Apparently, I’m addicted to mail. On my recent sojourn in Mexico, it was difficult to go more than a day without hitting an internet café (a monkey of a different sort), to check email, the New York Times, update this here blog, etc. When I returned, the first thing I did, after picking up Bhikku from the kennel, was head to the county post office to claim the mail that had accumulated over the course of those 20 or so days. There was a lot. There always is. Since moving to rural Virginia nearly three years ago, there has never once been a day when I go no mail. Sometimes just a catalog or political trash, sometimes just a magazine, but ordinarily I can count on a literary journal or two, a rejection letter from one of those same journals, a bill, occasionally an actual letter, and the catalogs, magazines and political trash. So when I leave the post office after a trip, it is always armed with one of this postal service tubs, the ones they are always claiming to be short of, filled to the brim with mail. Once I left with two.
Last Friday, with my mail tub in arm, I watched the postal service employee efficiently scrawl on the hold-mail form, “Resume Delivery 1-22-05.” She had me sign it. I was pleased. There would be more mail the next day.
But there was no mail. I know this because I put outgoing mail in the mailbox on the street, raised the red flag, and then watched the snow fall. At 8:00pm, although barely an inch had accumulated, the flag was still up. The mail-woman had not come. I didn’t blame her. The roads were bad. I could wait. (Indeed, I hadn’t quite finished going through the tub I’d picked up on Friday.)
So the flag was still up today, Monday. By that time, I’d built a considerable pile of outgoing mail, including a couple of pieces that required special attention, like my Bread Loaf application that I planned to send by Priority Mail (not because of any rush—the deadline is March 19—but because I wanted delivery confirmation), so I made a trip to the post office. It never occurred to me to do anything but drop off the tub (they do run out, you know) and my outgoing letters. I went to the gym, I ran some errands, and came home. Order had returned: the flag was down, signaling the pickup of my Saturday mail and, more importantly, the all-important delivery of fresh mail. What would there be? An acceptance for one of my many outstanding submissions? A Christmas card from the Brogans? (They usually don’t send their cards until February, but it could be early this year, you never know.) The New Republic? The books I ordered from Amazon while I was in Mexico?
I trotted across the road to the box, opened the lid and—nothing. Black emptiness. Cold air. No mail. Could it be that there was nothing for me? That nothing had arrived in Augusta County, Virginia for me since Friday? Was the streak at an end? No. It couldn’t be. There must have been a mixup. Somehow the redelivery message didn’t get down to the trenches where it needed to be. A mistake has been made. Heads will roll. Where the hell is my mail?
Update: Indeed, mistakes were made. On Tuesday when I inquired at the post office, a second tub was handed to me. When on Friday I picked up the held mail, apparently the agent missed some, and the carrier didn’t know what to do with so much mail for me, since it wouldn’t all fit in my mail box. So she did nothing, presumably expecting that I’d figure out there was a problem and investigate. She was right.