I’ll Take Ham on 5 and Hold the Mail

selective focus photography of a mailbox
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I was a naive kid and believed a lot of what I saw and heard. For instance, at a young age I was introduced to the Post Office Creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers.” I was certain that our mail would never fail to be delivered. I’d see shows on television about Batman, the Incredible Hulk, shows about doctors and detectives and even the crew of a luxury cruise ship. Why, I wondered, was there no show about these heroic letter carriers who, despite all odds, always delivered the mail.

It has taken close to fifty years, but these days, I have a much more mature view of the post office. I subscribe, for instance, to the daily email that shows what mail will be showing up in my mailbox that day. When the mail comes and whatever was in the email is missing from the mailbox, I’m not longer alarmed. I understand perfectly. On days when I post a letter and raise the flag on the mailbox, and then watch the letter carrier walk past our house, headphones on, oblivious to my shouts, I’m not bitter. I completely understand. After all, I’m a grownup.

When we left for our holiday vacation, I went through the motions of putting a hold on our mail for the time we’d be away. I did this more for our next door neighbors than ourselves. They have already gone above and beyond in keeping an eye out on our house, and I didn’t want to have them trudging the thirty or forty yards from their front door to ours to have to collect our mail. And yet, each day, my Ring app notifies me that a Person is at the front door, and when I look, I see the letter carrier dutifully ignoring the hold I placed on the mail and delivering mail and packages. Since I am not there to check, I am certain that everything being delivered matches what shows up on that email message I receive in the morning.

You see, it sometimes takes me longer than my peers to understand how the world really works. But once I understand it, I am satisfied with things as they are. I couldn’t possibly bring myself to complain about the poor mail delivery we endure. It is my own naive interpretation of the Post Office Creed that has ill-prepared me for the realities of the world. For when I look closely, I see that the creed states that neither rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers. And indeed, I’ve seen our letter carrier deliver the mail in rain and on hot summer days, and frequently after dark when I thought all of the letter carriers should be home in bed. But the creed does not account for things like administrative incompetence, mired bureaucracy, and a Congress that won’t provide the funding necessary to the task.

I see now, as a wise adult, that “administrative incompetence,” “mired bureaucracy,” etc. were deliberately left out the Post Office Creed. There was foresight in our postal forefathers. What was a blizzard or blackout when compared to labyrinthian red tape? What was the oppressive head of a summer day when set alongside Twitter fights between adults in Congress who, quite frankly, can have their mail sent for free?

I grew up in pre-Internet days, when seeing what arrived in the day’s mail was a delight. I began submitting stories to magazines at a time when acceptance checks and rejection slips came by the mail. I lived for the mail each day. these days, I wonder if the mail will show up at all.

I don’t blame the letter carriers. Like all of us, they do the best they can under impossible circumstances. Sometimes, through, I feel like I do when a restaurant gets my order wrong. All I asked was that they hold the mail. The post office is still delivering it. I want to sent it back.

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