When I was a kid growing up in the suburbs outside Chicago, the mailman (they were all men back then) had to hike his route on foot, and walk all the way from the sidewalk to the house to reach our mailbox, which was attached to the front of the house, next to the front door. Every house in town was set up like this. The only time you ever saw a mailbox on a post by the side of the road was when you drove out into “the country.” You certainly wouldn’t want your mailbox to be situated out at the roadside, because that would make you something of a hillbilly.
By the time I moved to master-planned Scottsdale, Arizona, in my 20’s, women had joined the ranks of the mailmen, and you were supposed to call them all “letter carriers” (which is a faulty designation, because they also carry packages and other stuff) or “mail carriers” (not to be confused with male carriers). And in Scottsdale, the letter carriers had apparently organized, and put a stop to that nonsense about walking up to every house to deliver the mail, or even pausing your vehicle at each house. In Scottsdale, there was a bank of mailboxes for the whole neighborhood — a big, gray, rectangular unit with numerous identical little doors, each with a key lock and a unique number. You had to stop at the mailbox station on your way home from work, get out of your car, unlock your little door, retrieve your mail, re-lock your little door, get back in your car, and drive the rest of the way to your house. An unspeakably inconvenient system. The only alternative was to send your kid to get the mail, which would mean listening to all that whining.
Then I moved to outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where apparently most of us are hillbillies, because we all have mailboxes on posts by the side of the road. Also, in my opinion, a mailbox on a pole by the side of the road is an accident waiting to happen. Well, it’s more than just an opinion. I seem to have the worst mailbox luck in the world. My mailbox is an accident magnet.
We inherited what appeared to be an ordinary mailbox mounted on an ordinary wooden pole. When we hired a local contractor to do some work, he promptly backed his truck into the pole. A mailbox standing at a 45-degree angle is interesting, certainly, but not practical. The contractor, to his credit, made it right.
Then I awoke one morning to find that my mailbox had been knocked off its pole and mangled. Was it a passing car? Or did somebody really, really hate an Outsidah column, and they got their revenge by perpetrating this hate crime?
We replaced the mailbox, but I didn’t know that we had slipped into some bizarre mailbox-tragedy vortex. A few weeks later, the new mailbox was also clobbered, busted up and knocked into the street, along with a couple broken pieces of a Toyota’s side-view mirror.
Now it was time for serious resistance. We not only bought a new mailbox; we ordered a 400-lb. granite post, an imposing monolith sure to intimidate even the most daring driver. This mammoth pillar would need a four-foot-deep hole, but I wasn’t worried. My wife could dig that kind of hole in no time.
(Toward the end of the process, she had to lie flat on the ground to reach the bottom of the hole. The next week, the Ipswich police log included an item about a woman lying on the ground on Linebrook Road, apparently in distress. Wasn’t it nice of some passing driver to call the cops, even though they were in too big of a hurry to stop and check on the party in trouble?)
But the new mailbox was mounted on the front of the granite post, not on the top, so it stuck a little further out toward the road. To ward off any drifting drivers, I affixed bright red reflectors to the side of our new mailbox. It didn’t work. Last week, we were struck by yet another hit-and-run driver. The mailbox, crinkled like a Kleenex, had gone cartwheeling into our driveway.
My wife, the hole-digger, insisted that the 400-lb. post would need to be relocated further from the road. This would require a new hole, to be dug immediately behind where the post was now standing. I couldn’t stand the guilt of making her dig a second hole all by herself. And we have no more children living at home. So I reluctantly went out there to supervise.
By the time you read this, we’ll have yet another new mailbox, positioned further off the road, with bright red reflectors, and maybe I’ll add a nightlight. But I have no faith for any of this to work. There will still be people swerving along outer Linebrook Road after visiting the Ipswich bars, heading home to Topsfield, where it’s almost impossible to get a drink.
Maybe instead of a granite post … rubber?
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road in Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he tends America’s oldest continuously operating mailbox graveyard. To follow Doug, visit DougBrendel.com.