Column: Still Waiting, but Grateful

Over a month ago, I ordered a new batch of checks. Every day, I open our mailbox, hoping for a slim package swathed in green plastic. The sympathy cards, valentines, and baby gifts I’ve sent from Easton’s post office over the past few weeks have all arrived well within their estimated timeframe, but the checks, presumably on their way to me, no. When I copy and paste the tracking number online, it says they are “In transit” from Raleigh, NC, delayed by winter weather. Hm. That blizzard was a month ago. Our faithful mail carrier, Heidi, would scoff at such an excuse.

As I waited in line to send some packages not long ago, another masked citizen told me he’d decided to get a post office box. “Yeah. My neighbor’s had checks taken from his mailbox, washed, and re-written. It’s been a major hassle for him.”

“Awful,” I said. “That’s why I always put out our mail in the morning.”

His face – what I could see of it around his mask– was gloomy. “It did happen in the morning.”

Between this distressing tale and the national delay in delivery due to the decommissioning of hundreds of high-speed mail-sorting machines and removal of mail collection boxes at the behest of Postmaster Louis Dejoy, I’ve been angry and unnerved. The postal service is the people’s service, not a strategic political tool. 2020 was not the time to appoint a postmaster with no prior experience with the USPS, but so it went. Yet another reason for my fury with the former administration.

My sister-in-law was recently the victim of a scam, so my imagination runs toward scurrilous doings. Honor and honesty can seem like spirits of a former era, wistfully watching from the shadows of the past. I envision some creepy sneak out there, glancing left to right, then surreptitiously pilfering my checks from a stack of mail in a DHL warehouse or waylaying that beleaguered mail carrier from Raleigh. Argh. Why don’t they disguise those checks in a plain manila envelope? Those green sleeves are so obvious.

But, here in Easton, it is our great good fortune to have Mary. Single-handedly, she mans our local post-office, and she knows everything. Seriously, everything. Beyond the joy of being greeted by name and feeling I have a friend behind the plexi-glass, I know she will efficiently handle my postal needs.

I used to hate scrounging around our shed for discarded boxes and cutting up grocery bags to wrap packages. Now I bring in my items and Mary steers me to the padded envelopes or priority mailboxes that work best. When my passport expired, she helped me fill out the renewal forms. And most recently, she reassured me about my checks. “As long as the website says “in transit,” you don’t have to worry. They’re in our hands. If it says “delivered” and it’s not to you, then it’s a problem. Let me know ASAP, and we’ll get on it.”

Any number of times over the past two years, while driving with an NPR newscaster spewing the latest disheartening report on the car radio, I’d say to Dave, “We should escape to the woods of Easton. Oh wait! We already have! Thank heavens!” As the country struggles to find its way to sense, truth, and justice after a reign of incompetence and cruelty, I am so grateful for this small town: for those who watch over us in town hall, the fire, EMS, and police departments; for the farmers who sustain us; and for Mary, who sees our mail safely on its way… and has saved me some sleepless nights while I wait for those checks to turn up.

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