Ed has reminded me I haven’t yet told you about how my Postal Service saga concluded (I say “concluded” hopefully, though I hardly dare to dream the worst is over). And Ed says he likes it when I complain, so I hope that goes for some of you too.
Earlier this week I described the bizarre identity mix-up that began with a few coincidental similarities between my former mailing address and some other guy’s. And I told you how I called my formerly local branch of the post office, the one technically responsible for forwarding my mail, to sort it out, and how I got put on hold for a very long time, and how I eventually gave up and hung up. On Monday, more of the same: I call that branch; the phone rings for a very long time; someone finally answers, and I try to explain my problem (I opened with the letter from the collection agency this time, hoping it might get better results); the person who answered tells me to hold while he tries to find the mail carrier for my former address. I stayed on hold, rinsing escarole and listening to the repeating recorded message about the differences between Priority Mail and Express Mail, for more than 10 minutes before I hung up, because the escarole was all washed and back in the crisper drawer, and it was time for me to go to work. I know it was more than 10 minutes because, when I finally hung up, my cell phone told me the call had lasted 14 minutes and some seconds. (The pre-hold part couldn’t have taken 4 minutes, and the part where the phone was ringing took up most of that.)
I couldn’t think of any way to get results from this branch over the phone – “Let me get your carrier” seemed like the inevitable end of every call. I pictured them setting down the phone and shouting, "Hey, who delivers mail to 100th Street? Anybody?" and then shrugging and walking away from the phone, leaving me to listen to the cheerful man and woman who keep asking, "Are you in the business? ...The 'get-it-there-soon' business?" I was still hoping to avoid having to make a special, during-business-hours trip uptown to 104th Street just to explain my problem in person, so I decided to try calling 1-800-ASK-USPS again and asking to speak to a real, live agent this time. And it worked! I wasn’t even put on hold! The woman I talked to was very pleasant, and after I explained my problem she took down all the information (mine and James’s), apologized for the inconvenience and promised to forward everything on to the person best equipped to handle my problem. She said I’d get a call within one to two business days. Best experience I have ever had with the Post Office. Although I do have some cause to wonder whether she really forwarded everything...
Yesterday my phone rang, and the caller said she was calling from the branch where all my troubles began, regarding the complaint I had submitted about my mail forwarding situation. She explained that the building I used to live in is classified as a “drop house” by the Postal Service, so they are unable to forward any mail from that address, which would explain why I’m not getting my mail forwarded. “But...I am getting my mail forwarded,” I said. She asked if I’d submitted my forwarding request online (I did), and said, in that case, it might work (um, it does), but she repeated that the mail carrier couldn’t do anything with mail that might arrive there for me except mark it “return to sender.” I interrupted her kind of frantically at this point, because I was convinced she would tell me to have a nice day and hang up before I could explain my actual problem, and I’d be worse off than ever. “But that’s not what I called about!” I said, with an edge of panic to my voice. I told her about James Wilson, who is not me. She guessed correctly that his former address and mine must share a building number, and confirmed my suspicion that the forwarded mail is sorted by the first-4-digits-of-surname plus first-3-digits-of-address algorithm. Who knew? So that means this fellow and I are doomed to be linked forever (or at least till my forwarding request runs out – nine more months at the outside!). But she did say she’d make a note that his mail should not go to me, and that my address is not his. Whether she’ll pass that note on to anyone else is still to be seen. Here’s hoping!
Speaking of Ed: Buy his novel! I finally got my very own copy of Personal Days last night, and I will tell you all about when I finish reading it (which will be very soon, I’m sure). But I’ve already read enough to recommend it, and I'm not just saying that because I'm flattered that Ed likes to read my complaints. In fact, I think I'll blurb it right now, just in case Random House is looking for something to pad out the A-pages in the next printing: "Personal Days is one thing I definitely won't be complaining about!"