Friday, November 12, 2010

P.O.'d at the P.O.

Last December we received what appeared to be a Christmas card. The house number and town matched ours, but the addressee’s name and street were completely different. For all we knew, it might have included family photos, baby pictures for someone’s grandparents, or a check from a generous friend or relative to make the addressee’s holiday a little merrier. We took it back to the Post Office, only to have it show up in our mailbox again the very next day. Fortunately, Mr. Lucky knew where the street was, and because he’s such a nice guy, he ended up delivering it to the folks in person.

The following March, I found in my mailbox several post cards from the Census Bureau, all reminding me to fill out my Census form and mail it back by April 1st. Only one of the cards was correctly addressed to me. The others were for residences scattered to the four corners of the town. I trust THEY remembered to fill out their Census forms, even without the reminder.

Then last week it happened again—we received a regular business sized envelope so thick, that the sender (whose return address was a P.O. Box) had to stand in line at the post office to pay for the extra postage. I don’t know why she didn’t just slap on an extra stamp.

Notwithstanding, whatever it was, it was addressed to my house number, my street, my town, state and ZIP code—but the addressee was not the name of anyone who lives here. Neither the first nor last name was even close to that of anyone who lives around here.

I looked for both the sender and addressee in the White Pages, but neither was listed.

The sender went to a lot of trouble to pay for extra postage on this thick, stiff envelope. There may have been photos enclosed. It was certainly important to the parties concerned. So I took it to the Post Office.

I waited in line. And waited and waited. I don’t know why they have three windows, when only two are ever open. Finally it was my turn—and I made a point of informing the clerk that while that was my address on the envelope, I was not that person, nor did any person by that name live at my address. Could he please return it to the sender?

He made some weird mark on it and declared he would take care of it. I thanked him and went on my way.

The next day it was back in our mailbox. That weird mark looked something like “ANK”—not “UNK” which might have made more sense to me. No one had bothered to pull out the “Return to Sender” stamp with that rude pointy finger. Hadn’t that clerk heard of Elvis?

Back to the Post Office I went, contemplating how to confront the clerk about this without—well, going postal. When I arrived, the same two clerks manned the same two windows, while the same third window remained closed. But the same old long line snaked all the way back to the door—each person with a stack of boxes probably going overseas, and of course no one will fill out a customs form while waiting, because they're hoping the clerk will forget to tell them they must have one. Alas, he may forget to use a "Return to Sender" stamp, but he never forgets to make YOU step aside and fill out a form.

Did I really want to stand in line for half an hour just to ask the clerk to please, for the love of God and Country, stamp RETURN TO SENDER on this bad penny of an envelope, only to have it boomerang back to my mailbox? No, I did not. Could I trust him to do his job this time? No, I could not. Would he even want to see me again, especially when I was in a foul mood? (All right, a fouler mood than usual.) Unless he was doing this to make me come back so he could get my phone number and ask me on a date, I think not. Besides, I'm already married.

So I went over to the table, pulled a pen out of my purse, and wrote RETURN TO SENDER, ADDRESSEE NOT AT THIS ADDRESS!!! in huge black letters, complete with those exclamation marks (though there should also be a double underline under NOT). Tempting as it was, I resisted the urge to add epithets and a raving manifesto on why the Post Office was losing money. There was only so much available space on the envelope anyway.

I slipped it into the mail slot just like I do with the bills, pulled the slot open again to make sure the letter dropped down like I always do (I felt validated when I saw Meg Ryan’s character doing the same O/C thing in When Harry Met Sally . . .), and for the second time that week, I went on my way—but didn’t thank anyone.

It’s been over a week now, and I haven’t seen that letter since. I hope—nay, trust—it went where it’s supposed to go.

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