Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

D Liver D Letter D Sooner D Complete Moron

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Perhaps you have reason to diss the United States Postal Service. Perhaps your encounters with USPS personnel leave you with a taste in your mouth you did not anticipate (that’ll teach you to lick self-adhesive stamps). Perhaps you have no idea how lucky you are.

In the US, where reasonable people grew up, postal carriers tend to know their routes with some degree of competence, perhaps because it’s a decent job that pays well and produces stability, such that a given carrier will have a specific route for quite some time.

Not so in this part of the world (that would be outside the US, for those keeping track). There may be non-US countries, even many of them, with professional, competent, efficient postal services – Germany and Switzerland come to mind, naturally – but try as they might, the local version seems trapped in the days and ways of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923) (it’s amazing they lasted so long, isn’t it, ruled by a footstool?).

Perhaps our fortifications are too formidable. We have a front gate. It helps keep small children from crawling into the street. As a bonus, its simple locking mechanism makes a nice clinking sound when used, alerting us to the gate’s opening even before a knock or bell (giving us a few precious seconds in which to stop beating the children). Our fifteen-month-old mastered this piece of technology several months ago (he can only reach it, fortunately, when held high enough). Yet it somehow continues to defeat the intelligence of the postman, who tosses the mail through the gate instead of advancing past it to our door, which has a highly visible mail slot.

Naturally, on the occasions when the gate remains open and the path to the mail slot unobstructed, the postman suffers defeat at the mail slot’s hands (I grant that the metaphor in this case doesn’t work so well). It can’t be too difficult to open the slot, slide the mail in, and release. Seldom, however, have we found our mail inside. Most often we find it folded in the slot, as if the postman thinks there’s no room behind it; it’s just a big clip to hold the mail until collected.

So my wife fashioned a sophisticated piece of informative equipment: a piece of paper, secured by tape, above the mail slot. The paper reads: Please Put It All The Way In. Since then we have found it Part Of The Way In, or Not In At All, but never All The Way In.

I have wondered, over the several months since, as the sign has faded in the sun, whether there could in fact be someone who could not comprehend the sign, and whether a postal service could possibly employ, in a position requiring reading names and addresses, SOMEONE WHO CANNOT READ.

I got my answer over the last few days. The problem seems more fundamental than illiteracy: this induhvidual, to borrow Scott Adams’s formulation, lacks the capacity to determine which number applies to which residence. We have a light on the front of our house with a big “12” on it, followed by the street name. The number is clearly visible, even with the light off during daylight. Yet several days in a row, Einstein here has asked me and a random passer-by whether this was house number 12.

So we have a multi-tier defense system against which this poor fellow stands no chance: he has to match the number on the envelopes with the house number, a task that clearly lies at the far edge of his capacity; he then must figure out how to disengage the sophisticated lock on our front gate, which apparently only an infant can do; he must read the strange markings appearing above the mail slot, and comprehend them; and he must insert the mail all the way through the slot, which apparently requires either Herculean strength or Solomonic intelligence, which, as we have established, is not this guy’s forte (which, if he spoke English, he and the other ignorati would pronounce forté, but since the word in this context actually comes from French, should be pronounced to rhyme with port; thus concludes the lesson for today).

I shall grant the postal service the benefit of the doubt – in fact, I think it rather shrewd of the postal service, come to think of it: someone who lacks the capacity for matching clearly identical numerals will be in no position to know that he’s getting paid nothing. Hey, they’ve probably convinced him he owes them money for the job!

But boy, if this guy ever wises up and gets his hands on a weapon…


Written by Thag

August 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

3 Responses

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  1. his innumeracy was further evidenced by the single piece of mail we received the other day that was clearly marked for number 8. didn’t you mention that he’s not old enough to have a work permit?


    August 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    • I’d forgotten about that. But we must actually give him the benefit of the doubt on the number thing in the end. How is he supposed to know that the numbers go in any order, or make any sense? After all, across the street we have two number sevens.


      August 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm

  2. i saw that mailboy today. he nearly passed the house, looked up at it a few times, then confidently started at the gate. i went toward the gate and he said “thirteen, right?”


    August 17, 2010 at 9:59 pm

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