Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mea culpa (postage due)

Okay. I'm really not sure what I did to piss-off the United States Postal Service, but whatever it is, I'm sorry. Truly. It's time to declare a truce. An uneven "delivery detente", as it were.
I surrender. You win.
I guess it started years ago. Jimmy Carter was President, mortgage rates were at 14% and everybody was scrambling to their dictionaries to look up "malaise". We (my wife Kathy and I) had just moved into our second apartment, a brand new unit off First Colonial Road in Virginia Beach. We dutifully sent out "Change-of-Address" cards to friends and creditors alike, proudly proclaiming our new location: 941 Thousand Oaks Drive.
That's when the "Great Unpleasantness" (as I like to call it) began.
One day we opened our mailbox to find a note from our friendly Postmaster. It seems there had been a small, teeny-tiny almost inconsequential mistake. Hardly worth mentioning, really. Actually amusing, when you think about it. But it turns out (you're gonna laugh, I'm tellin' ya) that our address was WRONG! Our new address was 971, not 941. How could this happen, you ask? No one knows! The builder blames the post office, the post office refuses to comment. Whatever. So we send out "Change-of-Address" cards . . . again. At least this time we didn't have to actually move.
After a couple of years, we bought our first house, a "patio home" off Rosemont Road. "Patio homes" were builder's code for "really cheaply made houses that share at least one common cinderblock wall" (in our case, the garage). These were small starter homes on very narrow lots. There was room for one car in the driveway and maybe one more in front of your house on the street, but only if the car parked on the street were small, like something circus clowns would drive. And we were all warned NOT to block our mailboxes or else, NO MAIL. Since Kathy and I were both at work during the day, that shouldn't be a problem. Or so I thought.
One day I came home and discovered . . . no mail. Odd, but not uncommon. But the next day, we again received no mail. Not even a ValPak. On Day 3, there was something in our mailbox . . . a notice from the USPS, informing us that they could not deliver my mail because my mailbox was blocked.
I know what you're going to say . . .
"Paul," you ask incredulously, "are you telling me that a civil servant, a dedicated government employee duly sworn to "serve and, umm, deliver", put something in your mailbox that essentially said they couldn't put something in your mailbox?"
Yup. That's what I'm telling you.
I could go on at length about the subsequent conversation I had with my local Postmaster. How I pointed out that neither of my vehicles were blocking my mailbox and that I had no control over who might park there when I was not looking. Or that the next time my mail carrier-person stepped out of his/her Jeep to place an official government document in my mailbox, he/she might also place my mail there. But, I digress. Let's just say I left with this simple equation:
Blocked mailbox + extra effort for postal worker= NO MAIL.
Fast forward to 1985. Ronald Reagan is in the White House, everybody loves jelly beans and we move into house number 2, in Kempsville. The biggest little neighborhood in Virginia Beach. Surely, our mail delivery problems are over, right?
Guess again
There were ten houses on our street at the time. Only three of them occupied. The Post Office requires at least a 50 percent occupancy rate before they'll begin door-to-door delivery. So until that time, we would have to fetch our mail ourselves. At the Post Office. Every day.
And that became my routine. On the way home from work, I'd drop into the local branch and stand in line for my mail. Every day. For a year.
My favorite part of the experience was noting that the customer counter had at least five stations available but never more than two were ever open. Even at Christmas. Then one day, they posted a notice that "in order to serve our patrons better" they were going to remodel the lobby. Which they did. And reduced the number of stations from five to three. Why, I feel better served already. If they really wanted to help us they'd install vending machines and some cots.
Finally, the day came when the mail started coming right to my mailbox. The one right in front of my house. The one I had installed myself . . . a year ago. And there was much rejoicing in the land.
Which brings me to today.
I'm a magazine junkie and just recently began subscribing to Esquire. For reasons I truly don't remember, I chose to have the magazine delivered to the radio station where I work instead of my home. About a month ago I spied the then-current issue on the newstand and wondered why I hadn't received it. Perhaps my subscription had expired, but I did not recall receiving any renewal notices. And that is very un-magazine like. Usually you are buried under a blizzard of notices, even if you've just renewed for the rest of your life. I logged on to Esquire's website and looked up my account. My subscription was actually paid thru 2015 (how'd that happen?). No, the problem was that the Post Office had declared my current address (the station's) "undeliverable".
The same address where they've delivered all the previous issues? The same address where they deliver my Entertainment Weekly?
The real problem is, this blood feud is starting to boil over into areas. It seems that courier services look out for one another. You mess with one . . . you mess with them all.
Take online Christmas shopping.
Three of the gifts I ordered online weeks ago did not arrive in time for the holiday. In fact, as I write this, they still haven't arrived. One (a gift for my wife) was "damaged in shipment". UPS is "investigating the matter". What does that mean? Does UPS have their own version of "CSI"? Is that what brown is doing for me?
Then there's the matter of the two gifts I ordered for a friend and coworker. When neither showed, I checked their shipping status through the carrier's websites. In both cases all I got was a "no shipping information available at this time" message.
I have since bypassed USPS/UPS/FedEx/DHL/Pony Express/Wells Fargo and asked each vendor to send a replacement.
But I ain't holding my breath.
I officially surrender.
I just hope they get my note.

1 comment:

  1. I am pretty much bent over laughing at your Post Office escapades. I will definitely share this with my hubby. He can relate. He worked for the Post Office when we first moved here. He HATED it and turned in his notice. I could go on about dealings with these folks, equally amusing as yours, but not enough time or space at the moment. :)