Thursday, February 18, 2010

Adventures with Snail Mail

Don't scoff. It's epic.

If you're like most people in the U.S., the toughest part of getting your mail is remembering to go get it. It arrives in a cute little mailbox at the end of your drive, or a slot in your front door, or - at the very most - the first floor of your apartment building.

(If you are living at school, I have a little more sympathy. You may have to walk or even drive to the building with your mailbox. My poor brother and sister - both attending the same college - have to walk across campus in the wet Maine snow to the student center and use combination locks to get to their mail. (Combination locks have always intimidated me. They don't listen to my fingers on a good day, but if they were frozen after a long walk in the ice....yikes!))

On the mountain, mail is definitely an adventure. It's been an adventure from the get-go.

Getting the P.O. Box

So, the roads up the mountain are so scary that the postal service will not go there. (UPS and FedEx usually deliver, but sometimes can't find you.) So, if you happen to be living on the mountain (or know someone who owns a house there), you can get a post office box for free....if you have the right paperwork.

The right paperwork mainly constitutes a legal document with the house's physical address. In a developing community, where roads aren't always named yet - and sometimes renamed, this is more difficult than it sounds. When my mother was still here, we visited the post office no less than three times with different documents. Mom was not pleased. She may have been feeling a little sick on the second visit and was not her usual patient self.

On the third trip, when the nice postal people could accept our documents, we tried to be as nice as possible as they explained the process. I tried to pay attention and ask as many intelligent questions as possible. For example:

The postmistress apologized for not being able to accept the documents without the physical address. "Now, that they're trying to get everything on the 9-1-1 system, they're--"

"9-1-1 system? What's that?" For some reason, I thought that this 9-1-1 system was to be some sort of new GPS system that I hadn't heard of.

The postmistress stared at me incredulously. "Uh...9-1-1, as in I have an emergency?"

I laughed really hard as my mother explained that I was usually very smart but I had, in fact, inherited the blond moments from her. I tried to make up for it later. When the postmistress brought out our new P.O. box key and told us that we were going to love our P.O. box number, I grinned and asked, "Is it 9-1-1?" It was not, but the postmistress laughed anyway.

As I said the postal people, the postal people in Big Sky are very nice, but this is a small town - they're used to locals. They tend to know the locals personally and ask about their children. So, they're not going to be polite for the sake of professionalism.

And now I'm forever the girl who asked what 9-1-1 is. :-P

Driving to Get Mail

I don't get my mail every day. It's only a twenty-five minute drive, but that does end up guzzling gas when you're in four wheel drive in second gear around hairpin turns. As a result, sometimes I go out to the car and find it looking like this:

I don't know if that picture really demonstrates how deep the snow is. Here's another, after I'd attacked it with a broom:

A foot of snow blanketed the car, as well as a thin layer of ice, which needed to be scraped.

And if there was a foot of snow on the car, that meant that there was a foot of snow on the ground.

Sometimes, your neighbor parks in an inopportune place, so you've got to do some fancy maneuvering to squeeze your big SUV between his mini-van and the snowbank.

All that, just to get out of the driveway.

I've already mentioned the hairpin turns and the inclines. The other scary thing about the mountain highway are the other driveways. Some of these people have been living in the mountains their whole lives. They don't feel like they need to take it slow. Instead, they zip around the bends with their snow tires and tail-gate slower drivers, like myself.

On one especially scary trip to the post office, I was sandwiched between a very pushy Jeep Cherokee and an oil truck. I had visions of tragic fiery accidents (hey, I'm a writer with an overactive imagination - and I'm a little morbid). Thank goodness for turn-outs! I noticed later that the Jeep Cherokee started to go a lot slower when he realized what kind of vehicle was in front of him. :-o

Getting Your Mail

So, you've arrived at the post office. The hard part is over, right?


Well, kind of. Sometimes, you open up your P.O. box and...find nothing. Which is very disappointing after all the effort you made to get there.

Sometimes, you're waiting for a very important Amazon package (well, all Amazon packages are important, but this one has work-related research books in there - why, oh why, did I choose Super Saver Shipping??). You go your P.O. box to find...not your package slip, but Valentines from your little sister and your best friend. (A happy surprise!) Or even after receiving a delivery confirmation notice from Amazon, you still find your P.O. box empty, and the nice postmistress says that she can't help you find it without the certified mail number. Or when you return after the weekend with the certified mail number nicely printed out, the nice postmistress says that it was definitely delivered and spends five minutes trying to find the package - while you bite your fingernails and wonder if your books have been accidentally picked up by someone else - before magically pulling it out of the locker right beside the cash register.

You have your mail. The adventure continues. You go out to your car and discover that since it was a warm day, there was a lot melting but not a lot of drainage, and...

...your car is surrounded with several inches of very gross looking water. You must enter from the passenger side, throw your stuff in, and leap over the puddle to keep from soaking your hiking boots.

Mail on the mountain is not for the faint of heart. Or those who hate the outdoors. :-]

I told you it was epic.

No comments: