They Are Here


The long-dreaded moment is here

They are here. They’ve been talked about for months and their appearance has been imminent, although we all hoped it was a false alarm. But now there is no question about the hard reality. The communal mail boxes are here.

People who live in new developments laugh at us, because they’ve never known anything else. But their neighbourhoods were designed with these mailboxes in mind. This area is ninety years old, a mixture of detached houses and apartment buildings, mature trees, sidewalks and boulevards that were not meant to hold batteries of mailboxes.

Many of the residents here match the trees – older, maybe not so nimble on their pins anymore. There are as many seniors’ centres around here as there are daycares and schools. Young families tend to move to those new developments, where the trees are young and the mailboxes stand in splendid isolation, not detracting from anybody’s property value. It’s not clear how the older people are going to access their mail – give up some of their independence, maybe, to rely on the kindness of family or neighbours.

We are fortunate to be healthy and mobile, although I’m not looking forward to the run around the corner to pick up our mail, especially in cold weather. There’s a lot to be said for coming home, the kids arguing who gets to check the mailbox. “Is there anything for me?” The stats say we aren’t sending a lot of lettermail anymore, and maybe it’s true. But how much more exciting when we do get something.

I like chatting with the mailman, or mailwoman. Last year, my daughter addressed a letter from camp to “Ima”, with an illegible address. My neighbourhood mail people were able to extract the postal code and delivered that precious envelope to me, covered in scribbles, full of stories of friendship and homesickness.

I don’t know whether those people who know who we are will still be employed after the boxes come into operation at the end of this month. Maybe precious scribbled envelopes will still find their way into that anonymous behemoth on the boulevard. Maybe they will be returned to sender, victims of impersonal bureaucracy taking the place of personalised service.

I fear that this juggernaut is not to be stopped, that all the old neighbourhoods will be forced into this mould. The older people will find some way to get their mail, or maybe they won’t, and their bills will go unpaid. Maybe the outcry that arises when Hydro shuts off their power will lead to changes. But I fear it will be too late for our postal service.

How do you feel about the new boxes?

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