Samara O'Shea

The Delinquent Letter Writer

I cannot tell a lie: I’ve been locked out of my P.O. Box. Oh the shame!

I first got a P.O. Box when I updated this Web site (in early 2007). I wanted to offer people the option of writing me letters without posting my address for anyone and everyone to see. Truth be told, most people e-mail me when they have a question or comment, which is fine. I’ve only received a handful of letters in my P.O. Box, but it’s always a joy when I do. After a reader turned friend, Masa, wrote me a few times, I ended up giving him my address so I didn’t have to make my way to the post office as often.

I’m not sure if you know this, but you have to pay for a P.O. Box. It’s not much: $20 for six months and $40 for a year. I usually pay in six-month increments because I never know if anything—i.e. my living situation—will change. And it’s happened more than once when the six-month mark has come round and I receive a phone call saying, “You have to come in and pay or we’ll put a lock your P.O. Box.” Sounds so ominous! I always made it just in time though. Until last Saturday . . .

I sauntered to the post office without a care in the world. I put my key in the box and couldn’t get it back out. I yanked, pulled, twisted, and restlessly turned before I realized it wasn’t stuck—something grabbed it. Apparently, when they put a “lock” on you P.O. Box they have some sort of mechanism waiting on the other side that grabs the key and keeps it. Did six months really go by that fast?! My landline hasn’t been working properly, so if the post office left a message I didn’t receive it. I’m wondering why they didn’t send me a letter. They have my address—you have to establish residency in a certain zip code before they give you a P.O. Box. But there’s no use blaming the post office I suppose—though I think their scare tactics are cruel and unusual.

I kneeled (my box is really low to the floor) in defeat. I wriggled my keychain from the key and walked out with the helpless piece of metal still sticking out. Things got worse the following week when a reader e-mailed me and told me he had just received a package that he had sent to me back in the mail. It has sticker on it that says “box closed.” The worse part: he sent it from Honolulu. It went from Hawaii to PA and back. Once again, that makes me mad at the post office for not just giving it to me! And once again, I’m to blame. Sigh.

Now for the hard part: Walking sheepishly back in and asking if I can have my PO Box back. It will take me a while to muster up the courage. I’ll let you know how it goes. I don’t know if they’ll give me the same number. R.I.P. Box 50.

My friend scanned and e-mailed me an image of the package as it was sent back to him. Here it is: