Borders and Shading

I have about 1,200 boxes at the contract station where I work. Each box that has been rented is associated with a person, or family, or business, or room mates. Some of the people share the same physical address, some do not. What is interesting to me is the narcissistic ruckus people fuss when items arrive improperly addressed. I cheerfully warn customers that if they don't care to have their mail addressed properly, they ought to have an unusual name. Their response is a blank stare.

"But don't you know me?" demand Mr. and Mrs. Smith from Linden Drive. As if I should remember which Smith's they are, and correctly re-route their mail to PO Box 6855. "We've lived in the same house for 15 years, we've rented this box for 12." Interestingly they don't know my name. I've worked at the post office contract station for 5 years now. There is one of me, not 1,200 – but they can't be bothered to learn my name. Especially NOT NOW, as their current perception is I am not delivering the mail properly.

"We rent PO Boxes here," I gently explain. "Your postal address is your Post Office Box."

Blank stare.

"When someone asks you your mailing address, your mailing address is where you receive your mail. You receive your mail at your Post Office box." I explain patiently.

"No We Don't," snorts Mrs. Smith imperiously. "You sent our mail back, even though we have lived on Linden Drive for 15 years. Why didn't you deliver it?"

I look at them a moment. I have to weigh carefully the point to continuing this conversation. One wonders if they really want to know the answer to their question of if they just want to complain. In this zip code there is no street delivery mail, a common enough circumstance for rural communities. A circumstance that certainly predates their ownership of their house.

"Your mail was not delivered because there is no street delivery in this zip code," I reply. "There never has been any street delivery."

"Then why didn't you put it in our PO Box?" Mrs. Smith asks.

"The object was not addressed to your PO Box. Therefore the item was returned undeliverable at the sorting plant. There is no such delivery address, the system is automated. It has been for over ten years. If you want things mailed to you, you need to provide senders with your mailing address."

"I want the name of your supervisor," replies Mrs. Smith with a menacing tone. "You haven't heard the last of us." She threatens. "And anyway, I DO tell people the correct address, we've had that house over 15 years."

And so it goes. A complaint is lodged to consumer affairs. I hear from my supervisor, and then his. I have been job hunting diligently for another job for eight months. The search continues. I have a level of compassion for people who really just want their mail. I can't understand why they expect me to have control over the sorting plant, over the delivery guy, over every other postal worker inbetween mailing the item and our station, as if I could make them care more about the delivery address than the receiver themselves. The receiver themselves, who imagines because they have owned the house 15 years I would be able to connect a physical address I may never have even known, with one of over a thousand PO Boxes - the same people who can't even remember my name.

"If you want them to know your name," my supervisor told me, "we could make you a nametag."

"That is not the point," I replied. "The point is, if they want me to remember their street address it ought to be written on each an every box. How can they expect me to remember something I have no way of knowing?"