Mystery House

Horror #2: Heightened Security Measures

Do you feel safe today?  Really, really safe? 

You should.  The U.S. Postal Service delayed my mom’s Valentine candy so you would be safe.

My husband and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I always send a Valentine to my mom.  It’s tradition.  This year, I decided to send a little something extra along with the usual card and bought her a pound of Godiva chocolates.

Obviously, when you pack a pound box of something, plus a card, in a cardboard box it weighs slightly more than a pound.  I looked on the Post Office website and calculated postage for two pounds, just in case my scale didn’t agree perfectly with theirs.  Taking no chances, you see, since I wanted Mom’s box to arrive exactly on Valentine’s Day.  Tradition again.  I’m never late with Mom’s Valentine, even though I’m late with a lot of other things.

$4.20.  No problem.  I couldn’t get to the post office on Tuesday but I easily had enough stamps.  Packed up the box, papered it with twelve stamps.  Handed it to my husband who dropped it in a mailbox on his way to work.  All this seems foolproof so far, right?

That’s what I thought.  Until the mail was delivered yesterday.  Valentine’s Day.  There was my box, back where it started.  Not at Mom’s house where it belonged.

A bright green sticker had been slapped over the address label, informing me that due to heightened security measures, any package over one pound had to be taken to the post office and properly dealt with by a U.S. Postal Service employee.  Not simply dropped into a mailbox, even if it’s a really small box addressed to somebody’s mom.

There was a second sticker, which informed me that my box was to be delivered by ground transport only.  It was emblazoned with a very serious image of an airplane with a big black slash running through it.  As if I expected them to charter a special plane to deliver something from my suburb into the city.  Mom and I are in the same metro area, people.  This shouldn’t be all that difficult.

The green sticker (I wish I’d photographed it, but I was too mad to think of it at the time) promised that I could reuse the same stamps if I went to the post office.  So off I went, furious, but realizing I’d have to jump through the hoops if I wanted this box delivered.  See, the Valentine is supposed to arrive in the mail.  That’s part of the fun.  Tradition, you remember.  It’s just not the same if I drive it over there myself.

I’ll decline to identify either the postal branch I went to or the clerk who helped me because he was, fortunately, the most sensible postal clerk I’ve ever encountered and heaven only knows how the U.S. Post Office would react if they discover someone sensible is working for them.  He not only took care of my box, his good humor dissipated my snarly mood.  Here’s how it went:

Me:  “I got busted.  My mom’s Valentine candy is late because this is supposed to go through heightened security.”

Clerk:  “I don’t know what these people are thinking.”  [Pulls off very serious airplane sticker.]  “It’s just going to the city.  Of course it’s not going in a plane.” 

He then removed the green security sticker, weighed the box, counted the stamps, printed out a postage label that said $0.00 and stuck it on the box.

No x-ray machine, no sniffer dogs, no Men in Black materializing out of the back room to inspect (and possibly vaporize) my package.

Me:  “So what was this heightened security?”

Clerk:  “That was it.  That’s all you needed.”

Get it?  The clerk touched my box.  Heightened Security is a laying on of hands.

So here’s how it works, this Heightened Security, as best as I can determine it:

•Anything under one pound is, by definition, not dangerous.

•Media mail is not dangerous, no matter how much it weighs.  (I dump packages labeled “BOOKS” or “MEDIA” in mailboxes all the time and they never bounce back.)

•If a postal clerk touches your box, it’s safe.  So if, say, it’s actually a pound of venomous snakes instead of a pound of chocolate, the laying on of hands will render the snakes harmless and they won’t burst out of the box at any point hollering “Booga booga!” (in snake language) and bite anybody.  Postal hands are powerful.

•Exception:  The hands of the postal clerk who processes the package and puts a bunch of “You’re Doing It Wrong” stickers on it after it’s taken out of a mailbox where it has been improperly dropped are not powerful, and cannot neutralize dangerous snakes or anything.  It doesn’t count if one of those postal employees looks at it.  Only the ones in the post office can guarantee our safety.  They must have passed an extra civil service test or something.

I’ve been chastened.  Foolish me for not realizing how this worked before, and for not understanding the importance of Heightened Security.  We should all be more secure today, because I learned my lesson and followed the rules yesterday.  And with a little luck–okay, a lot of luck–my mom will be happily munching on chocolates later today.


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  1. * Bronach says:

    Well, it’s nice to know we’re all in good hands…

    Posted 11 years, 1 month ago

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