I Don’t Know How Mail Works

A couple years ago, I worked as a post-production assistant for a certain network that rhymes with The Shmistory Channel, and part of my job at the Shmistory Channel entailed mailing and FedExing scripts, screeners, contracts, etc. These things I sent were essential to the continued operation of the various productions. The network depended on them being sent and received in a timely fashion. If writers and producers didn’t receive their screeners, they couldn’t do their jobs. Unfortunately, I did not understand how mail worked.

I did not understand how mail worked because I hadn’t sent a letter since the one I wrote to The Goosebumps Fan Club Newsletter in elementary school. I applied to college online; I paid rent and utility bills online; I sent ecards, evites, and emails, but never actual physical mail. The closest I’d come in the last 10 years to mailing anything was when I returned Netflix. There are few rooms in my Mind Palace that are emptier: sports, alcoholic beverages, makeup, anime, and maybe oceanography. I knew stamps were involved somehow, and I knew you wrote names and addresses on there, but I did not know how many stamps you put on a letter, and I did not know in what order to put the name and address. Look upon my dumbness, ye mighty, and despair.

However, if I asked the production coordinator, “Hey, I have a question: how does mail work?” I was certain she’d use her thumbs to push my eyeballs out the back of my skull. Asking questions was frowned upon, but asking dumb questions was simply intolerable.  So when she said, “Brad, could you send these letters right now,” I needed to proceed swiftly with the knowledge available (or just examine any other letters or packages for a template, but to each his/her own). I began sending these important packages through the mail—scripts, external hard drives, screeners for the goddamn Emmys—each with a single two cent stamp pasted to the top right hand corner. Without knowing it, I had started the countdown to a terrible confrontation with the boss lady, but until then, for all she knew, I was doing a wonderful job and had a perfectly adequate amount of common sense. Tick tock.

A week later, the boss lady called me into her office. On her desk was a pile of packages with two cent stamps. On her face: not hate as one would expect, but bewilderment. ‘How could anyone possibly be this dumb?’ she must have wondered. ‘There must be some reasonable explanation.’ With the slow careful enunciation reserved for small children and Alzheimer’s sufferers, she asked, “Brad, do you know why these packages were returned?”

“No ma’am.”

“Do you know how much postage to use?”

“One stamp per package?”

At this, she blinked several times and rubbed her forehead. “Do you have any idea how mail works?” she asked.

“Um…”

She then explained the entire process of mailing things, guiding me through it step by step like in a Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood episode, her disdain overwhelmed by astonishment at the colossal scale of my ignorance. The restraint she showed by not firing me or shrieking at me can only be attributed to A) she thought I was a special needs child or B) she didn’t want to hire a new PA. By the time she finished her explanation, any trace of self-respect had been shot dead like Lenny at the end of Of Mice and Men.

You go through life, thinking, ‘I am so smart, I am razor sharp prodigy genius man,’ and then you continuously do things that can only mean one thing: you’re not smart. You’re not even average. You’re dumb, you’ve always been dumb, you always will be dumb, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. Your parents were wrong when they told you otherwise. Set those books on fire because you won’t need them. Stop trying so hard to string words together because you’re just straining yourself, and no one’s listening anyway. You need to be taken to a facility where trained professionals can care for you, where they have enough coloring books to keep you occupied for years and years until you die trying to stab a mosquito on your throat with a fork.

For the next couple weeks after learning how mail works, I became intoxicated with The Thrill of Mailing. One day, in the middle of eating a slice of chocolate cake (some people only eat cake at birthday parties and weddings, and that, my friends, is a tragedy), I suddenly decided to mail it to a girl I liked and had dated a few times before moving temporarily to LA. Propelled by a mad sugar high, I drove to the post office, stuffed the cake in a manila envelope, and mailed it off to her, confident in the excellence of this idea at all stages. I thought, ‘I am so hilarious. This will be so funny. She will say, “That Brad Pike is so funny, I want to moosh my face all over his face. I want to drive eighteen hours to California to kiss that mouth.”’

I called her a few days later: “Did you get my package?”

She sighed. “…yes.”

“And?”

“Brad, why did you send half-eaten cake in a manila envelope? If you don’t put it in a box, anything you mail gets crushed.”

“Okay, clearly you don’t understand. It was a joke. I was being funny, you know? It’s just, uh–,”

“What’s funny about getting smashed garbage cake in the mail?”

“Uh, well…hold on, let me think…”

And I realized then I had no answer for her; there was nothing funny about smashed cake. Nothing at all. If anything, I’d provided her with a grim metaphor for our relationship: something delicious and wonderful I’d made flat and unpalatable. I didn’t hear from her after that conversation. There’s always something I don’t understand, some blind spot — girls or mail or what’s funny — and the extent of my ignorance seems to grow larger every day. TC mark

image – kevin dooley

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  • Anonymous

    This is amazing hilarious.

