Mail Woes

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There really was a name and address on here. I just thought it prudent to redact them. I’m like Homeland Security, only smaller.

We often have issues with our mail. Several times each week we receive mail that is not for us. Typically it is for someone in our town who lives at an address that looks similar to ours. 220 Maple Hill Road is similar to 220 Chittenden Road. I guess.

So we put those letters back in the mailbox and flip up the flag. Sometimes I write a note indicating that it was delivered to the wrong address. Just to communicate to whoever might receive it in the end. We have gotten a few pieces of mail with notes on them indicating that they had been delivered to someone else’s address. So it works both ways. I guess.

A few days ago we got our bill from our “plow guy,” the guy who comes to clear our driveway when it snows. At the same time we got a bill from the same plow guy for someone else, but addressed to us. It was not delivered to the wrong address; the wrong address was written for a different customer. So we got it. Simple mistake.

Right away I wrote on the envelope and left it in the mail box. Return to sender. At least that was the idea. But the next day it came back, despite the note. So I wrote on it again and put it back in the mail box. Hopefully it won’t come back to us a second time. If so, I will mail it inside another envelope to the plow guy. He needs to get paid, after all.

I think the U.S. Postal Service is one of the greatest institutions in our nation. I can send something to anyone else and it will get delivered, for a really small price. Eventually. And sometimes with a little encouragement. When tax documents and bills and other important documents get delivered to the wrong address on a regular basis, however, I do begin to wonder about who is handling things at the sorting bin.

My note to return a mis-labeled bill apparently wasn’t clear enough the first time. I guess. Bad weather won’t stop the mail getting through, just bad handwriting.

UPDATE 3/24/2014: This letter got returned yet again yesterday. That is just not right, I tell you, just not right.

Holiday Cards

The holiday cards are starting to trickle. We get lots of them and, to tell you the truth, I love them. Whether they say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy New Year or some other greeting, they offer a good window into the lives of friends and family. It is an annual catch-up of sorts.

We get mail in our white mailbox at the end of the driveway six days a week. Every day it is a gift to get something that is not unsolicited, not a bill, not asking for money, not addressed to “resident.” I love getting the mail in general. Could be something fun on any day. I love surprises. When the end of the year nears it means getting fun mail.

Most of the cards we get these days are photo cards–they have some greeting, tailored to the likes or tastes or whims of the sender, along with one to a whole lot of photos. The photos do make it fun. They give me a sense of what matters to the sender, and I love to ponder just why our friends chose those particular photos.

Here is the thing: I think it is a holiday card faux pas to include only photos of one’s children. I mean, why sign it from four people and then have photos of only two people? At least half the cards we get are from friends who do not include pictures of themselves but do include photos of their children. I do want to see pics of your offspring. I really do. But I also want to see pics of you.

My theories why people do not include photos of themselves, only of their children:

1. They mistakenly think that more people in the photo will cost more. Let’s lay that to rest right now–photos cost the same regardless of the subject.

2. They are old enough that they think they look “bad” and so use this as an excuse to omit themselves. To that I say c’mon, you look fine, and once you are a parent do you really care that much what other people think of how you look?

3. They think receivers want to see photos only of their children. Um, no.

4. They never take photos of themselves, only their children. In this age of digital photography, this isn’t really an excuse anymore. Someone has pictures of you.

5. They forget. OK maybe this has some merit. I can’t remember crap these days. But still, you look at the thing before mailing it out don’t you?

6. They are blinded by love for their children to the extent that they cannot think of themselves. They are selfless, caring parents and have devoted their short lives to maximizing their contribution to the next generation who happens to be their own flesh and blood

I’m not sure about that last one. In any case, none of these are really good excuses. I would love to hear a good one. Maybe that will reduce my curmudgeonness.

Any way, keep sending the cards, friends. Just give me some pics of you. I love your kids, but I love you, too.

Paperless

I have made the switch, for the most part. When I pay bills, I don’t write many checks. I still pay my mortgage with a paper check, but that is the last one I’ve got. Electric bill, insurance, phone bill, they all get sent electronically. I was paying some bills tonight and I couldn’t figure out why I got a paper insurance bill, in the mail, when I also got an email. This has been happening for a while and I have checked my account a few times to make sure I signed up the right way. I did. Tonight I figured it out.

Our insurance bill is primarily in my spouse’s name, although we both are, of course, responsible for paying it. So she needs to change her account to request electronic statements. All I had to do was look at the bill. Duh. We’ll get that switched up right quick.

It is pretty liberating to simply not get so much mail. So much of it just gets tossed. I save statements out of some sense of obligation. But who goes back and looks at old insurance bills or bank statements? Maybe if I owned a business or something I would, but even so, my first instinct would be to look at my online account. I do look at my electric bills on line, to compare them and see how we are doing with our current usage. I don’t save those bills. I am not planning to save much anymore. Paper paper paper. It clutters the closets. I don’t need it.

