Anyone Run to the Mailbox Anymore?

As Peggy Lee used to croon, “Is that all there is?” Exactly my sentiments when it comes to the mailbox and has been for a long time. Mostly I feel I need to strike a deal with the Post-person.

“Before you leave the Post Office throw my mail away.”

A deal all the way around. This would lighten the load, increase gas efficiency, delivery times, and such.It would also put some time back in my life cutting out the need for me to carry it inside and then throw it away. Yes, I know its against the law for officials of the Post Office to do that, but it also ought to be against the law to be sent most of what he/she brings.

What does the average mail delivery bring? Well there’re the catalogs. Here’s one of my favorites. The Bingo Bango Catalog of South Pacific Island Doo-Dads–grass-skirted lovelies selling grass skirts and other lovely items. Then there’s Sam’s Supremely Necessary Ski Items. That usually arrives in my Florida mailbox mid-summer when the temperature is 90 degrees and the humidity is twice that. The moisture in the air seeps into the pages of ski-wear making the whole things weigh twice what it would in Colorado.

Then we have the cross section of design magazines. They represent every possible mode of home decoration possible from Asian Yak Modern to highlights from the NYC Tenement Period. And these are just for the interior of the house. A whole ‘nother cascade of catalogs contains pool wear, pool supplies and pool tzatskies (or chochkis depending on where you’re from). A world of wonder is opened for me when I realize how many different kinds of fountains can be placed in the garden, lights along the walkway, and implements to hold off the onslaught of things grown by mother nature. And all those decoratively beautiful killing machines to knock off flies, mosquitoes, spiders, and neighbors’ children.

Let us not forget the coupon clippers. Some are sheets of paper stuffed into the mailbox like tissue paper in a gift bag, some are color booklets, others are two by six operations that look like flash card books. Once a year, added to this collection come the ones bought by schools and organizations and the army of kids that sell them. They represent minimal discounts wheedled out of every merchant whose eyesight wasn’t good enough to see the solicitors coming and lock their doors in time.

Then we have the items that represent a Catch -22. Bills. It seems like the only fungible item one gets in the mailbox is the occasional bill. Bills help pay the freight for the other non-needed nonsense. However, Americans have decided they’d rather open their computers than walk to the mailbox for their bills. ‘doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. We’re trained to go out there anyway, but it is the way of today’s world. We are billed without stamps and we pay our bills without stamps. The content of the mailbox is lowered along with the bottom line of the Post Office. I have no answer for that one. Let someone else get a headache working it out.

But there was a time….a time when the impending delivery of mail raised the excitement level in the house. I admit that may say something about the paucity of interesting things that happened in daily life, but the fact remained, the mail’s arrival was a high point of daily household, a mini-event. Why? Because people actually wrote letters to one another. On a small scale it was like mail call in the Army. You got what was yours and for a brief few minutes of silent solitude you went to your room or off in a corner and read your letter. And at some point you sat down somewhere and replied, put that reply in an envelope that was hand-addressed, stamped, and placed in the mailbox. Mail was part of the hum of the house. In my pre-teens I was always waiting for the return of my self-addressed envelope I had sent to a baseball player asking for an autograph. Later it was love-letters. And each day that nothing arrived the tension of waiting was ratcheted up. It wasn’t, “Ho-hum, no mail for me today.” It was, “Oh no! No mail for me today?!?”

And it came by special delivery. No not “that” special delivery. Every delivery was special because the person who brought it was someone special, someone the family got to know over time, someone who might have been your postman (and in “those days” mail was delivered by a man) for years, and year and years. The Postman knew everyone in the family, their comings and goings, their ups and down, marriages, divorces and deaths. Much like a bee or a bird that spreads pollens from field to field. the postman absorbed gossip here and deposited it around the corner or in the next neighborhood over. Some, like ours, often times saved you the time of reading the mail altogether. He had a magical way of knowing the gist of what was inside your envelope–because after all those years it was pretty much his envelope too. He became a partner in our lives.

And for a kid, the inside of that huge leather bag slung over the postman’s shoulder was as intriguing and mystery-laden as what was behind the dry ice fumes that stood between kid and ice cream when the Good Humor man (yep, another man) pulled that chrome handle and pulled open that what 8″ thick? little square door. There was mystery, delicious mystery behind that door. Just like there was delicious mystery and intrigue that came out of that leather pouch.

Yes, those were the days, my friends. Those were the days.


3 thoughts on “Anyone Run to the Mailbox Anymore?

  1. This was a fun story and well written. Much to think about in the details of our lives and what has changed.


  2. Those were different days – I remember writing a letter every day to my girlfriend, (because I said I would) but of course it took days for her to “get” and “reply” to THAT letter. The upside-down stamp – to show love, “real love” – and the SWAK on the back, right on the flap. PS – it’s now almost 60 years later and I’m still in love with that same girlfriend –


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