“Yes—I AM Getting a New Mailbox!” by Erin Clune

Feb 1st, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Have you ever been so excited it hurts? Then I guess you understand how I feel right now. Because my husband just told me we’re getting a new mailbox. That’s right, freaks. I said MAILBOX. As in, that philatelic hot spot in front of your house where the letters come and go. Six days a week. Rain or shine. And not just letters but other mail too. Like utility bills. And pre-approved credit card offers. And random flyers from guys who paint. Sometimes a fat wad of Valpak coupons even creeps up in there. Hell yes it does!

I haven’t felt this much raw excitement since last spring, when we got our weather radio. When the hubby brought that home, I said, “What! A radio that’s a hazard alert system AND the perfect bedside alarm clock? Bring that bad boy over here!” I was a little overwhelmed by the size of the frequency band. But then I programmed it for local area reception. And now whenever there’s a storm, I’m just like: “Oh, is there a super cell in our area? I didn’t even notice. That’s cuz I’m already down in the basement, getting my mind blown by our weather clock.”

You want to know what’s crazy? I didn’t even WANT a new mailbox at first. When my husband brought it up, I got defensive. I was like, “Oh—so you’re not into the mailbox anymore?” And he was like, “No, I’m just saying it could use some work.” And I was like, “How tight do you think it should look after all those years on the curb? Do you know how much action that thing has seen? And why do you even care—Is House and Garden coming by to lay it out in a big glossy spread?”

But that was before I rear ended it, trying to back out of the driveway while I was ordering pad thai for takeout. After that, the door was so loose it wouldn’t shut. The whole thing sat crooked on top of the rusted pole. For a while, I actually stopped checking it—even when I knew it was stuffed to obscenity with holiday catalogs! In all honesty, I was starting to feel like it was just a glorified letter hole.

Finally, I just said to myself: “Why shouldn’t a woman want to feel good about her box? That’s the first area people look at when they come to your house!” Well, some of you might think that sounds tacky. Or even superficial. But dig this, Judge Judies. If you took the time to examine your boxes more often, you might be surprised at how rundown they look. And when it’s gotten to the point where shit falls out of it several times a week—and gets lost in the snow until the next thaw—it is high time for an upgrade.

Obviously, there’s no suburban destination that is hotter than Home Depot. Especially if you need a big bucket of latex primer. Or a vinyl discharge hose. But a nice mailbox should be custom made. That’s why I’ve been snooping around to get some fresh ideas. Like, a woman in my office said she covered hers in rustic wood slats.  That box was hand crafted by the Amish! There’s a retired physician up the street who ordered one in the shape of a north woods vacation home. She was like, “Oh snap! Grab a fireside throw and some cinnamon scented pinecones and let’s cozy it up!” Around here, people love the outdoor scenes. I know of one box that’s decorated with a picture of a garden rabbit sitting next to a watering can. I said, “Is that bunny engraved, Mrs. Peterson? Oh no you didn’t!”

Then there are the really bold ones. We call those “statement pieces.” The other day, I saw one made entirely of stone. Seriously? I have never seen one that smooth. Call me old school. But what kind of person wants to come home from work every day and say hello to that hairless cat. Know what I mean? Contrast that to the model I saw at a silent auction. It was covered—literally, from top to bottom—with tufts of moss and grass. My first thought was, “Wow, THAT is a fuzzy piece.” The lady standing next to me bid on it, too. Not everyone could rock a mailbox with that much turf. But this is suburban Wisconsin.  Where people are just into that natural, organic vibe.

No matter what we end up with, I hope our postal carrier likes it. I thought our mail fell out because of the broken door. It’s also possible that the mailman threw it down there. I don’t think he’s a vindictive person. But I heard from the woman next door that he prefers his mailboxes to be BIG. According to her, he doesn’t like having to bend a package.  Or squeeze it into a standard-sized unit. And postal truck drivers don’t have time to walk stuff to your door anymore. They just want to drive up and stick it in.

So my neighbor went for an oversized one. She had to special order that hefty Rubbermaid too, because the local store didn’t carry a trunk with all that junk. I get that. We all want our mail carriers to be happy. Especially now that they might drop some service routes. As for the mailman, he can’t get enough. The day she put it out there, he wrote her a personal thank you note. Stuck it right in her new box. He told her it looked like a work of art.

I mean, talk about bringing sexy back! Am I right, ladies?


Erin Clune is a writer from Madison, Wisconsin. She has written for a variety of publications, but writes most regularly for public radio. Locally, she writes a food segment for WPR’s Wisconsin Life. Her essays have aired nationally on To the Best of Our Knowledge and All Things Considered. She also posts humorous essays on her blog, “Life After NY: Musings from the Third Coast,” which can be found on the internet. There she pokes fun at a variety of cultural trends, as well as some of the challenges involved in relocating back to her Midwestern hometown as an adult. But mostly, she laughs at herself. Because there’s just so much material!

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