Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Great Postal War of '10

Many of you have been completely unaware that a great battle has been raging in our fair country these past few months.  A battle, so fierce and divided, it seemed an accord would never be reached.  It was an epic battle, which pitted the evil US Postal Service against the noble Elliots.  Words were said - many of them angry, maneuvers were carried out, laziness was exposed and we, the stronger side, came out victorious. 

While the USPS raises it's white flag, we are delighted to announce that we are now the proud owners of a wall-mounted mailbox. 

But first the back story:  you see, our new, beautiful home had many wonderful features when we moved in February, but not one of these features was a mailbox.  We figured we would remedy this oversight, by hanging a wall-mounted mailbox by our side door, and we figured that the hardest thing about installing said mailbox at the new house would be finding a person to actually do the work once we had arrived.

Our new postman (whom we shall call Lucifer) had different ideas.  The very afternoon that we moved, I ran into Lucifer on his daily mail rounds.  I pulled kindly over and very, very sweetly introduced myself.  I LOVE the mail.  I love everything about it:  the magazines, the catalogs, the newspapers and mostly, the occasional letter.  I am a firm believer in keeping the deliverer of my precious mail happy, and accordingly, I'm the best sort of postal costumer.  I never leave letters in my mailbox for the postman to mail,  I always tip both the regular carrier and his substitute during the December holidays, and I am happy to make small talk when mail carriers need a quick break from their route.  Mailmen/women usually love me back, too.  But there is always an exception to every rule and Lucifer is mine. 

After accepting my jovial greeting, the new mailman announced, "You need a rural mailbox on the street in front of your house.  That's the rule.  All new construction houses need a rural mailbox.  And you have to have a mailbox for me to deliver the mail at all.  Those are the rules."

What?  A rural mailbox?  Was he crazy?  All of you who know my house can stop snickering.  A rural mailbox is ridiculous for many reasons -- the most important of which is WE DON'T LIVE IN A RURAL AREA!!!  It's not even slightly rural.  Each house in this town is literally on top of the house next to it, which is on top of the house on the other side. 

And the way he said it, "Those are the rules," was so bizarre.  If those were truly the rules, there would be rural mailboxes littered all over the town -- in fact, there would be a whole lot on my actual street, the home of four new construction houses in as many years.  And I don't know anyone in this town with a rural mailbox.   And therefore, I don't know why we would have to have one.

In fact, when I began to mention this "rule" to people, most had the same reaction.  "A rural mailbox?  On the street?  Like in the country?  But why?"

I'll tell you why.  Lucifer is lazy.  He has to get out of his van and walk up to each door to deliver the mail and that is not as simple or as fun as pulling over and inserting the mail into a box that is eye level to his van's door.  And most probably, he saw a little blond woman and thought I was a push-over.  Whoops!  It ends up, I'm lazy, too.  And stubborn!

As I dragged a large white bin to the edge of my property with the words "Temporary Mail Box" written on it's lid, I declared war.  First tactic:  force lazy, devil-like mailman to deliver letters to non-usps-approved mail receptacle.  The word "temporary" allowed him to deliver the mail while maintaining a little mail-carrier dignity.  This dignity, I knew, would allow me a few months time to plot my next move.  I may be blond, but I'm not as stupid as I look. 

I began the war by sending out spies to do some reconnaissance work.  Three young children - who will remain nameless to protect their identities - scoured the surrounding streets with a pad and a pencil, writing down the streets/house numbers of any house with a rural mailbox in our area.  For the record, there are two.  Both are houses built circa 1975 and both are situated so far away from the street that it would take the mail carrier hours to reach their house from the road.  Okay, maybe not hours, but certainly many minutes.  It should also be noted, that both rural mailboxes are half-way up their driveways and not on the road, so the mailman still has to drive up or get out of his van and walk.  In addition, my spies recorded the number of new construction houses in our area:  there are three houses on my street, three on the street behind ours and two on the street in front of ours.  Not one of these "new construction" houses has a rural mailbox. 

