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Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Mail? What mail? Nobody can seem to find all the bills and statements and advertisements and catalogs that the United States Postal Service very kindly held for me while I was on vacation. So it wouldn't get lost, don't you know.

This was the day all of my held mail was supposed to be delivered. I signed a yellow card that said exactly that and handed it to the clerk at my local post office the day before I left. Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It was probably better than letting it dribble out of my mailbox into the street and get run over. (I don't get anything anyone would want to steal, except maybe a DVD from Netflix, so that's not a big concern.)

Imagine (if you will) my utter dismay when I walked out to the mailbox this afternoon and found one day's worth of mail. I assume it was the mail that would have been delivered today anyway, but it's hard to tell since nothing gets an old-fashioned postmark any more. The mail I get is mostly stamped by a machine, so I can't tell what day it was sent.

Today's post brought the August National Geographic ("Hidden Tribes of the Amazon" / "Eating Big in Pittsburgh"), the September Book-of-the-Month Club mailing (Tom Clancy and Frederick Forsyth, no thanks just the same), a card from the UCSB Alumni Association (of which I am a Life Member) warning me that I have a limited time to update my personal information before they distribute it on CD-ROM for the world's amusement, and solicitations from Comp USA and Paul Newman.

That's all. And that's not a week's worth of mail.

So after the fuming and stomping subsided, I looked in the new phone book and found the toll-free number for the local post office. Obviously, that number doesn't ring any phone anywhere near the local post office, but it's the one you have to call. And then you get to swing from every branch of the U.S. Postal Service telephone tree before you can talk to a live person.

I assume she was alive, anyway. She didn't answer my question, though. Instead, she gave me the direct number to my local post office. The very number I would have called if it had been listed in the directory. I dialed (actually "punched") that number and talked to Lynn. I was into my speech about how this was the day my vacation-held mail was to be delivered, and I only got a one-day dose of mail, and—

She interrupted me, saying, "I don't mean to interrupt you, but let me give you the number of the Carrier Annex. If your mail is still being held, that's where it would be."

So I called a third number, and got a busy signal. About seven hundred times in a row I got the busy signal, but that's what redial buttons are for. Redial-buzz. Redial-buzz. Seven hundred times, until finally it started ringing. It only rang about three hundred times before Jean answered, so I felt I was making progress.

Once again I went through my sad story, and she took down my address and went off to look for my mail. Twice during the half hour I was waiting, someone else came on the line and asked if I was being helped. I wasn't actually sure if I was or not, but I just told her I was waiting for Jean. "Oh, Jean," she said knowingly.

As it turns out, Jean couldn't find my mail either. She thinks it's on the carrier's truck. She thinks maybe he forgot he had it. If he notices before he returns to the Annex, he'll bring it by. If not, she'll make sure he delivers it tomorrow. I thanked her. What else could I do? I have to believe her, because I'm cool like that.

Shasta Lake 2003

Shasta Lake, 2003.

It's as bad as the bank, where you have to call New York to talk to someone in San Francisco about an account in Santa Rosa. Because apparently no one in Santa Rosa has the time or the inclination (or the ability) to talk to a real person and try to solve his problem. Once upon a time, all my money was in a local bank, and then the bigger fish started swallowing the smaller fish. Eventually customer service is in the hands of Moby Dick, and it's really hard to get his attention. Don't get me started on banks. (Too late.)

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