It’s in the mail
Hi, my name is Jenny and I’m…a postalholic.
I’ve been in love with all things postal and mail-related since I was a child. I love getting letters. Love writing them. Love going to the post office. Love stamps, those little mini works-of-art.
I am such a nerd.
This postal-obsession isn’t something I’ve ever even admitted to my friends or family. Until now.
It started in fifth grade, when, to learn how to write a letter, we were assigned to write to a state capital—any of the 50 available—asking for information about that state. My classmates dutifully wrote one letter each to one state capital. I had grander plans. I wrote to every single one. Fifty packets of glowing information about Nebraska, Idaho, Georgia, and others began arriving, clogging our little mailbox. My parents were not amused.
This obsessive letter-writing only fueled my postal obsession.
I collected stamps, of course. (Still have them all, by the way. Shoeboxes of worthless, I’m sure, stamps from all corners of the world.)
Not only did I love getting and sending letters and visiting the post office, but I wanted to own a post office. I came close a couple of years ago, when I almost bought a house in Esmont only because it contained—in two tiny rooms on the first floor—the itty-bitty post office for that area. The idea of having the post office as my tenant ($500 monthly rent, by the way, which was only gravy) really warmed the cockles of my heart (and as Woody Allen said, there’s nothing like hot cockles). Only the fact that the house was in a flood plain and the insurance would be astronomical kept me from buying it.
This obsession actually helped torpedo one of my relationships. Years ago, I went to Washington with my then-girlfriend for a romantic/touristy weekend. The first place I dragged her? Not the National Gallery’s new wing (which isn’t so new anymore). Not the Air and Space Museum, or the Phillips Collection, or the Holocaust Museum. But, yes, the National Postal Museum. The relationship ended soon afterward. I have no doubt that the weekend in Washington played a role. No matter. Love me, love my postalholism.
This is an enduring love. A relationship I’ve had far longer than any romantic relationship. I’ve had to overlook the many faults of my “partner”—long lines, cranky clerks, incompetence, misdelivered mail, the New Yorkers that arrive in my mailbox only sporadically. I’ve had to come to terms with those pesky penny-a-stamp increases, the mail trucks that go three miles an hour and clog up traffic, and the fact that my “partner” is fiscally irresponsible, losing millions of bucks each year.
The bottom line is that neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can quash my lifelong obsession, even when the mail delivery folks botch the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Or when six employees are milling around the Barracks Road post office and only one window is open, despite lines going out the door and down the sidewalk to Barnes & Noble. To paraphrase a well-known playwright, the course of true love is usually a rocky road. In my case, often there’s a mail truck going down it.—Jenny Mead
Jenny is a senior researcher at UVA’s Darden Graduate School of Business.