While seething with indignation and anger, I decided to do nothing. 

I'm a rule-follower, by nature, but I'm not going to be the only person following a ridiculous rule just because my particular mailman is an ass.  Under the guise of apologizing for my eye-sore, temporary mail receptacle, I started talking to the neighbors, trying to get a feel for the mailman's personality.  I thought it was a good idea to get to know the enemy.  Turns out, everyone LOVES the guy.  Not one person had a bad word to say about him.  Most people were shocked to hear that he was insisting on us putting up a rural mailbox.  The other two people with new construction houses were particularly shocked;  apparently, he never once mentioned this rule to them and he happily delivers their mail to their wall-mounted box everyday with a smile and a few kind words. 

What the heck?!!?

So what is exactly going on, I wondered?  Did the builder of my house annoy the mailman?  Was Lucifer angry that the old ranch house that was on this lot originally got torn down?  Was he just in a wretched mood the first time I met him?  Does he hate short, blond women with short, blond kids?  Who knows.

A month or two later, Lucifer pulled his truck up to our house while the kids and I were outside.  He marched over to me and in a sing-songy, voice reminded me of the mailbox situation.  "You need a rural mailbox!   Or I can't continue to deliver mail to your house!" 

And so I took action.  I politely - but firmly - told him that I didn't understand the rule.  Suburban neighborhood aside, why do we have to have a rural mailbox if the other new construction houses on this street don't have one?  Why are we being singled out?  Why are we the only people who have to follow this ridiculous rule (again, okay, I didn't say the word ridiculous.  At this point in the war, I was still trying to get on his good side.)  I told him I would be be happy to put a wall-mounted mailbox near the side door of our house.  I told him he would be welcome to pull his van into our driveway and use our turn-around to make life easier for him.  I pointed out that our road is a narrow, single-lane, old-fashioned one and that any rural mailbox we put up is going to get knocked down by the plow every time it snows. 

He remained stoic and unfazed.  He attempted to pretend that it wasn't his call.  A post office rule is a rule and that's that.  Except..... I happened to know he was totally lying to me.  During my "information recovery" phase, I had spoken to the substitute mailman on our route.  What Lucifer didn't know, was that his substitute was in fact the substitute for our old mailman and I happened to know him well.  All those years of holiday tips and kind words in the old neighborhood PAID OFF!!  No one remembers to tip the substitute mailman --- NO ONE BUT ME, Lucifer!!!  Take that!!  Our dear, wonderful, kind, hard-working substitute mail carrier is very, very fond of me.  And he told me that in cases of mailboxes and new construction, it's really up to the individual mail carrier to decide what kind of mailbox you can have.  He also mentioned that the town's post master was going on leave in a few months and the temporary post master would probably be more agreeable to our situation. 

By the fall, cracks started showing in Lucifer's armor.  A neighbor confessed that he had once read her postcards and then talked about their contents with her.  He acted nervous one afternoon while delivering the mail when Gordy was outside.  I could tell the war was starting to turn in my favor.  The next time he decided to "talk" to us about removing the temporary mail bin and installing a rural mailbox, he chose to do so in a form letter.  Little blond lady was starting to seem like she wasn't going to back down, huh Lucifer?

The top of the letter said it all.

I liked how he stubbornly reminded us of the many times we had discussed the mailbox topic.  "First talked in February, then the summer, now it is autumn...." 

We particularly enjoyed the ten different check marks which dictated each feature of our new rural mailbox. 

He even circled the picture of the proper mailbox, in case we got confused and installed the mailbox on the the left by accident. 

He was correct about the whole ground-freezing thing, though.  It was time for me to pull out the big artillery.  First, I would get the temporary Post Master involved and then.... I would get Gordy involved.  The smell of victory was in the air, hanging like a mist over our mail-box-less house.  I celebrated by checking out wall-mounted mailboxes on line. 

