Going Postal: Day 15

robeson-stamp.jpgDay 15: Meaning of the Mail

Well, I finally managed to get out of work after putting in just over eight hours. I told my supervisor, “Look, I’ve already put in nearly 60 hours this week, and I still have to work tomorrow. I feel like crap, and I need to leave once my eight hours are up.” She was actually pissed off at me. Keep in mind that during my first two weeks I worked just under 100 hours, and by the time this third week is up I will have clocked in at just under 70 hours. And she’s pissed at me for wanting to leave early? This is why people “go postal”—because their supervisors are demanding taskmasters. And this is the one supervisor I actually like.

I started out yesterday by getting up early so I could go see I Am Legend. I’ve watched a fair number of movies since leaving my position at the newspaper, but this was the first time that I watched something that made me miss my old job. It was the sort of film I enjoyed watching, and I enjoyed writing about, and I really wished for the readership the paper gave me. I don’t know how many people actually come to this site, but with the newspaper, I would be able to walk around the city, and see people reading my stuff. That’s my secret confession—that I would go on missions every Wednesday (the day the paper came out), and see if I could spot people reading my shit.

Work was a no-brainer, but that’s nothing new. For whatever reason, my brain was working overtime last night—thinking about a ton of stuff and going a mile a minute. Maybe it was because I wasn’t high on pain killers. It’s not that I wanted to go to work clear-headed and free of drugs, I just forgot to pop my pills before leaving home. Truth be told, I prefer working a bit high. I was however, so sleep deprived and tired by the time I left, I thought I was going to fall asleep while driving home. That’s when I really started to get pissed off about the job, because like so many other employers, they want you to give your life to the fulfillment of your duties, as if providing you with income entitles them to possession of all that you are. If I had fallen asleep while driving home, and died, the mail would go on. There would be no day of mourning at the post office. No flags at half-mast. None of my co-workers would miss me, because no one there even knows my name. I am as anonymous and autonomous as a person can be. And I kind of like it that way. Maybe that makes me an asshole, but by remaining as close to a lifeless drone as humanly possible, I feel like I’m not giving my entire being over to the United States Postal Service. They would take it, if I gave it to them, but I’m trying to hold on to it for myself.

At some point last night I went through this emotional journey where I felt as if I hated the mail. It was busy last night, as it is every night; and maybe my watching I Am Legend lent to my feelings of being overwhelmed by an enemy that I could not stop. But at some point I realized I can’t actually hate the mail. Mail is an inanimate thing devoid of life. Hating the mail is a lot like hating the Bible. The Bible is nothing more than a bunch of bound pages with printed words that only have meaning to people who chose to invest in what those words say. You can’t hate the Bible, you can only hate how people interpret and act upon what is in the Bible. In other words, you can’t hate the book, just the potentiality of what the book represents, and how that potential manifests itself within human behavior.

It has taken me some time to really understand exactly what the mail is, and to put it into words, but that realization came last night. The mail is nothing more than a series of reminders of the life we have led, and the life we are leading. A bill is a reminder in the mail that we owe someone money. A birthday card is a reminder that someone is thinking of us. A “get well” card is reminder that we were sick and are now trying to heal. A love letter is a reminder that we love someone, or that someone loves us. And all of this mail serves as tangible markers and representations of each moment of our life.

My mother’s mother was notorious for sending the same birthday card every year. She had bought the cards in bulk, or they had been given to her, and she sent out the same card to all of her grandchildren for many years. And at the time it was infuriating that she could not think enough of us to send a different card every year, but when she died, and the cards stopped arriving, it was only then that the real meaning became clear. Although our relationship was strained, once a year I received a reminder—in the form of a card that arrived in the mail—that my grandmother was thinking of me in some way, and that in some way she cared. But those reminders now only exist as part of a past life that becomes more and more faded from my memory as time passes on; and though I hated the fact that it was the same card year after year, I found that I missed getting them far more than I hated getting them.

This is what I thought about last night. I thought about all the packages and parcels that were steadily eating away at my back and shoulders, and how each of them was a reminder being sent from one party to another. And all of these reminders are the sum total of the life stories of millions of people; because more than the car we drive, or the clothes we wear, we are defined by the mail we receive. And of course, that got me to thinking about the mail I receive.

A few days ago I got a card from my friend Steve, who I have known since second grade—that would be 1975, in case anyone was wondering. Steve and I don’t talk much, but once a year we exchange cards, and I get to see a picture of his family, and I send him a note that says, “still no wife or kids.” And the week before that, I got a package from Ted—the guy with handwriting like a gibbon—and it was a reminder of the 29 years we have been friends. He sent a bunch of CDs and DVDs that reminded me how well he knows me, and that through it all, he has remained the best friend this particular motherfucker could have ever asked for.

Since this month is December, which brings not only a variety of holidays but also my birthday, there have been quite a few reminders that have come to me by way of the mail. But it isn’t so much like that the rest of the year. Usually it is just bills and junk, and reminders that in the broad scheme of things a person’s worth is measured by how much they owe and how much they spend. And I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t feel too comfortable being measured that way.

When push comes to shove, I don’t hate the mail. I hate my job that involves the mail. But my feelings about those packages, parcels and letters that I seem to endlessly lift and haul and sort is a reflection of how I see myself, and the reminders that tell me who I have been, and who I am right now. And as my mind raced last night, thinking about all of the things I’m now writing about and so much more, I wondered what it says about me that in my entire life no woman has ever sent me a love letter. I wondered if I would ever get a Father’s Day card. I wondered what it would be like if the care packages from Ted ever stopped showing up. I wondered if I stopped getting mail, would that mean that I no longer matter? I thought of these things and much, much more, but the rest are stories for another time.

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One Response to “Going Postal: Day 15”

  1. lively Says:

    what’s your address? 😉

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