Sunday, June 26, 2011

In Search of Mailboxes

All right, so anyone who knows me knows that I love the postal service. Not the indie-pop band so beloved by Maria Lucia when The Current first got off the ground, no, I mean the actual USPS. I'm involved in an international postcard-exchange program, Postcrossing, and I've even contrived to engage the intermittent friend in shooting a couple letters back and forth.

Now I live in an apartment building where repairs are slow, recycling is non-existent, and where the hell do I drop off mail? None of my postcards will fit in the crude mail slot someone gouged into one of the compartments of the buildings mail bank. I did a quick online search to find out if there were any widgets or apps designed to locate mailboxes in my region, and there were a couple. The one I liked the best is Mailbox Map, working with Google Maps to create a graphic layout of mailboxes, USPS offices and UPS offices.

The only problem is that most of the mailboxes that come up in Mailbox Map don't actually exist. Fewer and fewer people write letters, and traditional mail services such as bills or banking are moving online. As a result, mailboxes shown to be in disuse are uprooted and hauled away. This doesn't affect most people, who live in a house with a personal mailbox, an apartment building with a good mail collection facility, or who work in an office where they can drop off outgoing mail. I realize I'm the exception and I'm not asking the USPS to please mount a personalized mailbox in my neighborhood just for the couple of postcards I send out each week.

But I still want to know where any mailboxes might be, so I copied the above map into a hand-drawn sketch and went out on the town. Out of the ten listed mailbox locations, less than a third actually had a mailbox standing. There are a couple in front of the nightclub Ground Zero (Hennepin & SE 4th St), some upstairs of St. Anthony Main (SE 2nd St & SE 2nd Ave), and a few behind Union Bank and Trust (SE University Ave, between Central and SE 2nd Ave).

That makes the nearest mailbox a seven-block walk from my apartment. At that point, I might as well boot off in the opposite direction and use the Dinkytown Post Office...

...and I just discovered the USPS has its own mailbox locator. I should have thought of that in the first place. Anyway, it generated five hits for my neighborhood and of these I can confirm one location, I know of one collection box they don't list, and they have a new one in an area I was unaware of. More work is to be done.

No comments: