I was listening a few weeks ago to a radio interview with a woman in Moncton who was not able to use her neighbourhood mailbox for several months this winter. First it was completely surrounded by snow and then it was completely buried by snow. She had to drive to the main post office to mail letters.
When I told this story to my mother, she had to laugh. “That was about mailing a letter. Wait till she finds out about home delivery!”
Now that the snow has been melting away, chances are that the woman in Moncton will be able to use her neighbourhood mailbox again.
But sooner or later (by 2019, they say) we are all going to find out what happens when home delivery stops and the mail arrives in the new community mailboxes announced by Canada Post.
My mother lives in one of the areas in suburban Toronto where Canada Post is making its strategic retreat from home delivery. They will be pulling out this summer.
For a little while, she thought the new boxes might go in somebody’s front yard nearby. But it’s a busy corner, with children getting in and out of cars to go to a school around the corner. There are no sidewalks, and it is already busy enough.
So, Canada Post is putting the community mailboxes down at the other end of the street, close to a footpath and a small stream, a place that attracts dogs and ducks and joggers. It’s a quiet spot, on a downhill curve without much visibility. Nobody is too clear how that will work out, especially in bad weather or in winter.
My mother is having none of it. She is elderly and has limited mobility. She will not be walking to the community mailbox. And she doesn’t drive anymore.
Fortunately, she managed to get a special form from Canada Post so that she could apply for an exemption. She sent it in, and eventually there was a phone call. Then there was a friendly conversation about her age and health and condition.
What do you use the mail for, they asked? My grandchildren, she said. She could have added bills too. Also, she gets reading material on recorded disks.
For a little while she thought she might get to keep her usual home delivery. But no. They would be arranging to have somebody from Canada Post bring her the mail. Once a week. From the mailbox down by the stream.
But before that could happen there was another form. This one had to be filled out by her doctor, who is a very efficient professional and will always see her on short notice. But forms are not a priority matter, so that took another two weeks, and ten dollars.
That’s about six steps, over the course of two months, so some of us might want to get started too: get form, fill it out, send it in, do phone interview, take new form to doctor. If you have one. Pick it up and send that one in. Six steps, or was it seven?
It’s hard to be satisfied with any of this, and we should worry about the implications. Many years ago, I delivered mail during the Christmas season, and the experienced letter carrier I worked with told me it was one of our jobs to check up on the frail and the elderly as we went from door to door. Like social workers, he said.
A lot more of these community mailboxes are supposed to go up this summer, so there might be time to get used to them before the snow and ice cover them up, just like they covered up the mailbox in Moncton.
Maybe we should all apply for an exemption. And save Canada Post while we do it.
David Frank works in New Brunswick. His mother lives in suburban Toronto.