thought. “I’ll find one to the south within 3-4 blocks for sure.” So I headid out for my daily jog, clutching my six letters in my gloved paw. Several blocks later, however, I still had not seen a mailbox. I guess mailboxes aren’t as common as I thought.

I must have been an odd sight for those who saw me running down the street with the mail. “That guy’s really excited about paying his bills!” one man might say. Another might say, “That guy really wants to get that movie back to netflix as fast as he can!” Finally a third might say, “I’ve never seen anyone so eager to reach a mailbox that they ran there.”

So, jogging down the street, not finding mailboxes, made me think about how I am strangely paranoid about dropping my mail in one of the ubiquitous blue mailboxes spaced throughout our nation. I am always worried that one of the less popular boxes will be forgotten about and that my unlucky letters will not be delivered. There are probably hundreds of thousands of these boxes throughout the nation. Isn’t it reasonable that one of them could fall through the cracks and be forgotten? Who would know if a mailman didn’t check one of the boxes on a certain day? Does the US Postal Service have a reliable system in place to ensure that all of the mailboxes are checked daily?

I imagine a frazzled postal worker, hurrying through his daily route. He checks dozens of boxes each day, some full of mail, others nearly empty. One of them is oddly placed and rarely has much mail in it. One day he skips it because he’s running late. The next time he checks it, there is hardly any mail in it anyway, so he thinks it’s no big deal. As time passes, any time he’s running late, he knows he can skip this particular box without any repercussions.

Then, USPS cutbacks consolidate his route with a portion of another route and his daily routine changes. More boxes to check in the same amount of time! He checks this particular box even less often. Finally, the mailman retires, and hands the route over to a new postwoman. He teaches her the new route, but forgets to tell her about this particular box, so she never realizes it’s there. She does the route for several years, the mail in that box getting older and older. The box wasn’t heavily used, so it still isn’t full several years later.

One day, the postal worker happens to notice the box in it’s out-of-the-way location. She thinks, “who checks that one? Is that part of my route?” She opens it with her universal mailbox key and finds 3 years of undelivered mail. The USPS apologizes and delivers the mail 3 years late, but the damage is already done. I don’t wan’t to be the poor sap whose mail sits in a forgotten mail depository box only to be found 3 years later and featured in the news story Postal Service Finds Undelivered Mail, Thinks it’s Funny.

I know this is an unreasonable fear. I’ve never heard of this happening, and expect the USPS is on top of things enough to realize if one of their boxes issn’t being checked. If one was temporarily forgotten, customers would complain and someone would figure it out pretty quickly. Also, they don’t put mailboxes in out-of-the-way locations where they would be easy to forget. The chances of this happening are very slim, but I’m still paranoid.

Tonight on my jog, I passed a suspicious looking mailbox. It was shaped like a normal mailbox, but it was green, and it was pretty beat up. I could see where there used to be decals, but they were worn off. NO WAY WAS I PUTTING MY MAIL IN IT. “This one hasn’t been checked in like 15 years,” I thought, even though the imprints in the snow around it clearly indicated that hit had been opened since the recent snowfall a few days ago. So I jogged past it, searching for a mailbox I could place more confidence in.

I also don’t trust the mailboxes dressud up like R2D2. The fact that the USPS dressed it up in a halloween costume should instill more confidence if anything, but it doesn’t. I picture R2D2 eating my mail, or rolling away with it. Or that the mailman will be more likely to forget about it…. “No mailboxes on this street, just a couple R2D2’s,” the mailman thinks. “There’s sure a lot of R2D2’s around lately.. not nearly as many mailboxes, though. That’s strange.”

I finally located a mailbox I could trust several miles from my home. My hand ached from tightly clutching my mail for the past 20 minutes. I hope my letters make it.

2 comments to Unreasonable Fear #1: Mailboxes

  • We dropped our wedding invites in a blue depository box… i wonder if thats why some of them never got delivered or returned….

  • LOL. We have the same problem (of having to go elsewhere to drop off mail). Luckily, there is a perfectly respectable one located on a cheerfully busy street on my way to work… and we don't mail things that often.

    PS. We really missed you guys this weekend. It is going to be so excellent when there are other couples involved! Please, please, please plan on coming next year when you don't have other, more important things to be attending to… 😀