7/13/2013

Write Me a Letter, Send it by Mail

As you may or may not remember, the Sleepy Family Home is located on a cul-de-sac at the top of a private drive. The private drive is a thingummy that I have only ever run into in our state - though I suspect they occur elsewhere - also sometimes called a pipe stem. Basically, you have a long driveway off the street and multiple houses located off said driveway. Usually in this setup, all the houses on said pipe stem face the driveway (not the street). In our case, our house faces the cul-de-sac (and is, in fact, located right off of same, not off the private drive) and all the other houses face the driveway. Something like this (very crude) drawing -- we're the X.

Our mailboxes have always been in a bank of mailboxes located to the right of the private drive along with all the boxes for the houses down the pipe stem (those are the rectangles heading down the drawing.)

In mid-June, we received a letter from the Homeowner's Association (HOA) indicating that the mailbox bank was in need of repair, one of the neighbors on the pipe stem had volunteered to head up the fixing effort and two estimates were enclosed, please deal with said neighbor henceforth. So I glanced at the estimates and went into a bit of sticker shock. Each estimate (there were two) wanted $500 (so $100 per house) - and they were planning on reusing the posts and mailboxes. So basically, the "refurbishment" was going to be putting a new piece of plywood for the mailboxes to sit on, possibly new support struts, and painting it. Then re-affixing the old mailboxes to that. Plus trimming some bushes that had been planted around the base. This did not seem to be $500 worth of work to my mind, plus we've been in need of a new mailbox for probably 3 years as a piece of our broke off and consequently the door would not stay shut and rain could get in through a hole in the top. On a whim, I thought it worth investigating whether or not we could move our mailbox to be in front of our house (since we're right on the street, not down the private drive).

So I talked to the HOA lady. She took it to the architectural review board (ARB) who had no problem with it, provided the Post Office said it was okay. So I took our plat, drew in where the new mailbox would go and went down to the post office. Every single supervisor was in a meeting. I went back the next day and they were, yet again, all busy. The nice lady gave me a name and number to call. So I called and she said she'd have someone drive out take a look and they'd get back in touch.

Two weeks go by with no response from the Post Office. I get an email from the neighbor lady asking what our plans are because she's embarrassed by the mailbox bank and really wants to get it fixed. I call the post office back, talk to the lady who goes and talks to our carrier and we get approval to move our box. Woohoo. I email the HOA lady (who already got approval from the ARB, or so she'd said) with the plat and the post office approval and indicate that we'll do it this weekend. Shortly thereafter I get a nasty message on the answering machine letting me know that the ARB has 45 days to approve any changes. But you already got their approval, I say. Doesn't matter, says she.

So I email the neighbor lady, explain that we're waiting on the ARB and I'll let her know as soon as I know anything. Four days later I get the okay from the ARB, with a reminder that the post and box must be identical to all the others in the neighborhood. Right. Fine.

The kids and I go to Lowes and look at their posts and boxes. The box is no problem, it's a standard, $17 black mailbox. But the posts...none of them have the right finial or a paper box. I load the boys back into the car, drive across the street, unload the boys and look at Home Depot. Same story - box, no issue. Post? No go. We load back up in the car, drive to ACE, unload (realizing it's perilously close to nap time) and look there. Same story. We go home, all three of us relatively annoyed.

I get online. Good golly - don't try to google mailbox posts. There are too many options and it's just silly. So I dig out the estimates the neighbor lady had and find that one of the companies was the company who did our neighborhood when it was built. I cruise their website and, lo and behold, there's exactly what I need. So I call them up, and for $100, they'll dig a hole (something Tim was not excited about having to do) put in the post and mailbox and cover the hole back up. Wham bam kazam. The only downside is that to be put "on the schedule" gives me a timeframe of between July 9 and 17. Nothing more concrete than that.

[Now here you might be saying, "If you're spending the same amount as to have the other one fixed, why did you go through all this?" And I'll tell you, it's probably a good question...but I do love having the mailbox in front of our house instead of so far away. Plus I got a new post and new box out of the deal rather than 2 new sheets of plywood.]

So I email the neighbor lady and say "Hey, our new mailbox will be put in between the 9th and 17th, that's as specific as they'll get. Can you just wait til you see we have a box and then call to schedule your work?" I get no reply, but as I've gotten no reply from any of my previous missives, I don't really think much of it.

In the meantime, Tim makes sure to mark the location of the new box - being sure that he's avoiding any of the sprinkler system pipes and other wires etc. that are in the yard.

July 9th comes and goes, no box. But then on the evening of July 9th, I get an email from the neighbor lady saying "Our mailbox bank will be fixed tomorrow. They'll just put your box on the curb. Let me know you got this."

Um. No. We can't have our mailbox just put on the ground. So I email back that it's not acceptable to just dump our mailbox on the curb, she can have her guy reattach it to the new thing and we'll just pull it off once our box is installed.

A few minutes later, as I'm trying to write an email to the HOA lady about the situation, the doorbell rings. There stands the neighbor lady all apologetic because she realizes that 1) she read my initial email about scheduling wrong so the goof is hers and 2) her initial email about dumping our box on the ground came across really rather rudely which was not what she intended. We chat a minute and I say, you know what, I'll just put our mail on hold from the 10-17th, we don't get anything useful most days anyway, but that way you can get your work done, we'll pull our box, and I'll cancel the mail hold when we finally get our mailbox. Easy peasy, if a bit annoying.

So I go downstairs and do just that.

The next morning at 5 am I'm up because of wigging out children and downstairs working on the computer when I hear a repetitive thumping. I figure it's a disobedient five year old who has not, in fact, gone back to bed like I told him to. I try to finish one last thing...and my browser times out. Weird, but whatever, I'll take care of the child. So I go upstairs...and see a guy using his post hole digger to put in our new mailbox. And despite all that we did re: marking all the lines...he must've chopped the FiOS line. But hey, we have a mailbox so now the whole issue with the neighbor lady is moot and I can cancel the mail hold.

I spend more time than is healthy on my cell phone with Verizon - they finally get someone out the next day to run a temporary wire that'll be buried "sometime in the next two weeks." (Any takers on bets for whether or not the lawn mowers cut the line in the meantime?)

And the mailbox bank for the neighbors? Yeah, that work still hasn't happened.

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