July 27, 2007

A Block Too Far

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:24 pm by Ian

Last night, I noticed that a small package was with my mail on the table. It was not addressed to me. In fact, it was not even addressed to our address. It was meant for someone who lives at our number, but one street over on Olive. This morning, I put it back in the outgoing mailbox so it could be properly delivered.

At noon, Jess came to the office and chastized me for doing so.

I should explain. Jess and I have very different ideas about how to handle misdelivered mail. My idea is to put it back out into the system on the theory that, in all likelihood, given a second chance the postal system will deliver it to the right place. Or at least not to me again, which is really all I care about. Jess’s idea is that she should devote tremendous resources toward personally righting the injustice of waylaid post. I’m the guy who confidently defers to the professionals’ ability to make it no longer my problem. She’s the guy who talks to volleyballs and sets sail in a port-a-potty to return a single misplaced box.

I don’t mean to apply a value judgment. They’re just different philosophies; I have my way, and she has her crazy way.

We often get mail for previous inhabitants of the house we rent. Like, daily. For the first year or so, we got mountains of mail for the couple who had recently moved out. We’d collect it in a pile by the door, and every few months I’d be forced to call them up (because I’d made the mistake of getting his number before he moved out) and they’d come get it. Each time I called, I put just a little bit more edge in my voice when I suggested that they might want to file a change of address with the post office. Finally, I was informed that they’d done so twice, but that, in addition to not being able to read properly addressed packages, the post office doesn’t always forward mail correctly, either. True story: several months ago, the house next door was sold, and the previous occupants moved. We received their change of address confirmation notice, which makes me wonder about two things. First, how much of our mail is now making its way to them at their new location? And, second, what possible good could come of sending a change of address confirmation letter to the old address?

About six months ago, we received an envelope addressed to our landlord. While he owns the house, he hasn’t lived her for at least five or six years. I wanted to put it back out with “return to sender”, but Jess was adamant that we could just mail it with our rent payment. The envelope was kind of large, so we’d need to buy an even bigger one to include both it and the rent check, which might put the envelope over one ounce. I told Jess that if she wanted to do all that, she was welcome to. It’s not that I’m really that lazy, it’s just that there’s a perfectly good system already in place. Whoever sent the letter should be notified that their address is out of date, and, if it’s important, they’ll find some other way to contact him and we won’t have to deal with it anymore. But Jess decided to forward it herself (and may have addressed it wrong, since it never reached our landlord. Not that he seemed to mind or even notice until several months later when I called to see why that check hadn’t been cashed) But the important thing (I think) is that we made an effort to be neighborly.

So, back to today:

“Why did you put that package out in the mailbox. It wasn’t addressed wrong.”
“Yes it was. It wasn’t addressed to any of us.”
“It was just off by a block!”
“Making it the wrong address.”
“Yeah, but it’s not like it was another person’s name at our address. You just have to walk it over a block.”
“Why do I have to walk it over? There already exists a perfectly good system of government employees whose sole purpose is walking packages around to the people to whom they are addressed.”

She left in exasperation at my failure to get it.



  1. Mike said,

    “what possible good could come of sending a change of address confirmation letter to the old address?”

    It makes it just a little bit harder for me to decide that now I should get all of your mail (including things like that new credit card I recently signed you up for) without you having any idea.

  2. Ian said,

    Good point. I completely overlooked the potential for fraud.

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