If I’ve given the impression thus far that I’m the only one round these parts possessed of neurotic obsessions, this is my big chance to note otherwise. Whenever we go on vacation, poor Mama Dog starts to manifest an almost pathological fear that the telltale signs of our absence will bring down marauding hordes upon our demesne. Again, not to give the wrong impression – I’m as concerned with our home security as much as the next lackadaisical urban dweller, but really, you’d think I was suggesting I leave the door open with a “RAID ME
” billboard posted on the roof if I suggest that it’s not really necessary to put the mail and papers on hold when we’re just going to be out of town for two nights. Those are the two biggest culprits, obviously, piled up mail and newspapers. The newspaper issue has been a struggle since the early days of our relationship. As you might guess from my ongoing chronicle of catching up on papers (now almost a month behind, thanks; I don’t seem to be missing much, though…from what I’ve glanced at, the news has been so slow that the paper’s been running stories about some sporting event in Greece on the front page), I’m not too keen on putting the paper on hold when we go away. We’ve managed to reach a compromise there, always having a friend pick the paper up while we’re away. For reasons I’m not entirely clear on, Mama Dog always balks at having someone pick up the mail too, preferring instead to have the Post Office put it on hold while we’re away. This leaves me with that pained expression the Chief gets on his face when Max insists on using the cone of silence
. Like the cone of silence, the USPS mail hold NEVER FUCKING WORKS
. They don’t start the hold on time. They don’t resume delivery on time. They never start it at all. One time, we came home after a brief vacation to find that mail had been delivered throughout our absence only to be suspended on the day we got back. Lovely. Last time, they managed to get the hold dates more or less right, but then couldn’t find our mail when we went to the Post Office to pick it up. The clerk told us that it must be out with our carrier for delivery. We were pretty sure that our carrier had already done our street, so we drove around the neighbourhood until we tracked him down. When we told him what the clerk had said, he shook his head disdainfully and said, “Those idiots,” and told us where to tell them to find the mail.
This time, against all reason, Mama Dog decided to try the mail hold again. To double-check that it would actually take effect, she had it start on Tuesday even though we were leaving on Wednesday. Our mail, of course, got delivered on Tuesday. We collared the carrier, who was a sub, and told him that the mail was supposed to be on hold. When we got home the night before last, there was a day’s worth of mail in the box (again, of course), but at least no overflowing pile. Yesterday, I went down to the Post Office to pick up the mail and make a complicated stamp transaction. The clerk went to look for the mail and, naturally, came back to tell me that it wasn’t there and was probably out with the carrier for delivery. That sounded vaguely familiar, but I had other fish to fry, so I went on with the transaction and left without my mail.
I got about twenty steps away before taking note of the uneasy feeling that I was getting screwed. I called Mama Dog and asked her what return date she’d given for the mail hold. “I didn’t give a return date,” she said, “I put it on hold indefinitely.” “Aha!” thinks I. “Why would the mailman suddenly resume an indefinite mail hold on the day I come to pick it up?” So back I marched, lucking out to the extent that there was only one person in line ahead of me at that point. I ended up getting a clerk who had seemed the competent one on duty; she had talked my previous clerk through the complicated stamp transaction and appeared to know the ins and outs. I explained the situation to her…I had just been told that my mail wasn’t there, but my wife had put it on indefinite hold, so how could that be. “What do you mean indefinite hold?” asks the clerk. Uh-oh. Speaking slowly and carefully, I said, “We didn’t know our return date, so my wife put the mail on hold indefinitely.” “Well,” snaps the clerk, “you have to have a date. It can’t be put on hold without a return date.”* At this point I sensed for the first time that I was going to be losing my temper in the near future, but I kept the keel even. “Nevertheless,” quoth I, “that’s what happened. This has happened to us before – ” She cut me off. “Sir, we checked and the mail’s not there. There’s only one place where it goes, and if it’s not there, there’s nothing we can do.” “The thing is – ” I began. “Let me finish!” she snapped. Let her
finish? That was twice she had cut me
off. She handed me a little card. “You can call this number in the morning to check before the carrier goes out.” “The thing is,” I resumed, “this has happened before. I’ve come here to pick up my mail, been told it was out with the carrier, and after going back and forth all afternoon, it turned out it had been here all along.” “Sir, I told you, we’ve checked and it’s not there. You can call that number in the morning if there’s any problem.” “There is
a problem,” I said, still managing to keep the level below ballistic. “The problem is, I want my mail, I know
it’s here, and I’m not leaving without it.”
I guess I finally made it clear that I was going to be pushed neither away nor around. Her little hatchet face snapped shut and she asked me to step aside to speak to the supervisor. I stepped aside and waited, suddenly realising that she still had my ID. Well, I’m definitely not leaving now, I thought. I waited for several minutes, listening to the sound of indistinct rummaging on the other side of the post office boxes. Presently, the door popped open and there was the supervisor with my ID in one hand and a box filled with my mail in the other. I took both, turned in the direction of the hatchet-faced clerk, and yelled across the length of the Post Office, “THANKS FOR MY MAIL
!” “You’re welcome,” said the supervisor equably.
I’ve had a request that I explain what family leave is for those not familiar. This was one of the few health care-related triumphs of the last legitimate Presidential administration. The Family Medical Leave Act
guarantees that covered employers (there are restrictions to do with the size of the business and so forth) must allow employees to take up to three months of unpaid leave with continued benefits to care for a newborn child, a sick or injured family member, or various other medical emergencies. No money, but they can’t fire me while I’m gone.
Even better, the state of California now offers Paid Family Leave
. This took effect just before Baby Dog was born, so I rather lucked out. The EDD – the same agency that pays out Unemployment benefits – will pay out to FMLA-covered employees up to 55% of their base salary for six weeks. Not enough for anybody to live on but way better than the grand total of nothing offered by both states. I’m sure the Bush regime and the Schwarzenegger administration are busily at work figuring out how to do away with both of these programs, but hey, everybody, use ‘em while we got ‘em. (This last, incidentally, was a big reason I was anxious to get my mail; my EDD cheque was in it.)
Other other things:
A milestone last night! Baby Dog went to sleep after nursing at 8:30, and slept for seven straight hours without ever requiring swaddling! We’re hoping this is a sign that we’re passing the colicky baby phase.
– I finally finished reading 5th Biz
yesterday, thought it splendid, and am now kicking myself that I didn’t just buy a three-in-one volume of the whole Deptford Trilogy
. Now I’ll have to track down The Manticore
and World of Wonders
separately. Before that, though, I’ve started in on Nana
, because I’ve always heard that a little Zola is good for the soul but have never read any. Only a few pages in, and if the length of time it took me to get through the one slim Davies volume is any indication, I’ll be at it for a while.
* Mama Dog confirmed later that she had actually checked off a box on the official USPS hold form that said “Indefinite Hold.”