    • Andrew Foley

      Sending cake I’m the mail shows how much effort I pit into evites, except I put it into a manilla envelope and PAID by putting a stamp on it…hilarious no….hopelessly romantic, YES!

  • Anonymous

    Quick Guide: Just walk into a post office and tell your – incredibly friendly – post(wo)man that you’d like to send the letter/package via Pony Express. Problem solved.  And your boss will understand too. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Evertz/25521401 Caroline Evertz

    I am laughing so hard right now.

    Can we add “Faxing” to the list of obvious/outdated things I don’t know how to do? Asking your older boss how to fax hurts my Internet savvy Gen Y-er soul.

    • http://philolzophy.tumblr.com/ phiLOLZophy

       There was something on the office (when it was funny) like “fax it? why don’t i just staple it to a dinosaur and have him walk it over to you” that sums up my feelings about faxing. SRSLY THO, why don’t you just scan it to pdf and email it to me?

  • Eric

    Okay fine, you don’t mail things that often. I’ll give that to you in this paperless age we live in. But c’mon man – it’s called GOOGLE!    Try this site: http://lmgtfy.com/

  • http://twitter.com/iamthe0nly Jordana Bevan

    it’s okay, Sherlock didn’t know the earth went round the sun. proper mailing etiquette is for squares

  • J.B.

    i had strange facial contortions every time i tried to conceal my laughter (i’m supposed to be “researching things”), pretty sure the people who hired me are starting to have doubts

    • rose georgia

      i went for chuckling quietly in the tearoom of the university library i’m currently pretending to write an essay in. 

  • rose georgia

    why did you ruin the end of ‘of mice and men’ i was definitely probably going to finish reading it at some point after i got over the mouse bit.

    it brought my chuckling to an abrupt halt for about 3 seconds while i tried to work out whether i was annoyed or not, or whether i possibly already knew that happened at the end of ‘of mice and men’. then i remembered that i will probably forget again anyway.

  • Tess

    Loved this read! I was cracking up!

  • Sallinglr

    Awe, my mother works for the post office and even she can see that the end is near. Don’t blame yourself

  • Dan

    I like you, Brad. I think if we met we would get on. I could also tell you how to do useful things, like setting up a printer, or taking the lid off of one of those sealed rock salt grinders so you can refill it with cheap bagged rock salt, or brushing a dog’s teeth.

  • annie

    this was so funny but then ended so sad. i can relate. 

  • fart

    “mind palace”
    i fucking love you holy shit

  • Max

    “And then I get the rabbits, right Geor-”

    BLAM!

  • Guestyguest

    I find the mailing of the cake hilarious.

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  • http://twitter.com/danmckean Dan Mckean-Tinker

    I’m actually scared of Ebay. It’s not the site, or the people, it’s the idea of mailing anything bigger than an envelope. I still have no idea how one would do this. Other than facing the shame and just asking in a post office…

  • http://www.melaniecrutchfield.com/ Melanie Crutchfield

    This is so funny. And a little frightening. And kinda adorable? Basically, I have a lot of emotions right now. It’s gonna take a while to process them. Thanks for sharing.

  • Koba Chan

    I am beside myself. How old are you? Just curious. How have you gone your whole life without mailing 1 little thing? Or read a book about mailing something? Or saw someone else mail something? It’s just mind-boggling. You must have been one of those over-protected children that parents think they’re helping by sheltering them from the outside world, when in fact it just creates people that can’t even complete everyday functions. Wow.

  • Tnm2108

    This made me cry/laugh so hard. This has pretty much been my experience with the postage industry. General bewilderment mixed with squinty-eyed confusion.

  • Benjy

    I uhm… had a similar experience. I recently published a book and family and friends in other states wanted signed copies (previously I was directing everyone to just order them off of lulu)  and I realized I too did not know how to mail things. Thought I was the only one. I’m visiting the post office this Saturday, wish me luck!

  • http://twitter.com/gypzAndy AndreaCarmona

    That was hilarious! I’m fascinated by the mailing system.

  • http://www.forbes.com/sites/jmaureenhenderson/2013/01/28/a-greeting-card-startup-inspired-by-the-wire-its-all-in-the-game/ A Greeting Card Startup Inspired By 'The Wire'? It's All In The Game - Forbes

    […] but don’t have to brave the post office to do so and can remain firmly ensconced in the Millennial socio-cultural bubble that presumes letter mail to be an incredibly confusing phenomenon that should have died out with the Pony Express (Wikipedia that, […]

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