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2:04 AM Sun, Dec. 16th

Column: New meaning for 'the check is in the mail'

Forty thousand pieces of mail. That's how many letters, bills, checks, cards and small packages that a New York City mail carrier has failed to deliver since 2005. It seems the postal worker was depressed and in his "overwhelmed state" just started stashing crates of mail in his home, car and work locker.

Oh and, perhaps, 40,000 is the "magic number," since a postal worker in West Kentucky was convicted of stashing in his deceased mother's house and a storage locker about the same number of pieces of mail. He was just "too stressed" to complete his route. Hmm ... gives new meaning to the phrase, "going postal."

It is not just mail that wasn't delivered. It was the encouraging words in a sympathy card, the invitation to a wedding, the acceptance letter into college, the letter from your son in Iraq.

A lady named Mildred was heartbroken when her husband of 64 years passed away and she received not one sympathy card. A lady in Brooklyn wept when she heard that the mail from her son in Afghanistan had been carelessly thrown in a room. At her son's funeral his colleagues told her how he sent her letters once a month. What sort of criminal steals from the heart of good people?

Small businesses were left waiting for checks that never arrived. The elderly often did not get their Social Security checks. Children and grandkids did not receive their birthday cards and the list of insults and tragic outcomes keeps going.

Will the man in Brooklyn get his house back that went into foreclosure due to the unpaid taxes? He claims he never received notice that his house was going to auction and that he had mailed his tax bill. And what about the man who was crushed when his step-daughter never invited him to her wedding? He knew he had been slighted. Or maybe some diabolic mail carrier "was too stressed" to deliver.

Some might say that we are all so "wired" that mail is less important. Yes, we do pay our bills online. And we are more inclined to send invitations over the Internet, but that does not dismiss the chaos that occurs when something is sent and not received. Or mailed and callously thrown in a heap. Hopes are dashed, relationships strained, trust broken and tears fall.

I still have some special cards that I received over the years. The last birthday card my Dad sent me, a love letter (or two) from my husband. I remember screaming with joy when I got my RN license in the mail many years ago and the comfort I felt when my veterinarian sent me a sympathy card for my horse, Angel. Clearly, every now and then, our lives have been enriched by that simple little card or letter that finds its way to our doorstep. It is quite amazing the hope, love and encouragement we can feel from the words of a caring friend or loved one.

This debacle does give new meaning to the old saying, "the check is in the mail." Yes, it is, Dear Readers. The problem is we have had a few postal workers who have made a sick joke out of the promises and efforts of honest people. Prison time? What about 40,000 lashes with a wet stack of mail? How about "community service" in the form of talking to residents and business owners who were ripped off of some of life's pleasures?

Well, I guess that might turn out badly. Because a few upset people have said they would like to do bodily harm to the "lazy postal carrier." Yes, that is what the mail carrier's lawyer in Kentucky used as his defense. The guy "wasn't criminal, just lazy."

What's in your mailbox? My husband, Doug, was sent a new credit card from our bank because he was one of the 56 million people who had their data breached with Home Depot. No phone call, no email, just a new credit card that said the old one will be suspended by a certain date. Gee, hard to imagine my husband traveling and swiping a credit card that doesn't work.

Call the bank and be told "we sent you a new one" would not go over well. Or be believed. This is just one little slice of the disaster pie that happens when the mail is not delivered! Multiply it by 40,000 (oops, I mean 80,000 since there are two separate mail carrier cases) and it seems like one big mess.

I will think carefully about the next card or letter I send. I still trust the Postal Service, since they happily and correctly deliver over a billion pieces of mail each year. And, yes, lots of the mail we receive is "junk" and gets thrown in the recycle bin. But there is something thrilling about holding an envelope, tearing it open and reading a personal message that was intended for only us. Heartfelt cards, photos of our grandkids, a crayoned picture made by a child are tiny treasures that enrich our lives.

So the next time we hear from someone, "the check is in the mail," we should still believe. Or not.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at judy@judybluhm.com.