First impression

When choosing a new mailbox, what do you consider? Is it big enough to hold the voluminous amounts of bills that arrive on a monotonous basis? Does it have a red flag to pull upright to signal the letter carrier (this is the gender-neutral term now, but I admit I miss “mailman”) that you have an outgoing letter? Does it have a separate compartment for a small package, magazines or bulky catalogs? Is your mail so important (state secret important) that it requires a lock with a key?

These are the decisions that must be made when you get a notice from the post office that your mailbox “needs attention.” In all fairness, the post office was correct: the old mailbox at Howlets was listing to starboard and reeled drunkenly on its post when the sticky flap door was jerked open. The previous owner’s name was on the side of the box in large reflective peel-and-stick letters that had been battered by storms and bleached by the sun. It’s time had past.

The old mailbox had to go, but replaced with what? Mailboxes are usually placed at the end of the driveway or walkway and are the first thing you see when entering a property. First time guests look for the street number. A mailbox is the first impression formed by visitors to your house. What does your mailbox say about you? When discussing all of these considerations with Heather, one of the owners of Howlets, she just asked that the mailbox be utilitarian and distinctive and put the final decision in my hands. A search and destroy mission ensued for the perfect Zen balance, form and function. Searching on the internet for mailboxes was a lesson in the copious amounts of choices we have as Americans. A few of the choices that were scrupulously considered but eventually rejected are shown below.

Special delivery

What message does this send?

In thinking about mailboxes and the current electronic age, I wondered about the future of the existence of mailboxes at all. Will mailboxes have the same demise as the hand written thank you note written on your personalized, engraved, cream-colored Crane’s stationery? Most thank you notes now come in the form of an email — efficient, immediate and admittedly sometimes clever. The time it takes to hand write a thank you note is sadly not an efficient use of time in our harried lives. Writing in your best Palmer method script, injecting just the correct amount of thanks without sounding effusive, finding the recipients’ street address, buying the stamp, licking the envelope (yuk) and taking it to the post office (or raising the red flag on your mailbox, if you have one), all take way too much time and effort. But they sure are nice to receive. Wish I could say the same for bills, either paper or electronic.

At Grey Gardens, our mailbox choice was made easier by the fact that we had a stone wall in which to embed it. We wanted to make the mailbox disappear in the wall and make a non-statement. Only our mailman knows where it is.

Disappearing act

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