Redefining “Going Postal”

In the summer of 1968 I worked as a janitor for the Soldotna (Alaska) Post office. There was a bit of fuss among some of the people in town because my mom worked there too – what folks didn’t realize is that I was “subbing” for the regular janitor who was visiting family in Texas. The job entailed a lot of floor work -sweeping, washing, waxing as well as other clean-up chores which kept me physically busy but didn’t overtax my brain. Because of that I would overhear some of the dialog that happened at the window as they would conduct business as well as comments Mom and the rest of the crew would make when odd mail came through the office.

I was surprised at how unpleasant and demanding some of the customers could be at the window. I was also surprised at how petty people could be as well. This was only a few years after the ZIP Codes had been adopted and there were still people who for some reason felt threatened by them  – from what I gathered many people  they thought the codes were part of some vast system of  tracking people. (You have to wonder what government surveillance measures are doing to these people now…). Every week there were three of four letters or cards with just a name and a ZIP code with a note attached saying ” You’re so smart, you figure it out” – which they did using a big reverse directory kind of like a phone book.

The point is – I’m usually on the side of the post office.

Usually.

Sometimes something will happen that seems to justify all the bad jokes and as much as I’d like to let this incident go, I can’t.

Sometime ago I promised to make a toy sword for the son of my good friend Scott. It was a particular kind of ancient Egyptian sword, the name of which eludes me (but I’ll include a photo). I worked on it in between all my other chores, finished it and mailed if off via Priority Mail a couple of weeks ago…and was dismayed last night to find that it hadn’t been received yet.

It didn’t get to San Diego because it had been returned – it arrived today safe and sound with our regular mail. It was covered with a number of official stickers and annotated in several places with markers. It took some deciphering but I finally figured out that it had been returned because the last digit on the ZIP code was one digit off. A “9” instead of an “8”

I’m sorry but it doesn’t wash. Yes, I know that automation figures heavily in mail-handling, but it wouldn’t have taken that much effort of check the address when the package got kicked back. It would have taken a minute (maybe two) to fix the mistake and send the box on its way.  It  would also have been so much nicer to have the toy sword delivered, even if it was a day – even a week late. You’d think that with the heat the department takes for rates and unions they’d be more inclined to pay more attention of customer service issues like this.=

Don’t they have that reverse ZIP code book anymore?

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