February 24, 2020

The Price of RFD

Most city folks don’t know what RFD stands for, and sometimes I think the US Postal Service hopes the rest of us forget about it, too. Rural Free Delivery was introduced a long time ago because Congress thought rural citizens had as much right to have mail delivered to their homes as city dwellers. Most of Congress still feels that way (especially since its members get free postage), but there seems to be some question about the definition of “rural.”

I live on the edge of a dirt road, over a mile beyond the nearest asphalt. There are four houses clustered within a quarter-mile, and no others between the hard road and ours. Beyond us is the un-bridged crossing of Wet Beaver Creek and a group of five houses and mobile homes without any two persons more distantly related than a double second cousin. But apparently we’re not rural because I still have to drive two and a half miles to the post office to get my mail. I do get a free mailbox though, but only the smallest size.

I get a lot of mail and a bigger box would certainly suit me better, but then I’d have to pay for it. I’d say it’s not the cost, it’s the principle; but it’s been my experience that the folks who say this really mean it’s the money, and I can’t claim to be any different.

The box is about four inches square and six feet deep, and if I don’t pick up my mail for a couple of days, I’d swear the mailman packs it in with his foot–if I thought he could get his foot in there. He must use a broom or mop handle. Sometimes when I unlock the box, the door flies open and mail explodes out like it’s been fermenting and building up pressure for days. Did I happen to mention the box opening was small?

In the winter, after I put on a few pounds, I have to remove my jacket, roll up my sleeve and grease my arm so I can reach all the way to the back. And I can only remove a few pieces of mail at a time because if I make too big a fist, I’m stuck. Magazines are rolled up, yet if I try to pull one straight out, it catches on the lip in the front and peels the cover and the first five pages off, much like shucking an ear of corn.

If I receive a package larger than a deck of pinochle cards, the mailman wads one of those little yellow cards into the box, and I have to take it up to the counter to claim my prize. That’s a simple enough system until you throw in a few variables like employee lunches, coffee and smoke breaks, vacations, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, Saturdays, Sundays, and any day before or after a full moon. You also have to work around any day that might involve a graduation, wedding, or funeral within four generations of an employee’s family. This is exactly why it is illegal to mail anything more perishable than a brick. It will certainly start to stink long before you’ll ever hit that four-minute floating window of opportunity.

My mother (who used to work in a post office) has long since stopped putting any indication of which birthday my gift is for, relying on the knowledge that by the time I redeem my coupon, I’ll never know if she’s late for my last birthday or early for my next.

But God bless America, it’s free.

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