Funny editorial from the Smithsonian (kinda long..)
While you're taking my mailbox, let me
give you a piece of my mind
I don't know what's up
with me lately. I seem to
be going out of my way to
annoy people. I like to
think of myself as a genial
fellow who does not set
out to harass and provoke
without good cause, but either we live in
increasingly testy times or my personality is
It began with the mailbox. I live in a part of the
country where all of the mailboxes are on posts
near the heads of driveways, about a hundred
feet from the houses. Over the years, my friends
and neighbors have used mailboxes as convenient
drop-off spots. Someone driving to work in the
morning will pause and insert a birthday card, a
letter, a paperback, the gloves my wife left after
a recent Saturday-night dinner party.
Not long ago I left the outgoing mail in my box
for the new mailman to pick up, then walked to
my neighbor's mailbox and left a letter for him.
The next day my letter was back in my box with
a note from the post office: "Insufficient
postage." I called the post office and got hold of
a functionary there.
"Your note was in error," I told him. "It wasn't
insufficient postage, it was no postage."
"So you forgot to put a stamp on," he said. "Put
a stamp on and we'll deliver it for you."
"I did not forget to put a stamp on," I said. "I had
no intention of putting a stamp on. There was no
"You want your mail delivered, you got to use a
"No, look," I said. "This is my next-door
neighbor. I can hit his mailbox with a tennis ball
from where I sit. I saw no need to trouble you
guys; I didn't want you to get involved."
"You can't deliver mail. That's our job, delivering
"Wait a minute," I said. "My neighbor asked me
to write that letter and put it in his box."
"He's not allowed to say that to you."
"It's not his mailbox. It's our mailbox. We're the
only ones who can put anything in it."
As luck would have it, my mailbox was totally
destroyed three days later, as were several others
in the area. This happens once or twice a year to
various households and usually the culprits are
I called my friend at the post office.
"Listen," I said, "a mailbox at 31 Crown Lane
was smashed to bits last night and needs to be
"Sorry to hear it," he replied. "Better get another
one up fast. We can't deliver mail if there's no
"No, it's not my box, it's your box. Your box was
destroyed, so you have to replace it."
Silence, then: "Is this that same guy?"
"Yes it is," I said. "Are you going to give me a
"Are you kidding me?"
"So three days ago it was your box. Now that it's
been smashed, it's my box. C'mon, it's got to be
one or the other. You want me to run out to a
store, buy a box, get it back on the post
somehow, paint it nice and pretty, put a number
on it, and when it's all ready to use, then it
becomes your box."
"You got it," he said.
Later, after I talked to a supervisor at the post
office, I found my wife and told her, "Know
what? That guy was right and I was wrong. The
inside of the mailbox does belong to them." My
wife, who has other concerns, asked me to help
her find a garden trowel.
Later I went down to the hardware store on
Main Street to buy a mailbox and got into a bit of
a dustup with a cop about some new "smart"
parking meters our town is trying out. These
meters are computerized and have heat and
motion detectors that enable them to sense when
a car has vacated a space. The meter then resets
itself back to zero. Nobody gets free time from
the new meters.
"You mean," I said to the cop, "that I'm required
to put in a quarter for a half-hour, but if I only
need two minutes to buy a magazine, I can't
donate the other 28 minutes to another driver?"
"You got it," he said.
"But I've bought that time, it's my time. The
town can't sell the same time twice. I can do
what I want with it."
"We make the rules, you don't make the rules."
"Let's say I go to a bar and buy a beer. I pay for
it. Now I own that beer. A pal comes in, and for
some reason I'm suddenly not thirsty anymore. I
offer my beer to my pal. Can the bartender grab
it back and sell it to somebody else?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," the cop
replied. "Now please get away from me."
"Do you have a brother who works in the post
The cop looked so grim that I decided to take his
advice and leave. I even forgot to buy the
Late that afternoon I was on the phone to a local
hospital administrator, trying to get to the bottom
of why they add a 6 percent sales tax and an 11
percent gross earnings tax, whatever that is, to
the bills of hospital patients. It was a very
unsatisfactory conversation, and we will not be
I hung up and told my wife I thought sick taxes
are almost as bad as death taxes. "A person
works hard all his life, pays his taxes, manages to
save a little. Then he dies and the government
says, 'Oh, Jones died? What did he have left?
We'll just take a nice chunk of that.'" I fixed
myself a drink and said, "I'd like to call up and
complain, but I don't know who to complain to."
"Good," said my wife.
By Gerald Dumas
In theory we do make the rules. So why do we put up with it? If someone doesn't like the new parking meters they need to start apetition and get them removed. And then walk up to that officer and say "No, we make the rules! Now get back to work, you're on my time.".