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What's in Your Mailbox? Mailbox Infestations and More - Part 4, Homo Sapien Horrors
Natural vs. Homegrown Human Horrors
I started this four part series in May of 2014, but had no idea what kind of Pandora's Box I was unleashing when I flipped open the mailbox lid to see what was kind of terrors were lying there in ambush; besides your overdue "final notice" bills and "Vote for Donald" junk mail, that is. After examining in detail the wriggling, multi-legged "Creepy Crawlies," the slimy, slithering, scaly "Cold and Clammies," followed by the ferocious, furry, often fearsomely fanged "Warm and Fuzzies," I was done. I had to step back for a while to preserve my tormented psyche. Up until then, I really had no idea what I had been sticking my fingers blindly into for the last 22 years as a Postal Letter Carrier, and having eaten this horrible forbidden fruit I had to get on with life. For this reason it has taken me almost a year now to pry that lid open cautiously once again and complete the mission I started in May of 2014, when it occurred to me to poll my fellow letter carriers to find out what sort of unexpected monstrosities they have stumbled across in or around mailboxes. It was time to quit blaming Mother Nature for every creeping, crawling, squirming, splattering, shocking, disgusting, unstamped item that sometimes leaps out, wriggles out, jumps out, falls out, holds its ground defiantly, or simply sticks to the interior of America's mailboxes. The moment had come to admit that human beings, we of the Homo sapien species, are responsible for the worst of these abominable mailbox infestations.
This article is part of a four part series that resulted from the query I posted on a Letter Carrier Facebook group page back in May of 2014. Many of the letter carriers that responded will be quoted here.
I divided the responses from my letter carrier kith and kin into four categories, so that the series consists of four segments, of which this is the last one. These are:
1. Creepy Crawlies - Part one dealt with beasts having six, eight legs or more
2. Warm and Fuzzies - Part two focused on warm blooded, mostly furry mammalian creatures that take refuge in or around your mail receptacle
3. Cold and Clammy - Part three discussed our cold-blooded friends, meaning reptiles or amphibians either alive or dead that have been found hunkering down on top of bank statements, magazines, and junk mail.
4. Homo sapien horrors - I have saved the best for last. Part 4 will concern anything generated by a human being - either created by human hands or coming out of the human body.
Even though human infants used to be shipped in the mail years ago, they typically got dropped off on doorsteps and not inside mailboxes. Therefore, this article will not pretend to convince you that you're likely to pop the lid and find a squirming bundle dressed in diapers with a stamp pasted on his or her bald baby head. Although this is certainly possible, it is definitely not a common occurrence, so the purpose of this present work is not to identify Homo sapiens itself as an invasive mailbox pest, but the Homo sapien leavings that are frequently encountered in the innards of those diverse devices that we employ as depositories for our mail. This human residue can be classified, although not so neatly, into biological and non biological categories. In other words, some of these foul leavings are actually produced by the human body, while other substances; although at times partly digested or consumed, are used by people but are not necessarily a component or waste byproduct of the human circulatory, respiratory, or digestive systems. Admittedly, the distinction of biological versus non biological can be a very blurry one with a lot of crossover, and sometimes Homo sapien horrors of both biological and non-biological origin have been found in the same box, at the same time, by the same letter carrier.
Is Your Bug, Mouse and Snake Hotel Wearing Out?
Besides its function as a letter cache, mailboxes serve a variety of other purposes, from trash containers to cigarette storage. I can't tell you how many times I have tried to squeeze mail into a tiny mailbox and found it blocked by somebody's box of smokes and cigarette lighter. Here are a few much more unpleasant examples of non-biological material that deliver the "shock and awe" effect to letter carriers when they insert their vulnerable digits into those murky, cramped depths.
It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between biological and non-biological or human or non human, to find out whether that sinister looking multi-legged monster inside that dark crevice is actually alive or not. Occasionally the somewhat risky "poke" test has to be carefully administered to determine this. As Hillary in Lindenhurst, New York relates "Someone put a rubber tarantula into a mailbox I delivered to, and it was so realistic that I poked it cautiously with a letter before I delivered. That'll get your carrier's attention, yessirree!"
