Up until about, oh I don't know, two months ago or so, I was a complete idiot. I had turned my life into a constant struggle, unnecessarily. We are talking epic proportions difficult. And ridiculous, all at the same time. Why? Why and how could life be so unbelievably nonsensical? Because I'm an idiot. That's why.
Way back when we got married, and moved into our neighborhood four and a half years ago, I walked out to our mailbox. Our mailbox isn't in front of our house. It is around the corner and is set up apartment-style, with all the boxes for the twenty or so houses on our street and the adjoining streets in one place. Our box is number 9, which has nothing whatsoever to do with our physical address. Random. But that's not why I'm an idiot.
The mailboxes are little keyed doors, housed in a big metal box, which sits atop a vertical metal post. What I'm trying to do is give you a mental picture here. The box isn't attached to a wall, is what I'm trying to say. It is a free-standing, large metal mailbox, to my left of the sidewalk. I say "my left" because it would be to the right of the people who come from the street north of us to use it, but now you can see how my bizarre mind works.
Anyway, there is a space, in the mailbox, which is designated specifically for outgoing mail. It is designed as a slot, with an upper lip, so to speak. And it is sealed shut, underneath the lip, with a strip of metal, screwed-in on either side. Because I'm an idiot, I allowed this metal strip to lead me to the impossible assumption that I had no place to put my outgoing mail. "Where the heck do you put outgoing mail?" I asked myself, but no one else.
So, instead of inquiring to other local residents about what they did with their outgoing mail, I began a four-and-a-half-year, pain-in-the-neck, ridiculous-as-could-possibly-be almost daily scheduling nightmare.
Let me explain something. I do all my banking online. I deposit my rent check directly into my landlord's account, which is incidentally, so handy, and only possible because the landlord is also my Grandpa's cousin's wife. In other words, I have no real reason to have that much outgoing mail. Okay, so there is the occasional thank you card or birthday well wish from me, but other than that, no major stamp budget is necessary to keep me going. Or outgoing. Whatever.
There is, however, the matter of our air conditioning business. Which produces more outgoing mail than I could have ever imagined possible. Jose is constantly handing me an addressed, stamped--usually, thank goodness--envelope to "Honey please put this in the mail." Frequently, people. As in, all the time. Are you with me so far? Do you get that I've had lots of outgoing mail, and seemingly, no place to put it?
Thus, the logistical nightmare began. My daily plotting to figure out where I would be, and when, and whether or not there was an outgoing mailbox nearby when I got there, or at least on the way.
I remember I drove by the Albertson's grocery store on my way to Blockbuster once, about a year into my four-and-a-half years, and actually gasped out loud in excitement when I finally noticed that they had a big blue United States Postal Service outgoing mailbox right outside the store. I gleefully thought about how I could now bring my outgoing mail on my way to and from picking up and returning movies. "This is great!" I exclaimed in my head, "now I have a drop point on this side of town too!" Good grief. I sounded like a drug dealer. A desperate drug dealer. An idiot drug dealer.
I had all the schedules memorized. That Albertson's box? Pick up at 10:30 am, Monday through Friday. The drop at The UPS Store? 4:45 in the afternoon. The Walmart location? 2:30 pm.
That brings me to the Walmart drop. Okay, it was weird. It was a mail store, like UPS or FedEx, but it wasn't a recognizable name. To this day, I have no idea what it was called. Probably because I was so distracted by their big blue mail box that supposedly accepted mail by 2:30 pm Mon.-Sat., that looked like the USPS big blue boxes, in that it was the same overall shape, and painted blue, but was NOT an official USPS big blue box. It was like a big blue knockoff. You know, like how they have fake designer purses, that are just not the same quality or whatever? Well, this looked like a slightly tackier version of a big blue USPS mailbox. I actually asked the salesperson at the time if it was really a United States Postal Service dropbox, for reals? Having answered me in the affirmative, I turned back to the box, held my breath and tentatively pulled open the handle and watched as my precious outgoing mail plummeted into its depths, irretrievable, until 2:30 pm. I hoped beyond hope that it would actually be picked up by a blue-shorts-clad postal worker, and not wickedly discarded as some evil prank on the Walmart-shopping populace. You think I'm kidding. Anxiety-filled existence. That's what I lead.
Then, one day last fall, I went into my Walmart Supercenter, and the mail store--the one with the iffy outbox--had closed. Blame it on the crappy economy and other folks who are not as idiotic as me. Other people who know where to take their outgoing mail so that it doesn't create a daily obstacle course of their schedules. They are why this poor--was it Crown Mailing?--postal service went out of business. Because it certainly wasn't my fault. I was there, baby, a couple times a week. Which created in me a new dilemma. Where on earth could I drop my mail when I came to the Walmart Superstore side of town?
It was shortly thereafter, after the exodus of the phony big blue box, that I wondered where my friend, Suzie, took her outgoing mail. I was at her house, and we were talking about something totally unrelated, and I was getting a drink of water from her fridge and putting something in her garbage can, and I stopped mid stride, one hand on the counter, between sips of water, and literally wondered out loud, "So, where do you take your outgoing mail?" I wasn't looking at her when I asked the question, and then I turned to face her to receive the answer. I was standing on the kitchen side of her counter and she was standing on the dining room side, with her back to the window, sun pouring in around her. I remember the heavenly glow. Boy do I remember it. I absentmindedly looked at her as she opened her mouth and said simply, "I just stick it in my mailbox after I get my mail."
One of the things that I desperately love about Suzie is that she is absolutely guileless. She is not capable of even thinking "Well, that's a stupid question!" She just answered as if I were asking her about paint colors or the weather, or what time the kids get home from school.
I think I blinked. And then I said, "What?" as if I hadn't heard her correctly. And then she said it again, just as simply, "I just put it in my mailbox."
Pretty sure I blinked again. "You mean you just put it in your mailbox, the one right around the corner?"
"You mean, inside your box?"
"Well, who takes it?" I'm starting to grasp, at this point, that my life might be teetering. Swiveling, really, under the dawning realization. The gilded rays of sun coming through the window chided me; I was swimming in a dark fog.
"I don't know, the mailman, I guess?" Suzie faltered. I think at this point she might have thought I was playing some trick on her or something. She gave a confused, half-hearted laugh.
"No, Suzie, seriously? You take your outgoing mail and... and... you drop it in your mailbox... and... it. gets. picked. up?"
"Yes?" she was questioning my sanity now.
"Are you kidding?"
I felt the world tilt upside down. Like the stupid ship in the last Johnny Depp pirate movie. You know, the scene when you sit in the theater and think, "This is so dumb. What is the point?"
"Suzie." Pause. "Suzie. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME."
"Uh...?" Sideways glance.
And then I told her the whole story. All of it. I held nothing back. I had no pride left. Completely demoralized is the understatement of the century, and I mean a hundred years, not just the ten we've finished since Y2K. Come to think of it, I could really relate to the Y2K guy. Or gal. Whoever it was that thought that was gonna be a big deal.
And then I cried. I cried real, actual tears. I cried for my lost hours and gas money and marbles. I cried for my doomed attempt at being a responsible, capable, educated adult. I cried and I laughed, all at the same time. And Dolly Parton's voice, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," ran through my head. And I didn't think it was true. Feeling like an idiot is NOT MY FAVORITE. I could be the subject of the best dumb blonde joke ever written. And I'm not even all the way blonde. Strawberry, more like. Not my finest hour.
And Suzie, bless her heart, laughed with me. Not at me. And at that moment my devotion for her was solidified for all eternity.
And then I wondered when the mailman comes to collect my mail.