Monday, January 27, 2014

Why Small Town Post Offices Rock

I need a mailbox. That might not seem like a big deal, but how many times in your life will you get to be the one to have to install a brand new mailbox. I am not talking about replacing your existing mailbox, repairing a damaged one, or adding a pretty decal to your rusted old mailbox. No, I am talking about, "Hey, this is a brand new address and I need to get mail here eventually.

I have my perpetual checklist of things to accomplish for the Shouse. One of the items is deciding which address (I have two parcels of land with separate addresses) I will receive mail at and then I have to choose a mailbox to install.

Who knew there were so many options in mailboxes?

In Phoenix we have what we refer to as "banks of mailboxes." Large units that have thirty or more mailboxes are located just down the street. Each homeowner gets an assigned box and a key. It sucks because it isn't just out front of my house and, often, I don't retrieve my mail regularly and the box fills up with junk mail. At my new place I will have the luxury of a mailbox in front of my house again. Just a short trot down the drive in my nightie and muck boots, and that cable bill is mine.

So I took the time this weekend to research mailboxes and determine just how much it is going to set me back in my budget. Mailboxes for the US Postal Service run between $20 and upwards of $500, depending on quality and size. I want a rural box, which means it is quite a bit larger. Why a rural size mailbox? Because I can receive packages that way and they will be protected from the elements. Other considerations are set-backs, post type (allowing for a snow plow), and making sure the post securely holds the box.

In order to find out the expectations for my mailbox installation, I phoned my new local post office in Oklahoma. Now, I have been very frustrated at times with the US Postal System and its automated phone system. I have spent hours (I am not exaggerating) pressing one and following looping menu items, never able to speak with a human being to resolve mail-related issues. Not this time. Saturday I was pleasantly surprised to speak with a real live human being.

The Sparks, OK post office is a small operation and is only open for one hour on Saturdays to accommodate shipping needs and package pick up. I spoke to the very knowledgeable gal running it at length and she was awesome, spectacular, and, wait for it... actually helpful!

I learned that installing a mailbox is partially decided by the route the delivery person takes. For example, if they head west on my road then the mailbox would be across the street from my house. You have to set your mailbox back or on a special type of pole on streets that get plowed so as to avoid having the plow remove your mailbox along with the latest snowfall. I learned that my postal carrier ultimately gets to influence placement of my new box to make their job easier. I learned that when you are friendly to your local mailperson, they will go out of their way to give you information about a new town you plan to move to.

Tanya, the gal I spoke with, was wonderful! I asked her this question: "Should I buy a locking mailbox? Do ya'll have any problems with mail theft out in my area."

She said, "Hold on. Let me look up your address and see." Silence on the line for a moment before she said, "Oh, no. The worst we have out here is mailbox baseball on the paved road. You won't have that problem out in the country where you are. Most of the kids stick to the paved road for that."

I was so surprised and pleased. First of all the fact that mail theft isn't an issue out in sticks is a good thing. Mail theft in Phoenix is epidemic. Secondly, the town of Sparks has a population of 168, yet my property was referred to as "the country" makes me happy all over! I have finally found exactly what I was looking for!

I was equally pleased when she said, "We have a Walmart too. Just 8 miles up the road. Now that the road is paved and the bridges are fixed it is a quick trip."

Wow, one paved road! Yay!!! I can almost hear the whistling of Andy Griffith. Small town America does still exist!

I spoke with Tanya for quite a bit. She filled me in on where to shop, where the county seat is, and information about churches and community activities. She listed off surrounding towns and the distance to travel to them. She even recommended a well supply company where I can get the well pump at a good price. I hadn't considered where doctors and hospitals are located, but now I know that if there is an emergency on the weekend, the doctor will actually meet you up at his office or make an occasional house call!!!

I am so glad to know that small town rural America still exists. Oh, and the outcome of the mailbox you may ask. The mail carrier is going to check out if there is a box out on my property yet (there was once a mobile home on the land) and then give me a call today. Customer service is alive and well in the US Postal Service!

My faith in humanity has been restored. All is well in the world again.