A Well-Traveled Christmas Card Part 1

By , December 28, 2010

Alaska is the Land of Misdirected Mail. For some reason we seem to be the nation’s, if not the world’s repository for lost, badly routed, and delayed post. Ask just about any Alaskan, and they’ll offer at least one example of mail that arrived under odd circumstances, usually arriving long after the original postmark, with very odd, widely-dispersed additional postmarks added on. Those who don’t can tell you of mail they sent that never arrived.

At Christmastime 2008, we experienced an extreme case of misdirected mail.

We had gone to town to take Aly to the high school Homecoming Dance on a Saturday night. We had borrowed a neighbor’s “town house” for a place to stay overnight, and stopped at the Post Office to check the mail on the way there. Among our cards and letters, we found one sent from Maine to an address in New Jersey.

Allow me to dwell on that a moment: a Christmas card sent from Maine, on the east coast, to New Jersey, a few states down that same coast, had made it to our small town in Southeast Alaska!

Our mail does not come here by accident.It’s generally routed through Anchorage, then Juneau, brought to those cities by commercial airline. It is then sent on to Haines on small local carriers, single- and twin-engine aircraft with six seats or less. This system often means days and days without receiving mail that is meant to arrive here. It takes a lot of people working very hard to misdirect a piece of mail here by that route.

We hadn’t eaten dinner yet, and were anxious to get to it. Without thinking, I showed the letter to Aly for a laugh, then popped the letter into the “out of town” slot. As it left my fingers, inspiration hit.

It was a Saturday evening, after the last mail pick up of the day. The letter wouldn’t be handled by anyone, much less sent on, until Monday morning. What we should have done was take the card with us. The next morning, when there was enough light, we could have taken the card to any edge of town, an easy walk from where we stood, found one of the town’s welcoming signs, and snapped a photo of the letter next to it. We could then copy down the address and return address, and drop the card back at the Post Office. If we did this, we could print the photo, and send the sender and recipient of the card a copy, with a brief note telling them just how far that particular card had traveled out of its way. Perhaps they would have gotten a kick out of it—at very least they would know why the card was so late! All of this could have been done without further slowing delivery of the card.

Unfortunately, it was too late. Or, so we thought . . . . There’s more to the story, coming tomorrow.

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