Monday, February 22, 2010

Rain, Snow, Sleet, Dark of Night, and Community College Students

Neither rain nor snow,
nor sleet nor dark of night,
shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds

I have embraced modern communication in many forms: I love Facebook, I tweet from time to time, I have a blackberry and a cellphone and I get a little twitchy when I lose access to my email for periods longer than 24 hours. I use AOL IM, I blog, I post stuff on discussion boards. It all works, and despite occasional information overload, I love it.

Still, there is something wonderful about a good old-fashioned letter in the mail. Not junk mail and bills, but an actual letter, addressed by human hand, with my name on it. Maybe with a picture inside. Stamps on the envelope that I could collect, if I needed yet another hobby.

Working on my genealogy project, I discovered there are limits to the digital age: many records are simply not available on line. So I started writing away for things, sending old-fashioned self-addressed stamped envelopes with my requests, and getting lots of mail. Opening each envelope was a little thrill: Reading the postmark to try to figure out what it contained. Wondering what new clue might be found on this record. I got a box full of stamps and some colorful personalized stationery to use for my requests. I ordered non-charity-freebie address labels.

But most important, I learned the sound the mailman makes when closing my box - it's a distinctive thud! that means "Come here - I might have something fun for you!"

Then, one day a few weeks ago, I heard the thud much earlier than usual, looked out the window, and discovered a car parked on the street - where there aren't usually any cars. Several more thuds sounded, and next thing I knew, there was a line of cars parked outside.

Parked right in front of my mailbox.

I thought it was odd, but didn't give it too much more thought, except that it happened the next day too. And the next. I wondered where the cars came from, and realized that all the people were walking from their cars over to the neighborhood college next door.

Still, the mail arrived daily, until one day, it didn't. The mail truck slowed, but didn't stop, as he passed my box. Watching him depart made me feel like Santa had skipped my house.

From there, mail delivery was a scattershot affair - some days it arrived, other days it didn't. One day I stuck my head out the window and thanked the mailman, who had gotten out and walked up the street to fill my box, and those of my neighbors. He said, "oh, no problem, I don't mind, but the other guy on this route - he'll never get out of the van."

What about that whole rain-and-snow-and-sleet-and-dark-of-night thing? Apparently, that only applies to weather-related issues, which this is not.

The mail became a minor obsession, in part because I work from my home, and in addition to being able to hear the car doors and mail delivery, my office window looks out on the mailboxes, so I was able to listen and look all day long. Which I did. All day, except Sunday of course. Ok, maybe "minor obsession" is understating it: All I needed was a cane to wave and some petunias to holler about to those college hooligans!

Then it finally happened: I snapped. A car pulled up in front on my mailbox one day, and I shouted out the window, "Excuse me, can you please back up about ten feet? You're blocking the mailboxes. My neighbors and I aren't getting our mail."

I was relieved to see the person who emerged from the car, a middle-aged woman in a neat suit, obviously a staff member, a college professor.

She looked up at my window and shouted back, "Fuck you lady, it's a legal parking space."

Sadly, I had no actual cane to wave angrily at this law-abiding, grandmotherly ruffian.

I called over to the college and complained to the college vice president that their staff was blocking my mail and could they please ask there staff to park elsewhere and possibly arrange some sensitivity training as well. She explained that due to current state of the economy, the college has been inundated with students re-training for new careers, and have run out of parking. The typical college student at our local community college is a 36-year-old woman trying to re-enter the workforce after a period spent raising children.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel reassured by this information. I was more reassured by the signs that college put up around our mailboxes, and although the first signs mysteriously disappeared within a day, they were immediately replaced and our daily mail delivery has resumed.


  1. How rude! I can't believe someone would talk to you like that. I'm glad your mail service was resumed, but what a pain. Oy.

  2. I'm betting that college professor with the trash mouth is the next wacko academic to make national headlines. Just sayin'.

  3. I agree with you 100% about getting a real hand written letter in the mail. I think I was born 25+ years too late. I definitely belonged in the letter writing age.

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