Going Postal about Postal

Sometimes it’s the little things, like mailing a letter home, that seem like the biggest things.  Below is the series of challenges, fights, successes, failures, and all around postal confusion that I faced trying to mail a few items.  Mike vs the United States Postal Services (USPS)- FIGHT!

Round 1: The Basics: Finding a Mail Box

It was a dark and stormy day.   I’m feeling pumped that I’ve found a way to contribute back in a meaningful way to the US economy by sharing my thoughts on TV, and that I’ve legally found a way to make $2-$5 every now and then.  I have my responses to the Neilson Ratings to mail!  Mailing a letter is a great excuse to get out of the house.  I’ll go for a walk heading towards the Schuylkill River and I’m sure this will be easy stuff.  Walking walking walking.  Oh! There!  Wait, that’s a green box.  It says mail, but I don’t think this is it.  It looks more like those mail delivery pick up boxes.  I keep walking.  I pass another green box, and another.  Okay. I pause, feeling a bit foolish but hopeful.  I take my letter, and jam it at the box.  Nothing.  I pry at the box, looking for an opening.  Nothing.  Not a budge.  I look around and no one is there.  I keep walking.  I lost the battle but I am determined to the win the war.  The postal gods are hopefully entertained by my feeble Canadian out of water attempts.

The rain continues to pour down, the wind is blowing my umbrella inside out, but I press on.   It’s been an hour.  My letter is tucked inside my jacket now, hoping my body heat keeps it dry.

I take it to Twitter. I post a photo of the green box, and another soggy picture of me looking sad with my umbrella.  This was my call for help:

‪#Canadian‪ out of water- trying to use #mail in #philly but the boxes don’t open. This wasn’t in the #usa manual…

And nothing.  I’m guessing even the twitterverse is thinking #bahahaha.

As the rain eases and the night sets in, I see yet another green box. Wait- there’s a second box beside it.   I grasp my chest not for a heart attack, but to ensure my letter is still there.  It is, and I pull it out.  I run over, and yes- it is a different postal box.  Blue and white, with a slot for mail.  I have no idea where I am, other than I am too far from home, but I have mailed my letter.    Now, to find my way home.  But that doesn’t matter at this point.  I feel successful knowing that I can mail a letter in the United States of America.

Walking home, I pass about 6 mailboxes.   Argh.

Still: Mike 1.  USPS 0

Round 2: Finding A(nother) Mailbox 

I live in a neighbourhoody area- there has to be a box nearby.  The last time I noted one only a street over (!!!) from where we live on my way back… but why can’t I find it.   Oh, and it’s raining again.  I started off feeling like I had this, and now I’m not sure.  I wanted to reach out to a few people at home with the best thing I could think of- Philadelphia postcards.   I had one for my Student Housing & Residence Life Team back at UTSC, and one for Angel, my dear friend Tara’s cat (Angel had mailed Peeta a letter a few weeks back, so it was a long time coming).  I decided not to leave my neighbourhood this time.  I wandered street by street, up and down.  Philly gets pretty quiet on the streets if it’s cold, or when it’s wet.

I get to the end of Head House Square, and on the corner under a street light, a dim sparkle shines.  A mailbox in my neighbourhood!  Win!  That took about 18 minutes to find a mailbox this time, so a new Philly Record.

I run home and by that time, Derrick is home.  With glee, and confidence, I tell him my success story.   He’s excited because I’m excited, but I know he knows this is so not a big deal.   He asks about stamps and I say I used the ones he left out.

The national stamps…

Not the international stamps that we don’t have…

And who writes a return address on a postcard?


Mike 1.  USPS 1.

Round 3: Canada is now  International

I knew this.  Of course I knew this.  I just didn’t have to think about this back home in Canada except at Christmas.

Feeling rather dim, I of course blame Derrick for leaving out the US Stamps.  Not my best partner moment.

So I went out looking for International stamps, which appears to be harder than I thought.  A number of places that sell stamps only have national stamps, and I think I was feeling more overwhelmed by such a small task to search out an actual USPS location.  I feel this is a valuable moment for me all the same.  Recognizing how somedays these little things can seem huge.   Because they are so little though, I’m not sure who to ask.

Then out of nowhere, I get 2 separate messages- one from Miracle at Student Housing & Residence Life saying THANK YOU for the postcard;  another message containing this photo:


The Postal Gods have taken pity on the silly Canadian!  Under-postaged both cards made it!  Honestly, it felt like I mailed them a winning lottery ticket! I was so excited when I responded to them about how great it was the postcards arrived.  Really excited.  Probably why I haven’t heard back from either of them.

So let’s look at that score again, and readjust to properly reflect the outcomes.

Mike 2.  USPS 0.


Other Discovered American Postal Bits of Information That I Know Now:

  1. Mail is sent and delivered on Saturdays
  2. If you aren’t home for your package, check with your neighbours whether you know them or not- they probably received it on your behalf.
  3. If the neighbours don’t have it, the post person likely put your package in a shed a few doors down. Don’t panic.   It’s safe.

Back home in Canada, I remember hearing about how little things like mail, setting up a phone, changing your address, could be stressful to newcomers.  I always somewhat shrugged it off thinking “oh come on, it’s easy! Common sense.”   Now, I know better.  Little things sometimes really do feel like a really big deal.    Now that I have figured it out, I am feeling a little less lost.

Song of the Day: Help! (by The Beatles) complete with an umbrella and rain!


Sneak Peak for my Next Post: I will be handing over the keyboard to my first Guest Blogger!  If you, my beautiful readers, enjoy it, I might have him come back every now and then!    I think you’ll like it: The post is about food. 

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