Yessirree indeed. It gets worse. Like I just said, postal customers are sometimes inclined to use mail collection devices for trash disposal. In low light, perhaps compounded by blurry, drunken vision, the familiar blue collection box does assume a sort of trash can shape, and in advanced stages of inebriation can shape-shift in the mind of its intoxicated beholder into a rather steep saloon counter, perfect for holding all sorts of beverages. Edward in Philadelphia found a Big Gulp in a mailbox. Joy in Vinita, Oklahoma tells us she experienced "...lot of nastiness when doing collections years ago. Stuff like melted frosties by wendys. Used condoms on the navy base. Lizard, snakes, termites, ants cuz like the customer didn't see them when they got their mail out of the box. Right?" Thomas in Lake City, Iowa adds "My P.O. is right next to a bar...nuthin' like a tub of mail smelling like a brewski, a few times a year."
In addition to being drink coasters, mailboxes are sometimes gun holsters too. Instead of purchasing a locker to store their 2nd amendment guaranteed freedoms, it is common for many gunslingers out there to keep an extra six shooter stowed for quick access in the mailbox, in case the terrorists or the government raids their household in the middle of the night. Shandra in Baltimore tells us "In apt building where I'm on a room putting mail in from back, customer had his gun in his box." Other gunslingers like to keep the gear they need for both of their shooters together in one handy location. Steve from Los Angeles reports "I had a pistol and a condom in a box when I first started. Strange combo."
Finally, there are other non-biological items found in mailboxes that are not quite there yet but are getting pretty darn close to going biological, and with dinner and a couple glasses of wine will probably tip the scales soon. For example, Kristin in Sunnyvale, California says that she found "Panties and a card for the guy that lived there" in a mailbox.
Biological and Tweeners
As I have said multiple times already, but can't stress enough, there are some items that are hard to neatly classify into organic vs. inorganic categories by the hapless letter carriers who stumble across these objects, sometimes in low light or even in the dark when daylight savings time ends. Some of these unexpected surprises are better classified as "tweeners," because they are not biological now but can become messily so within varying time frames, depending on the age of their owner and what kind of performance enhancement products he is taking. Certain pharmaceutical delivery or extraction devices also fit this criteria; being composed of inert, harmless materials that can nonetheless be accompanied by fluids of biological origin. Then there are those byproducts of human internal processes that are completely, undeniably biological, with no other hair-splitting technical criteria being necessary.
"Condom" is a word that keeps popping up everywhere in this narrative, and I mean that in a figurative, not literal sense. For some odd reason, however, condoms are rarely encountered alone, but are frequently found mixed in with other Homo sapien residue. Mail-lady Aimee relates "...Someone once tossed a nearly full slurpee in a collection box...once a condom tied on the handle of a collection box (unused, we hoped...) Used hypodermic needles...And I work in a small "safe" college town." Laura in Whitehall, Pennsylvania probably has the best condom story of all. "nooooooo...try a condom on the door handle of an apt building when you're unfamiliar with the route and you're looking at your mail and NOT the door when you go to enter!!! I ran into a business 3 doors down and begged to use their bathroom holding my hand out and washed my hand for 10 minutes...then sanitized for another 10!"
Unfortunately for our long suffering letter carriers, mail receptacles can also resemble a Port-A-John device from certain angles, especially for those humans desperate to make an unplanned nature call, or to clean up from one. Mail-lady Evangeline reveals "The most disgusting thing I found was a soiled baby diaper in a collection box. Yuck!" Scotty in Sherman, Texas keeps it simple, summing up the most disgusting thing he ever found in a mailbox with the single word "Feces."
Michael in Illinois, on the other hand, goes into much more vivid detail in his description. "Used pads and tampons laying on the sidewalk at bus stops. Used condoms and hypodermic needles just about everywhere. Piles of human feces in yards...had one guy who liked to urinate out his second story window - there was years of "build up" running down the wall to his porch."
Conclusion - Who is the Top Postal Plague?
I now feel satisfied that I have exhausted my duty to guide you through the multitude of mailbox nightmares letter carriers routinely encounter, and the careless fingers of postal customers are likely to bump into as well if caution is not exercised when digging blindly into the dark interiors of those potentially toxic, danger filled orifices. I have described every imaginable horror of cold-blooded and warm blooded origin, those possessing backbones vs. those equipped with exoskeletons, those slithering upon their bellies, flying through the air in stinging swarms, creeping stealthily along on four fuzzy paws or walking upright on two legs. There is no doubt that mailbox infestations manifest themselves in all shapes and sizes and emerge from every corner of the Animal Kingdom, but I will leave it up to you to decide from where the greatest level of mailbox peril arises.
As for me, the answer is simple. I believe that Michael, that mailman in Illinois from the preceding section who found tampons, condoms, and needles scattered everywhere in his path, sums up everything neatly and succinctly when he expresses his opinion about who is the most atrocious defiler of the American mailbox. "Humans...Sorry no other animal can be this nasty."