“Not at this address”
But I am! I am at this address. I am residing at the address to which this important piece of mail was directed. Not once, but two times the woman at the desk asked me to verify my home of record and the address to which I wanted the renewed license delivered. I was provided with a temporary – good for 30 days.
When I was young, we had a traditional mailbox. It was metal, weathered pewter color with the family name and address painted on both sides in the artistic script of my sign-painting uncles. Mounted on a post of rough, but precisely measured timber, it served as receptacle for penny postcards and 4-cent first-class missives delivered by a rural route mail carrier. Airmail was even more expensive. Christmas packages meant the postal carrier took a little detour up our gravel drive and knocked on the kitchen door. We got to know our mailman by name. As times changed with inevitable postal increases, we placed a canning jar lid in the mailbox – upside down. This lid was for additional postage due. For pennies and nickels on those occasions a friend or relative shipped us a package that was a bit too fat or weighty for the stamps attached. Our mailman delivered anyway and we just put the change out next day.
When I became an adult, things were a bit more complex. Neighborhoods had grown and folks seemed to move more often. It was possible to receive a piece of mail for someone who previously lived in your house. If you recognized the name, you simply wrote, “moved” or “please forward” on the envelope and put it back out. The mail carrier would take care of forwarding it. Postal persons have vacations and days off just like normal people and substitute carriers can get a bit confused. On the rare occasions a letter addressed to someone else got stuck to your bundle, you simply walked across the street and placed it in the right mailbox or mail drop or courteously knocked on their door and got to know your neighbor better.
Nowadays the free-standing individual mailbox is rare. Gone too the mail drop in urban doors. Security, you know. On our street we have a stack of numbered boxes on a pole, each of the boxes with an individual key. One of the boxes has a slot for outgoing mail, but none have a slot for in-coming. Those times we get mail in our box for some other street address we simply put it back in the outgoing slot to be redelivered. But that is not what happened with my driver’s license.
I watched the mailbox diligently for 30 days. Mail came and went. We received personal letters. We received bills. We received junk mail. We received business mail for each of my roommate’s three grown children. We accepted letters for two other individuals who used to room here. I attempted to call the driver’s license bureau for Colorado and found I had to go back down to the agency and wait in line to address my issue. I took a number. I communicated the problem. The helpful young man verified again that the address on my temporary license (which was now expired) was correct. He conferenced with a supervisor. They went back to the database. Bingo! This flag just in. My license was returned to the post office as undeliverable. “It will take about a week for it to get back here,” said the supervisor. “Try back next Tuesday.”
Tuesday came. I waited in line. I waited through a concentrated team search. Nothing. “Try back after 3:30. That’s when the mail comes.” I returned 20 minutes before closing time, 42 days after renewal, and there was my license. Correctly addressed to the place I reside. Neatly printed across the front by an unknown neighbor, “Not at this Address.” No. I am not at their address. The mail was obviously miss-delivered. Would it not have been better to simply put the envelope back in the out-going slot? I am, in fact, at the address on the envelope.