Lee Pitts: Inside The Box
March 11, 2015
Column writers, publishers and dogs who like to bite mailmen have a love-hate relationship with the post office. They keep us occupied, but at an ever-increasing cost.
People have always complained about the post office, from the constant postage increases back to its inception when folks complained that it cost the same to ship a one ounce letter from New York City to Troy, New York, as it did a barrel of flour over the same distance. But postal delivery has gotten better over the last 165 years, at least that's what I'm told. In the 1850s mail service was so poor that in the time it took the mail to go from Washington D.C. to San Francisco notifying a politician he was a new Congressman, he might find his term of office was over by the time he got to our nation's Capitol to serve.
Oh, if we were only that lucky these days.
I guess it beats carrier pigeons, but not if you ask a friend of mine who went to pick up her mail in her post office box and found a note in it asking her to talk to a specific person at the front desk. There was a long line and only one teller so it took her 45 minutes to finally get to the front desk where she asked for the post office employee. He came from the back room, took her aside and asked, "Your last name is the same as mine and I'm a genealogy nut and I was wondering if we might be related?"
"That's it?" she screamed. "I waited in line for nearly an hour so that could ask me about my relatives! You're a nut all right!"
She was as exasperated as I often am when I go the post office to pick up my mail. Quite often an employee I don't know will say, "Wasn't that good news about your aunt's surgery?" Or, "Not much mail today. Just one bill but I bet it's a doozie!" Or, "I hope you resubscribe to that antique newspaper because I sure will miss it if you don't." It's comments like these that lead me to believe someone is reading my mail before I do.
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It galls me that I have to pay a yearly box rent for my P.O. box. Why should I have to pay for my post office box when I'm saving them money because they don't have to pay for gas, a Jeep and an employee to deliver my mail to my home?
There are advantages of having a P.O. box versus roadside delivery of mail, as my friend ReRide will attest. He called me and wanted to borrow a worming gun and since I didn't want to drive down his corrugated dirt road I put it in his mailbox.
Did ReRide get an earful from the postman! "It's against the law to put things in other people's mailboxes because the post office owns the inside of your mailbox and people have to pay postage for using it."
"Wait just a darn minute," said ReRide. "I paid for the mailbox, it's on my property and I didn't see you helping dig the hole for the post. How can it be yours?"
"It just is," was the postman's reply.
So when some teenage vandals put a chain around ReRide's mailbox and pulled it out ReRide naturally called the postmaster and said, "When are you going to put up your new mailbox so I can get my mail?"
"Excuse me," said the postmaster. "The post office doesn't actually own the post or the box. We own the inside of your mailbox. If we had to pay for putting in everyone's mailbox we'd go broke."
"But you already are!" said ReRide.
Next, ReRide bolted an old wooden ammunition box underneath his new mailbox and painted "Mine" on it. On his mailbox he painted "Yours." One day the mailman innocently placed a box too big to fit in the Postal Service mailbox in ReRide's ammunition box. So he marched right down to the post office and demanded to see the postmaster. After the compulsory half hour wait the postmaster emerged and ReRide handed him an envelope.
"What's this?" asked the Postmaster.
"It's a bill," said ReRide. "YOUR box rent is due."