Trusting the Mail

An essay by James A Graves, Jr.

October 2020


I mailed a birthday card to my son two weeks ago. We live in the same Northwest Florida zip code. And we use the same post office.


But I wish I had delivered it in person. Unfortunately, he was out of town, so I dropped it in the “local mail” slot in the post office on my way out of town. He still hasn’t received it. And there was a gift card in the envelope, too. :-(


Normally, I would be annoyed. Unfortunately I’m way beyond that. Because this isn’t my first encounter with the USPS. In 2019 I was working out of town. It was mid-March and my youngest daughter’s birthday was coming up the first week in April, so, thinking that even the convoluted US Mail trip from Wilson NC to Phoenix AZ wouldn’t take more than three weeks, I mailed her card…


I was wrong. Just before her birthday I inquired if she had received her card. No card. I asked again in mid-April. No card. By the end of April I gave up and sent her another card and gift card. This time I paid the $7+ to send it Express Mail. She received it in less than a week. I was glad she finally got it. Annoyed by the experience, but still glad.


At the end of June she sent me a text; “Guess what, dad?”

If you’re thinking that she had just received the first card, you’d be right. It only took THREE AND A HALF MONTHS for the USPS to deliver a birthday card from North Carolina to Arizona. I could have WALKED THERE FASTER!!!


And that event was just a precursor of the joy that the USPS was about to bring me in 2019. Before I started working out of town in August of 2018 I put in a request for the post office to hold my mail.

When I returned home a couple of months later and requested my mail, I was greeted by a very unfriendly and indignant postal worker who informed me that “we only hold mail for 30 days. You need to forward your mail.”

I replied that, “I stay in motels, and don’t know how long I’ll be there. How am I supposed to forward my mail?”

“That’s your problem.” was her reply.


I had retired from a US government job five years earlier and was reminded of the infamous, counterintuitive announcement, “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

Nothing like the indifferent attitude of a postal worker to inspire the overwhelming desire to comment on the glaring absence of customer service within the US government…

‘Here to help’ my *%#! However, amazingly, I held my tongue.


I was at home most of the last quarter of 2018, so I cancelled my USPS forwarding request. But afterward, I couldn’t help but notice that I wasn’t getting mail in my mailbox. Apparently it was being forwarded, I just couldn’t find out where because, according to the customer-service-oriented USPS, I didn’t have a forwarding request in the system.


I don’t recall receiving a Christmas card that year. That was mostly my fault – the only address book that I had access to was no longer available to me. But still, I figured I’d at least get a card from my bank.


In January 2019 a friend emailed me to let me know that the Christmas card they had sent had been returned. I asked how the USPS labeled the card. He sent a picture of the envelope. The USPS had stamped it, “Unable to deliver as addressed.” “Return to sender.”

Apparently, my mailbox, standing in full view in front of my house, wasn’t a suitable receptacle to receive a Christmas card, so the USPS graciously returned it to my friend in Ohio.


I had no idea where the rest of my mail was being sent. Words can’t really express my feelings for the USPS at that point. At least not in this essay.


I returned to work in early 2019, and for lack of any other ideas on how to get my mail, I imposed on a friend and forwarded my mail to an established, trusted mailbox. And literally nothing was forwarded. Nothing, except junk mail, which isn’t supposed to be forwarded (?!) And I began to wonder if, thanks to the mishandling of my mail by the USPS, the rest of the world had decided that I no longer existed.

But I was in the process of getting a divorce. At the very least, surely my lawyer had sent me a bill.

Turns out he had. And it was overdue, because it wasn’t forwarded to me. As well as several other bills, like my homeowners insurance bill, which had been cancelled due to my failure to pay the premium because I had not received the bill.


At that point, I regretted not commenting extensively on the absence of USPS customer service.


And the fun wasn’t over…

Some months later, my son’s fiancée mentioned that my son had some mail addressed to me. I asked how he came to possess my mail, and she said it was mailed to his address in Destin, FL.

I was thoroughly confused. My son had stayed at my place in late 2017 and early 2018. I was living in Arizona at the time. He moved out and had his mail forwarded before I moved to Florida in April of 2018. And apparently, at some point, the USPS had arbitrarily decided to forward my mail to my son’s address despite the fact that I’m “James A” and my son is “James P”.


It was an honest mistake; the letters “A” and “P” are soooo similar…  :-/


And my mail fiasco continued. I gave up on getting mail delivered to my friend’s address that I specified in my forwarding request, so, in the summer of 2019 I cancelled it and rented a ridiculously expensive giant post office box that would hopefully hold all of my mail that arrived while I was working out of town – assuming I ever received mail again, that is.


It took me the remainder of 2019 and the first part of 2020 to finally get “most” of my mail delivered to my new post office box. I have no idea where my mail went to before that. I never received it. I spent a fortune sending mail to my family and my lawyer via Express Mail or Certified Mail to make certain they received it in a timely manner, or at all.


And literally every time I trust the regular, First Class mail, I find myself regretting it, just like I did two weeks ago.


I keep hearing reassurances from the US Post Master General and the Postal Workers Union that America need not worry, the United States Postal Service is fully prepared to handle the influx of mail-in ballots for the November 3rd presidential election.


Who are they kidding?! The USPS can’t even get birthday cards delivered on time… or ever!!


Update: October 30.

                      My son just received his birthday card.

                      It took the USPS Over A Month to deliver his card!

                      In the Same Zip Code!!

                      He lives seven miles from the post office!!!

                      I could’ve CRAWLED that far in less than a month!!!!


#$^%@*!   ~≠∞+µ÷¥£!!  ©€¤¢π=ςρφ!!! Ωψ-жй≈≤∑®!!!! <(:-{


©2020 James A Graves, Jr.



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