The Great Subversive Mail Mystery

The third or fourth time it happened, I began to be seriously suspicious. Not ordinarily a conspiracy theorist, I was starting to wonder about mysterious outside forces. In my mailbox (I live in #704 in a condo building with some 90 units) there were appearing pieces of mail not addressed to me, but to someone who lived in #704 somewhere else. Names and addresses following will be changed to protect the innocent, but I promise the basic truths are unaltered

MailI am (as you may know) Fran Johns, a fairly simple name that has worked for me since 1992. I live in Apt 704, 2400 Miller Street in San Francisco, CA 20020. I began to get mail addressed to Stephanie Yamamoto, who lives in Apt. 704, Two Cascade Hills Blvd, San Francisco 20020. OK, the ZIP codes are the same too – but still. Johns v Yamamoto? Miller St v Two Cascade Hills Blvd? You can’t mix these up unintentionally.

For a year or so I scribbled “Please Deliver As Addressed” across envelopes and put them back into the mail. I quickly learned that unless I inked out the little digital thingies USPS had affixed at the bottom very carefully they would come straight back to me. I took to indignant all-caps:

DELIVERED IN ERROR TO 2400 MILLER STREET. I hoped Ms Yamamoto would not be too distressed at the late arrival of her mail, and would perhaps understand that I cared. Occasionally I took something to the local post office and handed it to the person selling me stamps or whatever. It was, at first, mildly distressing that no one seemed particularly concerned. It was way more distressing when I picked up my mail while the mailman was still putting stuff in other boxes and there was more Yamamoto mail. “Sir,” I said as I handed him the errant letters (more than once,) “will you try to get this woman’s mail to the correct address? – and he took the letters without comment. I mean, I thought an “Oh, sorry!” would’ve been nice.ZIP Code

Once or twice, when I got something that clearly had financial implications (such as: “Check Enclosed,” or a brokerage house return address) I totally skipped the USPS and delivered the mail myself to Two Cascade Hills – which happily is only 4 or 5 blocks from my building and has its own cordial front desk person. I should note that the cordial front desk person in my own building on multiple occasions contacted the local post office people to explain that the woman in #704 was going nuts with mis-delivered mail. Nothing seemed to work.

Some weeks ago I boiled over. Dug up the mailing address of the CEO & Executive Vice President of the US Postal Service – no easy task, but I persevered. (If you want to write him, it’s 475 L’Enfant Plaza SW Room 4012, Washington DC 20260-2200.) Copied the District Manager of the Pacific Region (I’ll be happy to share that name & address if you like.) I laid out the whole sordid story and asked if he could please, please get Ms. Yamamoto’s mail delivered to her instead of to me. Within a week I had a phone call from Alexander, the guy in charge in San Francisco who, I have to admit, was polite and concerned and promised to fix the problem.

But in the meantime I had boiled over again. I received an important-looking packet addressed to Ms. Yamamoto, mailed from an address in Hawaii that was by now familiar. I took it to her building and left a note saying, “Can we talk?”

Mail1We met for tea. The very charming Ms. Yamamoto is not my new best friend, but close. The packet from Hawaii which the U.S. Postal Service would have sent floating around ZIP code 20020 forever contained essentials needed for a trip to meet her mother (the Hawaiian addressee) overseas, where she does remarkable nonprofit good work – but that’s another story.

This story is about the U.S. Postal Service. It turned out not to be about conspiracies, but probably about one incompetent (Dyslectic? Lazy? Mean-spirited? Who knows?) employee who presumably is still employed by the US Postal Service. Several weeks passed without my getting anything addressed to Ms. Yamamoto. Last week, though, we got a BevMo coupon for $10 off any $50 purchase. Knowing she is overseas and unable to use the coupon before its expiration, I purchased two large bottles of gin, a few weeks’ worth of martinis for my husband. Such a deal.