I also try to cut down on catalogs. When we get one I know we don’t want I send them an email telling them not to “sell or rent” my name and to remove me from the mailing list. I don’t want mail from them and I also don’t want mail from the people to whom they want to sell my contact information. Enough already. I pretty much hate to get catalogs that get dumped right into the recycling bin. Junk, that’s what it is. If I want your catalog I will ask for it thank you very much.

So less paper is what I am after. I am hoping that cutting down on all the mail will mean fewer visits to the transfer station. That would be a plus. I could spend less time there, and less money. Paperless is for me.

Too Much Getting Sent All Over

We have had our current computer, an iBook, since 2003 or so.  It still runs fine.  We have updated the operating system.  We can send email and write documents and watch videos and all the other computer stuff one might do these days.  But we are starting to have a few issues.  For one, the R key is off.  It popped off, literally, once (snagged on a sleeve, I believe) and we couldn’t get it back on quote right.  It still works but requires a small extra effort to type that important letter (22 of them so far, including the ones in these parentheses).  The screen also has some issues, turning half blue if it is tilted at the wrong angle.  Oh, and the battery is dead, so essentially it is a desktop on the counter.

So we decided to get a new computer.  Here is our strategy:  cash in all the points we have accumulated from our credit card for a mortgage payment (who knew you could get that?) and use what would have been our mortgage payment to buy a new computer.  We want to get another Mac (I mean, duh) and right now they have a deal that we would be prudent to accept.  We can get a free iPod Touch with the purchase of a new computer.  Done.  At least, I tried to make it so.  Then I pulled the plug.

A couple of days ago I went to the Apple web site and put in an order.  I even got the free engraving on the iPod Touch.  I was excited and eager to get the goods.  I splurged on the $19 remote for the desktop (the laptop just seemed more than we needed after using our current one in stationary mode for so long).  Then my wife pointed out that you can download a 99 cent app and turn your Touch into a remote.  When I tried to go back to the order online (now a mere hour old) I couldn’t separate the remote from the order.  It looked like I would have to cancel the whole thing.  So I called.

The good news came first.  “We won’t make you cancel the order,” the rep told me.  “We’ll just leave the remote in there and credit you $19.”  What a deal!  Then she mentioned the tax holiday.  Vermont has a tax holiday on August 22nd so no one has to pay state sales tax on anything under $2,000.  We would save close to $100.  That seemed stupid to pass up.  But it would mean I would have to cancel the order and start over, ordering on August 22nd.  So I told her to cancel it.  That meant no free remote.

The problem was that the iPod Touch was already being processed and it was too late to stop that being sent.  They are quick with those puppies apparently.  No big deal, I thought, I can wait for the computer.  The catch, however, is that to get the free iPod Touch you have to order it at the same time as the computer.  So now I would have to pay for the Touch or send it back when it arrived.  Free sounds a lot better than $229 to me.  They would email some labels so I could mail it back without having to pay postage.  Easy.  Done.  I hung up.

But then I remembered that if you get engraving on an iPod you can’t return it.  So I called back.  This time I talked to Sheryl, and she was patient with me.  She told me that typically they would not accept an engraved iPod as a return, but they would make an exception for me.  What a deal!  Great customer service, I’m thinking.  Then I asked her what would happen to it when it got sent back.  She said they would remove the back, where it is engraved, put on a new back, and sell it as refurbished.  So they would pay the postage to get it to me, pay the postage to get it returned, then make less of a profit on top of that.  That seems, well, kind of dumb, considering I really do want the thing.  If they would simply let me keep it and use the rebate (and it is a rebate after all, meaning I have to pay for it and get the cash back) then everyone would be better off.  They would have less work to do, make more money, and I would get what I wanted faster, all saving green house gases and fuel and whatever else would be saved.

So I will get my new toy in the mail, send it back, and then re-order the whole kit and kaboodle in a couple of weeks.  I hate to wait, but I also hate to pay an extra hundred bucks.  I loved Apple’s customer service, but it does make me a tad concerned for the company’s future.  They were willing to give me a free remote, take back something they wouldn’t normally take back, at a loss perhaps, and mail me something twice that I am sure would be perfectly good the first time.  I will end up with what I want in the end, I suppose, although I will have to wait longer than I wanted.  Apple takes the hit.  That is too bad.  I am sure it could have been better for both of us but hey, not all relationships can’t be perfect, now can they?

When Forgetting Pays Off

 

Visual of the Elusive Critter

Visual of the Elusive Critter

 

Last weekend I drove down to New Hampshire.  When I left on Friday I grabbed two things to pop into a mailbox, one of which was a DVD from Netflix to be returned.  I figured I would pass a mailbox at some point.  I picked up a friend to ride together and, once we got conversing, I totally forgot about the mail.  We arrived at our destination and I had to leave a random object (in this case a tin of mints) in front of the steering wheel to remind me to find a mailbox on the way home.

