Canada Post thinks inside the box

Gerry Phelan
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I love my super mailbox. In fact, I’ve learned quite a few lessons in life from the contraption. Given that many more of you will soon be enjoying the same “service” got me thinking about what it’s taught me.

Take mountain-climbing, for example. Over Christmas, my brother was visiting from Virginia. He’s a world traveller and has climbed many of the tallest mountains. He shared some of his photos, but I could do one better. I pointed to the hill of white snow that was piled more than waist-high on our street in Paradise. On the other side of that, I told him, are my messages from the world.

I put on my winter boots, wrapped myself in my warmest coat and snow pants, and started to climb. I sank to my knees in the freshly packed snow. Finally, I made it to the mailbox. It was empty.

We don’t always have to climb mountains to get our mail. This was after a significant snowfall, the plow had recently gone through, and the Canada Post snowclearing contractor had not yet cut a path to the box. But it isn’t the first time — and I am sure not the last time — that my legs enjoyed the deep snow exercise as we went for the mail.

Which leads me to another lesson from those community mailboxes: how to be a locksmith. The lock on my mailbox sometimes freezes; a few squirts of lock de-icer, some pushing and some tugging, and eventually, the box will open.  

The community mailbox has also become a source of mystery and intrigue. You never know what will greet you when you open the box. It may be a town newsletter or fast-food coupons. I always enjoy when I find a key in my box. It indicates there’s a package for me somewhere else in the structure. Once I retrieve the parcel, I lock the special box and throw the key in the mail shute.

Caution here — I’ve learned lessons from that mail shute, too. One of the conveniences of the community mailboxes is that most, if not all, give you access to a place to post your stamped mail. Excellent, right?  Well, maybe. I’ve learned not to trust them too much. One letter I mailed in my super mailbox never did make it to the destination. It was my house insurance renewal; perhaps it got lost elsewhere in the system.

I know I have had several letters that I posted the same way returned to me. The address was stained and barely legible. Was it because of water or snow getting into the community mailbox?  I don’t know.  

Patience is something else I’ve learned. You never quite know when the mail is going to arrive. Sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes it’s the afternoon. And you have to keep checking. There is no way to know if your mail is there unless you make the trip to the box. There is no notification arrow, no sound of the letter carrier on your steps.  

I do miss conversation with the friendly letter carrier. The community mailbox doesn’t talk. It can’t answer your questions, and doesn’t ask any either.

Perhaps I should have said upfront that my father was a letter carrier for more than four decades. He went to work in the worst of storms, during those days when “the mail must get through.”

He’s been retired for a while now, but still runs into people who thank him for his service, and remember his wink and smile as he walked the streets of downtown.

When my community mailbox retires, the metal will likely be recycled for another cause. It will have served its purpose, but it won’t have had the personality and the character of the letter carrier. Of course, metal boxes are a lot easier to axe than men and women.

My bet is the whole works will eventually be privatized, sold off to some company for a tidy sum. The postal service will become the postal business.

It’s already “in the mail.”

Organizations: Canada Post

Geographic location: Virginia, Paradise

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