I put on my sweetest, most appreciative voice to call the Post Master.  I apologized for bothering him at the end of what was certainly a long day of Mastering the Post.  I explained that the silly builder who sold us our house forgot to put a mailbox on it;  I explained that our mailman wanted us to put up a rural mailbox;  I explained how I usually am glad to follow all postal rules and regulations, but this particular one confused me.  I used the word "confused" on purpose.  Men in Temporary Power enjoy helping befuddled women.  He listened as I presented my case:  I described my side door's close proximity to the street and the convenience of my turn-around driveway (perfectly sized for a mail van).  I explained that I wasn't expecting the mailman to climb the stairs to my front door, and I told him that we would carefully shovel the snow and ice off the two steps he would have to climb to reach the side door.  I told the Post Master about the other new construction houses in our neighborhood and their wall-mounted mailboxes.  And I ended my case by mentioning the whole "narrow street / dangerous snow plow" argument, which, let's face it, is the only non-selfish point I had. 

The Post Master was very kind and understanding.  He did tell me that it is actually the rule that new construction houses are supposed to have rural mailboxes, but he agreed that the snow plow issue was a real problem in my neighborhood.  He agreed to drive by our house and make a decision.

A week or two went by without any word from the Post Master and I wanted to place my wall-mounted mailbox order.  I had Gordy call to get to the bottom of the decision's delay.  This was my final maneuver but it's a tried and true one.  I like to start off a confrontation as the good cop.  I like to explain the facts and then explain how I want any problems resolved.  And then I step back and allow Gordy to do the nagging.  As a tag team, we are quite good. 

Gordy called every week for the next three weeks.  He was polite, but firm and eventually, the Temporary Post Master got the message:  we weren't going to stop calling him until he let us put up the damn mailbox.  And so he did.

The war ended, the mailbox was installed and peace was restored to our fair land. 

I haven't seen Lucifer in the three days since the box was hung and the temporary bin was put away, but that fact doesn't surprise me.  It's hard to be the loser.  And it will be even harder when the holidays come around and he realizes that I hold a grudge! 

Only time will tell if the Great Postal War of '10 changed the way post carriers dealt with little blond women, but from that moment on, one particular mailman learned not to trifle with those who are lazier and more stubborn than himself.  


Elizabeth said...

Ha! I'm very tempted to do a kind of Freudian reading of your War, complete with the triumph of the tidy, contained mailbox over the "erect" mailbox he circled at the top of the sheet (as if you would have chosen the flaccid one!), but I shall resist.

Victory is yours! At least until he starts accordioning your letters at the bottom of the new box.

Martha said...

I must admit, I do fear some postal payback. Maybe we need to move.... Gordy!

Polly said...

Hoorah, and what a great mailbox you have. Thanks for visiting my blog.

elisabethellington said...

This post had me laughing! Good for you! I LOVED the circled drawing of the correct mailbox--just in case you were going to install one on a broken post. We recently lost a battle with our postman, so I shall live vicariously through your victory. (Roxy barks at the postman and the UPS man--SIGH--and the postman became convinced that she was going to spring through glass windows and attack him as he delivered mail to the wall-mounted box at the back of our house. The Post Master backed him up, saying that there have been some dog attacks on postmen in town. FROM DOGS WHO ARE INSIDE BEHIND CLOSED GLASS? But whatever. Roxy is pleased to know that she is the most fearsome dog in Hot Springs.)

Martha said...

Good dog, Roxy! I'd like to borrow her for an afternoon to frighten Lucifer. I am feeling dog envious. I still feel proudly victorious, but really, I shouldn't gloat too much -- now we just have what everyone else has.

IMSAVAGE said...

Would like to see you work for hauling mail for just one month. Your attitude would change quickly. Easy to complain when someone else is providing the service. You don't have a clue how about delivering to hundereds of addresses for years.

Don't be do judgemental of the working guy until you actually do his work.

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