Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The mysterious key (UPDATED w. photos)

Last week, a key mysteriously appeared in our mailbox. I figured it had something to do with our mail carrier, since he is the only one with access to the mailboxes at the end of the road of our condo complex.

The key looked old and weathered. It looked similar, in fact, to some other keys I had seen by the mailboxes. The bottom row of boxes are very large and all seem unused; they all have keys dangling in the locks.

I figured it was a mistake, perhaps someone thought this was our extra key? I then forgot about it.

My friend in Germany alerted me a while back that I should be expecting a package from her from I waited. She e-mailed me and asked why I hadn't said anything yet; I wrote her back that it hadn't arrived.

This morning she sent me an e-mail with the tracking number. The U.S. Post Office site clearly showed the package had already been delivered. In fact, it was delivered last Tuesday at 11:36 a.m.

I flipped through my calendar... Tuesday? What did I do Tuesday? Oh, yeah. Albie and I were both at home - sleeping. If someone had delivered a package to our door, they would clearly have alerted us by ringing the doorbell. We would have woken up. Nobody had woken us up that day.

"It must have been delivered to the wrong house," I wrote my friend. "I will investigate."

I called the USPS helpline and got an automated female voice on the line. "What would you like to do?" she asked. "Help!" I said. "OK," she replied softly. "Here is some help for you. If you want to find a zip code, please press 3. If you want to..."

I tried pressing 0, then said "customer service." "I'm sorry," the voice replied. "Was that a yes or a no?"

I gave up and called the local post office. A woman told me that "if it says the package has been delivered, our hands are tied."

"Well, what can I do?" I said in a resigned voice. "I know it wasn't delivered. At least not to my house."

She paused for a second, then she asked what my address was. "You're mail carrier is Tom Vincent," she said. "He is out on delivery. You can call back tomorrow at 8 a.m. and ask for him. Maybe he remembers the package."

Hm... out on delivery? I threw my clothes on and ran outside. No mail truck. I figured I'd check the mail to see if he had been to our street yet - he had. And there was another key in our mailbox.

I looked at the key tag - it said 1P. I looked at the big boxes at the bottom - two of them said 1P, two of them said 2P. The 1Ps both had a key in them already. I opened them - they were empty. One of the 2P boxes was locked. What if...?

I ran back home to find the key we got in the mail last week. It said 2P on it in faded writing. When I got back to the mailboxes, I quickly opened the only locked box. Inside was my package from

Mystery solved.

What did I get? Carmen had sent me a First Aid kit. Now I don't have to worry the next time I try to cut my finger off...

This is taken a few steps off my driveway. See the bushes really far away? Our mailboxes are behind those bushes.


Anne Sofie said...

Mystery solved? I haven't a clue to whodunnit... Or does the postman put packages in a larger box and then hints at it by slipping the key into your box?

I find my postman rather odd sometimes (especially when he puts letters to somebody living 25 miles away in our box) but this seems to beat it.

Glad somebody provided you with a first aid box though.

Vickan said...

Well, it has to be the postman. He is the only one who has access to the inside of our mailboxes and therefore the only one who could slip us the key.

Still don't know why he did it, though. Perhaps it is common practice in our complex and nobody told us. Perhaps he thinks it is the safest, instead of dropping it off at our door... I'll have to catch him some day soon to ask him.

Anne Sofie said...

"the only one who has access to the inside of our mailboxes"

Can't anybody but your postman put letters in your mailbox? No slit?

Would you please publish a photo of your row of mailboxes, to show what they look like and where they are situated in comparison to your house? The reason for this probably odd request is that the Swedish Mail wants to replace single mailboxes with clusters down the street. Apart for the inconvenience (not being able to fetch the morning papers dressed in dressing gown) there is a security aspect – which seems to be solved in America as not even you can find your mail…

Carmen said...

Gosh, crazy :-). What does that show to you? Americans are still antiquated in some way. Here in Germany we have a state of the art "DHL Packstation" :-).

ab said...

Well, couldn't he have left a note with the key? :)

Vickan said...

Anne Sofie>> Photos are posted for you. Hope it makes a little more sense now.

Carmen>> What's the DHL center like?

AB>> Absolutely! It would have made more sense!

Anne Sofie said...

Well... no top designer did that mail box tower. How utterly ugly! Not that Swedish mailboxes usually are wonders of spledid design, but a cluster of mailboxes, like in the countryside, often is quite a jolly business:

(You have to put that address into one line to have a look. I split it because in the preview window the end of it didn't show.)

Poor American postman! Not for the ugliness of his work place(s), albeit he is to be pitied for that too (how would you feel after staring at the umptenth worn steel grey tower of boxes when you work day is over?), but how is he to know which box to put which mail into? There are no names or numbers on the boxes, right? Does he have to fiddle with hundreds of keys - or has he got a one-for-all key?

I think you've got material for a column here, Vickan! Or a feature on the life of a postman... Especially if you also ponder over the fact that a letter from Sweden to the U.S. takes about four days, but a letter from the U.S. to Sweden usually is over a week. Is the American postman quicker because he is fed up with the mailboxes and hurries to finish his work? While the Swedish postman stops to have a closer look at the boxes? Sorry, straying away from the topic, I believe...

Anne Sofie said...

Back to my question that made you take a picture of the mailbox tower (what did your neighbours think? glad you did it though, thanks): the towers indeed look safe. It is also interesting that they seem to be the property of the USPS - and thus probably paid for by the USPS.

The Swedish equivalent to the USPS wants to abandon individual boxes (and mail slits in apartment doors) for clusters in apartment house lobbies and end-of-the-street clusters in areas with individual houses. The reason, Swedish mail says, is that mail delivering is hard work, running up and down stairs in apartment buildings and a lot of bikig to reach far-from-each-other mailboxes in areas with individual homes. Postmen get aches and pains and can't stay in their job. Of course mail box clusters saves time and money - too or mainly I'm not sure. All right, Swedish Mail wants/needs to care about staff health and save money - I might accept to walk a little longer to get my mail. But the really weird thing is that the Swedish Mail wants the house owners to pay for the new boxes! So if I want a safe box, firmly attached to the ground (now it is so far away from my house), I'd have to pay say $300-350 to get it. Quite another thing than the simple one ($30 or so) sitting by the side of our drive at a comfortable distance from the front door.

The Swedish Mail has just began its attacks on apartment houses in bigger cities, so I'll have my mailbox at dressing-gown distance for a few more years I hope.

Vickan said...

Anne Sofie> Each mailbox has a number. When the mailman comes, he has one key that opens the entire front part of all boxes (well, at least the small ones, not the mysterious package ones).

Inside the boxes are the letters written for each address with a black marker so he know what goes where.

Since these boxes are all made for the U.S. Post Office, the central key that opens the entire front could be the same for all boxes on all streets in the same town, for all I know. It's a mystery only the post office knows the answer to...

Also, my neighbors didn't see me take the picture, really, since it was in the middle of the day and I never got out of my car.

Anne Sofie said...

Good, I'll drop my concerns for the American postman, and I have a few ideas for the Swedish Mail. Though I'll suggest they'd get in touch with a clever designer...