Dave

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Box of Rocks and a Mail Box...

We live in a part of the city where, due to the age of the homes, delivery to a mailbox in front of your house is still a service that the US Postal Service participates in. In newer 'hoods, they build these centralized boxes and you are issued a key so as you drive by on your way home from work, you can stop and check your mail. Some people like this idea because it means that vandals or drunks won't hit their mailbox. I on the other hand, prefer the old fashioned door to door service. If I'm paying whatever the price of postage is for a stamp (and though a Google search would reveal that price for me, I'm happy to keep it a mystery for now), then I want the mailman to deliver it to my house. Oh, and also, I should point out that I am pretty sure my mailman is a lady. You probably do not know the gender of your mailman if you are serviced by one of those community mailboxes.

Since we have the mailbox, my wife has always wanted to get one of those fancy brick ones made. Several years ago, she asked someone who was building one down the street from us and they gave her a quote of something astronomical like $650.00. But she pointed out, that included a planter built in to it so you could grow weeds to make your mailman feel pretty when she delivers the mail. Hey, for $650, it better come with air conditioning and a miniature jacuzzi.

So, needless to say, for the last several years, we have continued to receive our mail in one of those regular metal mailboxes directly in front of our home.

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What I am about to tell you has nothing to do with mailboxes.

When we lived in Italy, I worked with a guy named Ray who was just a super happy-go-lucky kinda guy. One day, Ray was driving home from a trip he had taken to Naples and on the side of the road, he saw a small Italian delivery truck with a guy standing outside of it and several boxes of brand new VCR's. Ray quickly slammed on his brakes and pulled off the road so he could see what it was all about. You must appreciate that back in the mid 1980's, VCR's were still fairly spendy, so the idea of getting one from a free enterprise entrepreneur type was worth looking into.

The guy had one of the boxes opened up and had the VCR available for complete inspection. Ray was fluent in Italian just enough to ask "Quanta Costa?" and get that the guy only wanted the equivalent of about $100 for the brand new VCR complete with remote control and auto tracking features. That was about a third of the going rate, even at the base exchange (BX).

Long story short, Ray opened his wallet and was down to his last $20 or $30 and sadly showed the Italian vendor that he did not have enough money. Taking pity on the young American Airman, the guy offered to let him have it for the cash he had. He even let him take one of the ones still in the box, in case he had any ideas of selling it to another GI for a nice little profit.

That, my friends, is truly a sign of international friendship.

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A few weeks ago, my wife found a man doing brickwork in our neighborhood, and in fact, we drove down a street in Emerald Valley where he had done six or seven mailboxes on that single street. My wife was able to talk with him and get a quote for a mailbox of one third the going rate.

Of course, we petitioned our neighborhood association's Architectural Control Committee who advised us that to be compliant with American Disability Act regulations, we would have to have the sidewalk extended to accommodate people in wheelchairs since the new brick mailbox would take up much more space than the original.

With all the paperwork out of the way, my wife contacted the mason and arranged for him to come by and build the mailbox. I'll let you get a feel for what is going on with pictures instead of me describing the event brick by brick...
On the first night of the job, he stopped by and dropped off the sand and bricks and dug the area for where the sidewalk would be extended.
We had some rain, so I think that pile of sand sat on my sidewalk for at least several days if not a week, but finally, the mason returned to build the mailbox.In spite of the threatening rain, he worked at a quick pace to knock the job out.
But there was only one problem; he did not have enough brick to finish out the little sidewalk addition. To be honest, I did not even like the idea of making a brick path anyway; I had just assumed that it would be poured concrete like any other sidewalk. The plan was, our mason would return the following day (Sunday) with the rest of the needed brick and finish the little walkway.

But my wife paid him. Never pay the guy until the job is done, or you will never see him again - regardless of international relations.

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So my co-worker in Italy walked into work one night following his weekend trip to Naples and he was laughing and laughing and just couldn't stop laughing. Those of us gathering around figured he had just heard a good joke and were ready to join in. As Ray told the story about the VCR salesman on the side of the road giving him the brand new VCR in the box, he took it from the man and simply placed it in his trunk. He then promptly forgot about it and it remained secure in his trunk until moments before walking into work. Ray was laughing so hard, it was all he could do to get the story out.

It turns out he remembered the VCR he had purchased as he was pulling into the parking lot, so when he parked, he opened the trunk, whipped out his Leatherman and promptly unsealed the box...

