A few weeks ago on a Saturday I was out running errands with the boy Judah. Most of the time that involves either going to the bank or going to the post office. Sometimes it's both.
I've got a stack of envelopes and I pull up to the drive-up mail deposit box and throw a bunch of envelopes into the slot. Easy enough. Then I run some other errands like buying coffee beans, and so on. Exciting stuff.
Then we drive to the bank and get out and walk over to the area where you fill out the deposit slips. I've got a few checks, so I start filling out the deposit slip, and then I notice that one of the larger checks is missing. And then it hits me: The check went into the mail slot with the rest of the envelopes.
By this time, it was getting close to Judah's soccer practice, and he loves his soccer practice. And after soccer practice the post office would surely be closing early for the weekend. So I called Lily to tell her that I dropped the check in the mailbox, and hopefully she'd be able to pick it up.
Out of the goodness of her heart, she went to the post office as soon as she could, with the baby girl in tow, and the nice people at the post office were so kind as to open the box up and find the check for us. Hooray!
That little lesson was short-lived because I did it again yesterday. At least this time I realized I dropped the check in the mailbox as soon as I drove off. I did a u-turn and pulled back into the green-strip 30 minute street parking area in front of the Culver City post office, after being yelled at by an elderly man getting out of his SUV that had a handicapped placard hanging from the rearview mirror.
Luckily the standard 20-person line wasn't happening, so I only had to wait through two people before it was my turn. I went up to the counter and told the dreadlocked postal worker that I accidentally dropped my check in the box outside. His already deadpan face went more deadpan as he swiveled his chair around without saying a word. He disappeared from sight for a bit and I wondered if he just decided to leave. I probably would if I were him. But he reappeared with the key and made his way from behind the counter to go outside.
As he walked by, the smell of pachouli invaded my nostrils. "Which one?" he asked. "The middle one" I replied. He opened the bottom of the box and pulled out a white bin that the mail falls into. I always imagined those mailboxes crammed full of mail, but this one wasn't even half full. Or was it half empty? Anyway, he started flipping through envelopes and I reached out to flip through some too. He stopped, looked me in the eye and said "You CAN'T touch the mail" in a very serious, commanding tone. I folded my hands behind my back, as if to show him I understood the seriousness.
It appeared that hunching over for 10 seconds and flipping through envelopes was hurting his back, because he muttered "I can't do this" and stormed back inside the post office. I followed, keeping my hands folded behind my back. He put the bin onto a table and started flipping through again. He muttered "gah, another bin" and went behind the counter to get another bin.
When he returned, he started tossing groups of envelopes into the 2nd bin. "Did the check have a stamp on it?" he asked. "No" I replied, thinking he meant "did you intend to mail this check?" He dumped more envelopes into the 2nd bin. "I'm only gonna look for envelopes without a stamp" he stated as I wondered how the hell he was going to see anything through the blur of envelopes descending before us.
I told him "Okay, it's around here, cuz those are my wife's stamps." And next to those was my check, which was stamped from the employer mailing it to me. I pointed at it, so's not to touch any mail. His face went even more deadpan. "So it DID have a stamp on it" he said as he handed me the check. He dumped the rest of the mail into the 2nd bin. "Thanks" I said while hurrying out of there in what was probably one notch below actual running.
If there's one lesson learned, a rule of thumb, that would be: Go to the bank first, then the mailbox.