Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Mailbox is in the Ditch

Last week I received a call at work from Jennifer stating that the mail box had been knocked over. She said the box itself was fine but that the 4x4 wooden post was "split."  I didn't know exactly what that meant so I cancelled an upcoming appointment at work and drove home to check things out.  

The post snapped off in a diagonal fashion about one-third of the way up.  It was sitting next to my neighbor's mailbox which was also clipped off only his was about two-thirds of the way up.  How this happened I could not tell.  There were no skid or tread marks.  No dents or marks on the actual posts themselves other than the breaks.  The only piece missing was my neighbor's mailbox door.  

It took more than a casual force to cause such damage, maybe a piece of farm equipment swiped them as it came through. Regardless of the cause, I had to either get a new post or repair the old one.  I picked up the mailbox and saw that it would fit back together is I could find something to securely fuse the two sections of the broken post.  

So, I rushed back to town to see what Home Depot had to assist me.  I was disoriented looking for pre-drilled metal plates of some sort.  A guy in the plumbing section offered to help me (even though it was outside his departmet).  We rummaged through a smorgasbord of plates until I found two 15-inch heavy-duty ones exactly 4 inches wide.  A perfect fit for my post.

"I don't know if you are going to want to buy those," the Home Depot guy told me, still sorting through the disarrayed collection of pieces.  "How much are these?" I inquired.  They were about $8 each (the other items in the assortment were $2-$3).  I thought, what an incredible bargain! This was exactly what I had in my mind as I was driving back to town.  But, I figured the guy was used to people nickel and diming him a lot.  "Ouch," I emphatically replied.  "Oh well, I still need two of them."

As insurance that I had what I needed, I bought a couple of smaller, thinner plates as well, along with a box of screws. Since Jennifer was on business, as I drove home I planned how I was going to manage to prop up the mailbox, make sure it fit snugly and properly, while drilling the screws.  It sure would be easier if someone could hold it in place while I had two free hands to bolt it together like an orthopedist operating on a broken arm or leg.

Then a wave of good karma happened upon the situation. Literally as I was topping the hill before my driveway I saw my neighbor (who was not home when I was there earlier) rounding his house with his electric drill in hand.  I pulled into the drive in perfect timing with him arriving at the scene of the debacle.  

"Somebody's been messing with us," I smiled to him as I got out of my truck.  He ranted about how fast people drive through here and how reckless some people are and how we weren't raised to cause such damage and not at least try to contact the owners to accept responsibility for the accident (if it was an accident).  He also said that whoever did had to have mess up their vehicle, even though neither of us saw any indication of how the breaks actually occurred.  I couldn't disagree with anything he said.  But his tone changed when I delighted him about the plates I had just picked up at Home Depot.

Working together, it took us all of about 15 minutes to fix both mailboxes.  The heavier metal plates mended my 4x4 perfectly solid and steady.  The smaller plates did the trick to stabilize his mailbox.  It is amazing how fast you can accomplish things when you have the right help and the right tools all line up at precisely the right time.  If life were always so easy.  

We looked everywhere for his missing door flap but only could a couple of small chunks of it scattered across my driveway.  Afterwards we stood and talked for a good long time.  He offered to pay me for the plates and screws but I wouldn't hear of it. "That's what neighbors are for," I offered. And that took him on a tangent about how country people have come together through the years all around us and helped each other.  There was more than a little nostalgia in his voice as he lamented about the fast-paced, impersonal carelessness of the world.

I shared with him that this was only the second time since 1993 that I have a problem like this.  The last time my mailbox was on the opposite side of my driveway and had been taken out by the garbage truck.  The company promptly bought me another one and I moved it to where it sits today in order to stay away from the garbage pick-up.  I still have no idea whether this was some sort of bad high school prank or the accident of extra wide farm equipment or what...but I am glad the damage was not any worse than it was.  

Fortune smiled upon me when I returned from town at precisely the moment my neighbor was ready to fix his mailbox.  It was a good visit to catch up with him; we haven't really talked other than to say "hello" since before Christmas. He's right. Stuff like this is what neighbors are for.  And the world has gone crazy, even if all we had to show for it in this case was a couple of mailboxes somewhat mysteriously chopped in the ditch.  

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