Which contained three properly secured rocks in Styrofoam. You would think the guy would be pissed off but he wasn't. He realized that he was so quick to get the good deal that he forgot that golden rule - if it sounds too god to be true. The money he paid was more than made up for by the entertainment he got out of it.

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So this past weekend, I got rid of the pile of sand on my sidewalk and put down some re-bar, and mixed several bags of concrete.
And this is our new ADA compliant sidewalk.

Ya get what ya pay for, my friends.

14 comments:

AlanDP said...

I have never seen anyone in a wheelchair use a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood. They always use the street, because the bumps when you get to the driveways are too hard to get across.

Dave said...

I have never seen anyone in a wheelchair use a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood.

Yea, I don't expect that little addition to get much use. The fully ambulatory around here seem to prefer the edge of the street as well.

Anonymous said...

Us "fully ambulatory" would love to use the sidewalks but there are big giant mailboxes in the way, not to mention cars parked across them, plus people's trees and shrubs growing over them!!! Just sayin'.

AlanDP said...

Anon, if you think trees and shrubs get in the way of sidewalks, you should try reading water meters sometime.

Dave said...

Us "fully ambulatory" would love to use the sidewalks but there are big giant mailboxes in the way, not to mention cars parked across them, plus people's trees and shrubs growing over them!!!

Yea, I'm with ya, but the culprit is the builders (or the city code that allowed it) putting the sidewalk up against the street instead of having a 3-foot section of grass between the street and the side walk. When I first moved into my neighborhood, that was the most obvious mistake in planning ever.

First off, if your kid wants to have a basketball hoop and play street ball, it ends up sitting on the sidewalk blocking the way. Second - the noted big brick mailboxes. The issue of cars - I take it you mean that people park in their driveway and block the sidewalk - I'm guessing is a result of ten people living in one single family home and having too many cars and not enough garage.

Either way, I feel your pain. Blame the developers and the people who write the city code.

Anonymous said...

I thought brick mailboxes were considered illegal, because the do not breakaway when struck by a vehicle.


Per Federal (USPS) regulations, all mailboxes situated along public roadways must be constructed in such a way that they break away when struck by a vehicle. Brick mail boxes constructed on public road ROW, because they are not break-away and can precipitate serious injury to the driver of a vehicle, are illegal structures.

Anonymous said...

Well you have his picture. Call KSAT defenders and see if they can help! Just a thought

Justin

Dave said...

Brick mail boxes constructed on public road ROW, because they are not break-away and can precipitate serious injury to the driver of a vehicle, are illegal structures.

This is why we had ours constructed on the sidewalk instead of the street.

Well you have his picture. Call KSAT defenders and see if they can help! Just a thought

Nah, we are actually happy with what we got for the price we paid, even if it wasn't all he promised. Also, it wouldn't be KSAT I would be calling, it would be INS!

Anonymous said...

public road ROW includes side of the rode, which includes the sidewalk. We can discuss this further in the Microsnack over a cup 'o joe...

AlanDP said...

If it includes the sidewalk then this is a regulation that is not enforced. I see such mailboxes everywhere.

Dave said...

If it includes the sidewalk then this is a regulation that is not enforced.

Yea, you'd think the mailman would at least leave a note when she delivers the mail.

Winston Churchill said...

It is not enforced because, frankly, people don't care. Trust me, they will care though when someone hits their box and sues the box owner for damages to their car and person, I have seen this happen before and the owner of the box was on the losing end of the lawsuit. I suspect Jim Adler is eager to take on such a case...

Dave said...

Winston,

I know not of this MicroSnack that you speak of nor do I discuss over Joe or other fellows.

But most importantly, my mailbox jumps over the moon at midnight and knows the scoop (everybody knows the scoop), goes in the cup, not the can. Churchill swims the creek as a fresh can of Oust penetrates the executive men's room.

Sorry folks, these are what we call bonifides in the business. WC wants to make sure my mailbox isn't really made of StyroFoam.

He'll fight for Yeewww!

Debbie said...

For sure the sidewalk near the street stupidity can be blamed on the builders (Ray Ellison or KB?). I venture to say this is one of the very few bad things about our hood. As for the Jim Ambulance-chaser parasites, well, that's why I have insurance.

Please, Dave, before you make another comment like the INS one, please give a warning. I laughed so hard I sprayed diet coke all over my nice monitor.

Deb

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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