You have mail!

[Apologies to some of you who are getting this twice. I’m having trouble with the interface with facebook…]

Home is where the heart is. That’s what it used to say on a neighbour’s mailbox, ornate blue letters surrounded by a pink heart, stencilled on the flap that opens and closes for the now-rare letter, bills, and flyers addressed to “homeowner”. When her marriage broke up, the mailbox moved on, along with the home and the heart. I believe the basic sentiment is true, though it’s not my style to wear my heart on my sleeve—or on my mailbox, for that matter. My own mailbox is painted dark blue with only my last name and 163 painted freehand in black, that being the number the township assigned when rural route numbers gave way to street addresses. That was just a few decades ago, and much of our mail still comes to R.R. #2, which is not a problem because everyone knows our name.

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In August of 1972, two days after we moved in, I stopped at the post office in Echo Bay to make sure our mail would be delivered to the right house. The postmaster, a large middle-aged man who obviously hadn’t shaved that morning, turned away from his newspaper and looked up when I opened the door. He appeared to be chewing a cigarette.

“You’re at the White farm?” he said, repeating what I’d just told him, through barely opened lips.

“Yeah. I guess it’s the Dunning farm, now.”

He grunted. “You’ll need to get your name on the mailbox so’s the Findlays know who you are.”

“Who are the Findlays?” I asked.

He stared at me as though I were speaking Chinese. Apparently, this was a stupid question. “They deliver the mail.” He took another hungry puff on his cigarette. “They’ll need to know who y’are,” he repeated, just in case I hadn’t got it the first time, and turned back to his newspaper.

We painted the mailbox blue with our name in black, and it’s been there ever since, though it’s received a couple of fresh coats of paint. It’s the old-fashioned kind that spins on the post, parallel to the road when it’s empty, perpendicular when there’s mail either coming or going. It also has a red flag that moved up and down when it was new, but over the years the flag’s range of movement has diminished to the point where it barely pokes its head above the top of the box.

A few weeks ago, Canada Post hired someone to drive the rural routes and determine whether mailboxes meet the new standards. It seems ours doesn’t. Henceforth, mail will be removed or inserted into mailboxes with some sort of mechanical gadget—presumably emerging from the driver’s window—so mailboxes have to be 1) stable on their posts, 2) fixed in a perpendicular position, and 3) equipped with a red indicator (presumably functioning).

Our failed on all three points.

So, I went mailbox shopping. Sadly. The new look in mailboxes is like this:

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For just under $200, you can have this molded plastic, indestructible, snug, rust-proof and dent-proof mailbox. There were boxes and boxes of them in the local store that caters to rural dwellers. Alongside them, a few mailboxes decorated with cows and other bucolic images, some plain black metal mailboxes, and one, just one, in a dark blue. Mine! At least we can stay blue.

Without taking it out of its cardboard box, I brought it home. It didn’t stay out of its box long; ugly beyond belief. A graceless, sharply-angled container with a flimsy plastic flag. The only thing right about it was the colour. I took it back.

So, Jack spent a hour fussing with the old mailbox. The post is now lashed to a solid metal fencepost; the turning mechanism is disabled; and the flag rises feebly to a somewhat vertical position.

We haven’t had any more complaints from Canada Post, and the mail—such as it is—continues to arrive.

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