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.
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.
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.
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.