Sounds Like the Mail

In the condo complex where I live in California, the mail room was broken into on Thursday.  This is the second time this has happened in a period of about six months. I was one of the first people to see the damage, and I called the problem in to the property management company right away.  Three banks of individual mail boxes had been pried away from the wall, and lots of the boxes had broken locks.  All the parcel boxes were open and so were several personal boxes and one outgoing mail box. My own box, fortunately, was undamaged.

Post Office Boxes
USPS Post Office Boxes by Howcheng via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

This disarray disturbed me, but I was most upset to think of the personal items of mail that might have gone missing—gifts, purchases, cheques, birthday cards. Also, this is tax time, and lots of people are receiving documents that include personal data. I am one of them, and am awaiting my tax documents from Canada.  I really would not want those in someone else’s hands.

So, this afternoon I paid for a Post Office box rental for three months.  I’m hoping that by the end of that time the condo management will have installed new, tougher, mailboxes and a security camera. My mail is now being forwarded from my Canadian address, to my condo address, and from there to my PO Box.  It’s going to be so well-travelled it could write its own blog.

I feel as though there is something a little bit shady about having both a street mailing address and a post office box address. It makes me think of someone trying to hide something; a married person hiding messages from a lover, a phoney business getting money from fake Craig’s List ads, or someone receiving magazines about something that is morally questionable.

Letter slot in front door
Letter Box by Keith Evans via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-2.0)

Of course, there are lots of legitimate reasons to have a post office box. In rural areas, people don’t always get mail delivered to their door, so they would need a box.  Having your mail in a mailbox on your front step leaves it open to the risk of theft, so a post office box would provide more security. Also, you may not want everyone to know where you live. I imagine there are quite a few politicians these days who would fit that category.

When I was a girl, our house in England had a letter slot in the front door so that mail was pushed in and fell to the floor where only the family could get at it.  There was always a little bit of excitement in hearing the plop of the mail on the floor and the snap of the letterbox flap.

Letterbox by Nellie Bly via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone I knew got their mail the same way, and I just assumed that the system was universal.  When I travelled to North America, however, I realized that front doors don’t always have mail slots in them. Exterior mailboxes were new to me, but I could still enjoy the sound of the mail arriving with a clap of the lid. Actually, it is usually a squeak-clap: a squeak as the letter carrier raises the lid and then the metallic clack of it dropping back down.

In a condo, there is no sound associated with getting the mail.  I just have to remember to stop by the mail room a few times a week and sift through the advertising flyers to look for bills. Now that I have a post office box, I’ll have a twenty-minute walk to get my mail, which will be good for my health. As I write this, though, I realize I still miss the energizing sound of the front-door letterbox flap snapping shut.


  1. When I was a girl, our house in England had a letter slot in the front door so that mail was pushed in and fell to the floor where only the family could get at it. There was always a little bit of excitement in hearing the plop of the mail on the floor and the snap of the letterbox flap.

    True, but they were a real bugger when trying to push the paper through and especially on Friday when I had to deliver the usual papers, Mail, Express, Telegraph, Times, Sun etc and the local Chester Chronicle which was huge and thick and the letter boxes on most house were small!

    Aaah to be thirteen again… NOT!

    Odd to read about such a crime. I thought it only down here in SA that such nonsense went on.

    1. Oh, yes. You are right about that. They weren’t designed for delivering newspapers!

      Crime rates in general have gone down, but theft of mail and packages has gone up. It’s probably because we all shop online more now.

      Sorry, Ark, but SA isn’t special in that regard!

  2. Anne, I hope you feel better today. Right now (7:49 AM), we have sun but enough clouds to alert one to future wet skies.

    Your blog is brilliant if only due to the topmost photo. USPS and Brickyard have battled over the current boxes for 10+ years as postal carriers did not wish to stoop so low as to reach the bottom rows. Our box is a bottom row and I do understand. However, Postal Service made it sound like ours are out of regulation, even though they approved them prior to their being installed. Your photo shows equally low boxes! And I have wondered that if all boxes were raised as PO wished, how would people reach the uppermost rows?

    Grayson& Board are moving too slowly, imho, on this mail theft issue. Mail theft is a federal crime unless 45 has erased that law too.

    We retrieved our mail daily and I came to learn the sounds of delivery. There was a loud noise as the heavy awkward tray of mail was semi-dropped on the floor, then the jingle of keys as the carrier got the keys to unlock the banks of boxes, and then the little squeaks of boxes opening and shutting, all climaxed by the banks of doors being slammed shut once again. I always tried to say hello to the carrier. We had a couple of long timers who would exchange greetings. However most simply wanted to finish and move on. Occasionally I would get a carrier to take a piece of mail for outgoing. It felt like a small victory for me!

    Here the sound of mail is a mail vehicle driving from box to box and Charlie barking as he lets us know the mail is here!

    When Alice was born in 1971, our mail person, a woman named Peggy I believe, gave me a lovely little pink dress for Alice! Times have changed.

    I have 3 or 4 more Louise Penny books for you (I have only one more to read but it’s not in paperback yet). And I have another mystery by Tana French, “In the Wood” that I liked very much.

    Be well, Mary Beth

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thanks for this, Mary Beth. It’s nice to read about your mail sounds!

      I love that your mail person gave you a gift when Alice was born. It reminded me that we used to give Christmas gifts to the postman and the milkman.

  3. Lol. That is the problem with living in a condo. REMEMBERING to check the mail. The boxes are so out of site that they are out of mind. It is a big event going through all the flyers and Mail when I actually remember to check. Must get better at this.

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