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The Moment of Decision

Last week, we obtained a P.O. Box because anti-spam laws required a mailing address for our newsletter.

We kept our home box, which sits next to an unused one for the empty house across the street. On Tuesday morning, I placed a couple of bills inside and raised the flag, but no one picked up my mail. On Wednesday, no one picked up my mail again.

As I was explaining my confusion to Mel, I noticed the mail truck stop at our box and sit for a very long time. Weird, not only was he later than usual (no big deal) but he either had a ton of mail or was talking on his cell phone. I highly doubted the latter.

Once he left, I traipsed across the street only to find my mailbox empty. What had he been doing? There were no other boxes.

About five minutes later, a knock came from the front door. I answered it, surprised–yet not surprised–to see a mailman standing on my doorstep. This was not my usual guy and the plot surrounding my postal experience was thickening.

He looked incredibly distraught. Not his typical route, I figured this was the end of a long day. I opened the door and the man handed me a piece of junk mail then sliced the air with an emphatic gesture.

“Ma’am, do not go within a thousand feet of your mailbox!”

My eyes widened. “Why?”

“There are a thousand hornets crawling all over it. Just so you know, I took a picture and sent it to my boss. You’ll probably get a notice that you need to clean that up before any more mail is delivered. Your regular mailman, Bob, he probably didn’t want to cause any trouble, but I just thought if you were an elderly person, and you went out there, you’d be hurt bad.”

As I listened to him vent, I picked up on a couple of issues:

  1. By his gestures, my interim mailman was mad and ready for a confrontation.
  2. A thousand hornets would scare anyone. He needed to vent.
  3. He felt a conviction to do the right thing. Isn’t the postmaster’s motto something like: “No matter whatever the disaster, the mail shall be delivered.” Or something like that? Maybe I just read it in a novel.

So, in full Social Worker mode, I’m thinking about which emotion to tackle. Anger is a byproduct of fear. So, take out the fear, and I’ll also take care of the anger. I let him continue to vent and flail his arms. At the same time, a few thoughts buzzed through my mind.

  1. I didn’t do anything wrong, and this guy took a picture of my mailbox and sent it to his boss!
  2. There aren’t any hornets on my mailbox. I just went out there!
  3. He’s confused or on drugs.

My curiosity was at its highest level. These are the moments a writer loves because they’re unique situations with the potential for multiple outcomes, depending on how I react. I catalog every nuance of his expressions, gestures, and word choice.

Because I truly don’t like conflict, I wait until he finishes, then I say, “I was just out at my mailbox a few minutes ago, and I didn’t see anything, but I saw you stop earlier and sit there for a while–”

“Yeah, because I was taking a picture to send to my boss!”

“Weird. I didn’t see any hornets.”

He turns and points to the box. “Look, you can see them swarming all over the front.”

I squint, looking closer. “I don’t see anything.”

“The brown mailbox, shaped like a house? You don’t see anything?”

“Oh.” I shift my gaze to the neighbor’s unused mailbox. Sure enough, there’s a mass of something on the front.

“You’ll have to take care of that before the mail is delivered again.” He stared at me, mouth in a tight, straight line as if he caught me in a lie.

My moment of decision. I had a choice. I knew I was right and he was a hair’s width from being unprofessional, but I liked this guy. He drove all the way around the block to make sure I wasn’t an elderly person, teetering with my walker, into a dangerous situation. And he was reacting to fear. I’m always a sucker (and doormat) for people who are acting out of fear. I get it.

Shouldn’t life be about helping one another instead of becoming offended? This was an opportunity–not to be haughty, and right, but to clear up a misunderstanding and be helpful.

“My mailbox is the white one. The one shaped like a house has a vacancy card in it.”

The guy looked from the mailbox to me and back. Like a deflated balloon his shoulders slumped and face softened. “The brown mailbox isn’t yours?”

“No, but I’ll be happy to call Bob and let him know about the hornets. Um…would you please make sure your boss knows that the picture you sent is for 904 not 903?”

In a much kinder tone, he once again explained that he was just trying to keep someone from getting hurt. I chose to believe him and held up my piece of junk mail. “Thank you for delivering this.”

As I stepped back in the house, I wondered if he was going to put my mail in the right box? Did he even see the one that was white, hornet-free with 903 on it?

More disturbing…how did I not see the hornets when I went out there? Yikes. Gives me chills to think about it.

Have  you ever been in a situation where you were wrongly accused? How did you react?

I checked the neighbor’s mailbox. There is a massive number of wasps on and around the thing. Have you ever been caught in a swarm of anything?

And for the record, here is the unofficial motto for the USPS:

The words “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – although by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service – have long been associated with the American postman. The motto is inscribed on New York’s James Farley Post Office in New York City, facing Penn Station, but it has no official status.[1]

Have a wonderful day.