The tin of mints did its job.  It reminded me that I had left the mail under the seat and dutifully took it out to mail on the way home.  Since my friend and I rode home together again, however, I repeated my forgetfulness on the return journey.  I got home and the mail was still in my possession.  I dropped it in the mailbox to be picked up by our carrier the next day.  It was Sunday.

We had been watching the Indiana Jones series–four in a row was the plan.  We had watched the first three and the most recent, from last year, was on our itinerary for that Sunday.  The children fell asleep and I noticed that the disc I thought was the one we wanted was sealed in its return envelope.  I figured we had sealed it up by mistake and realized that it was the third movie.  I had put the wrong one in the mailbox.  At this point I was thinking how glad I was not to have found a mailbox it after all.  I would have sent away the film we were hoping to see.

So I headed down our long driveway to the mailbox.  It wasn’t dark yet, but it was getting there.  My wife had cut the lawn earlier in the day and I noticed a dark smudge on the edge of the driveway where the grass was newly clipped.  I wondered if she had run over something–some bark or old leaves or some plastic bag type item.  As I got right up to it, however, I realized that it was nothing that the lawnmower had mangled.  It was a snipe.

I had never seen a snipe, but I had seen photographs, and I had seen woodcocks, which look similar.  It is a small bird with a long thin beak, colored to blend in to the grass and about the size of a robin.  I have heard snipes many times and, to be honest, I have seen them in flight, way up against the dim sky.  They have a funky mating display in the spring where they make eerie low whistling noises at the tail ends of the day.  They are either hiding in the grass or too difficult to see clearly, since they fly typically when the light is low.

So I was pretty ecstatic to see one of these puppies.  But it was not alone.  It had a mottled chick, fuzzy and still next to it.  I walked right up to them and they did not move.  Obviously they were working under the camouflage principal–Don’t move and no one will see us since we look just like everything around us.  Good theory, but since they were on the nipped grass, it wasn’t working so well.  I watched them for a while before continuing to the mailbox.

I assumed they would split when I returned but they were still there.  I watched them again for a while and they did not move.  I felt like I would stress them out so I split.  Then I thought I might get a photo, so I dropped the red envelope, picked up my camera and headed back down the driveway.  My spouse was on the phone so she missed out.  It was still there, so I took a couple of poor photos, getting as close as I dared and zooming in with our lame zoom lens as close as it would go.  I took four photographs, all of which, how to say this simply, suck.

By the time my wife was off the phone and tried to find our avian friends, they had decided to find some taller grass.  She was out of luck.  I would say at least I had the photos, but they were not much help.  So the lessons here:

  1. It is OK to forget things sometimes as forgetting may lead one in a direction that offers treasure
  2. Take time to look around
  3. Tell your wife to get off the phone if you see a snipe and its chick hanging out right next to the driveway without moving
  4. Get a better camera

Father’s Day is coming up.  Maybe I will drop some hints about that camera.  The movie, by the way–Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull–was pretty good.  They managed to bring our hero back as a much older man in a believable and fun way.  The story itself may not have been believable but hey, it’s just a movie.

Holiday Cards

I spent a good chunk of time today creating a holiday card.  We used to buy a box of cards and write something interesting inside and then send them to family and friends.  We never went with the photo cards where we had to drop off the negative and then pick up the cards a few days later.   It just never seemed worth the effort.

Now, however, one can simply upload digital photographs to a handy web site, choose from a variety of card layouts with multiple photos, pay by credit card, and wait for them to come in the mail.  That is what I spent my time on today.  What took the biggest bit of time was selecting the photos.  We have lots of photos but few fit the criteria.

The photos had to:

  • Have good composition, meaning they had to be good photographs in general
  • Contain a mix of seasons (not all from the summer, not all from the winter)
  • Show each of us at least once, with a preference for the children
  • Not show any of us in every photo

I think I did well.  I went with four photos, rather than nine to keep a balanced square.  That would have taken even longer.  I clicked the “purchase” button and they should be here soon.  Then we need to write personal notes and addresses and send them off.

I look forward to getting cards as well as sending them.  My parents used to hang them along a doorway, then along the wall when that was filled.  It was a part of the holidays I enjoyed and remember.  We always hear from someone we have not seen or heard from on a while.  It seems the one time of year when being in touch happens for many people.

We might have gone with e-cards, to save paper and greenhouse gases, and money for that matter.  But they just don’t feel the same.  You can’t hang an e-card on the wall or read it as you walk back from the mailbox in the snow.  The children can’t line up e-cards on the floor and sort them.  It is a conscious choice to send paper cards.  It is worth it.  Holiday cards are a part of the season and I look forward to them.  Even thinking about hearing from friends and family makes me smile.  With the cold and snow lately, I say bring on the holidays.