It’s one of the wonders of the world that the mail gets delivered in Mexico. I’m always amazed when a letter, usually a bill, arrives in my buzon, mailbox. How it found its way is one of those logistical secrets that postmasters, the world over, must keep to themselves.
The problems involved with delivering the mail to the right address aren’t particular to Mexico. Vacationers to third world countries, and even places like Italy, frequently arrive home before their air-mailed postcards – even if the sender takes a slow boat from China.
There was a small problem for many expats in Mexico last fall when the Mexican government decided to sit on thousands of letters mailed from the U.S. containing checks, bills, important papers, and who knows what else. Was it a protest? Donald Trump hadn’t even declared his candidacy yet.
I’m regularly treated to letters mailed to a Chapala address 5 miles down the road. I think some clerk somewhere in the system, slipped it into my mailman’s parcel as a test, or maybe a joke, to see if he could deliver it to the correct address. Well, the guy on my route was having none of it. He knows that if he doesn’t recognize the recipient, he just stuffs it in the gringo’s mailbox.
The first time this happened, I circled the address and put it back into the mailbox so it was sticking out. This is what I’d do in the states so the letter carrier would see it and hopefully correct the situation.
The problem here is that there’s very little mail. Even when I lived in Ajijic, my landlady got very little mail, and most of it was addressed to the wrong address anyway. The only mail I get that’s addressed correctly is the Telmex bill. They know how to get paid.
So, when I stuffed the misaddressed envelope back into the box, it sat there for almost two weeks. I’m sure the mailman was confused because he never picked it up. Instead, some enterprising kid in the neighborhood ripped it up, and did what I guiltily couldn’t do – send it to the big dead letter trash heap in the sky.
The next time it happened, I decided to take the letter to the post office. I pointed out the mistake, hoping the clerk would be able to rectify the situation. He looked at me disbelievingly, shrugging his shoulders. I knew he was thinking, “What do you want me to do with it?” And, then he threw it in a box – obviously the dead letter trash heap.
Now, you may have noticed that I’ve been referring to the PC incorrect term “mailman.” I guess technically and appropriately they are “letter carriers.” But here in Mexico, all the ones I’ve seen are young men. They zip around town on motorcycles with little boxes on the back that look a lot like the delivery cycles from Domino’s Pizza or Pollo Feliz. They’d never work for the crusty old-timers who delivered the mail in my old home town. And they wouldn’t do well in the snow either. They would, however, save gas.
Considering the state of the street numbering system here, I do have to give the mailmen a lot of credit. It wasn’t designed with any rationality. You see one block on a street might be numbered 201-250 and the next block 18-42. Or even better, two houses next to each other with numbers sometimes hundreds of numbers apart. The photo above was the inspiration for this blog post. As I sat in the car waiting for a friend to pick up her dog at the groomer (#31 on the left), I noticed the neighbors on either side had numbers in the eighties.
When someone builds a house here or subdivides a property they must refer to a random number generator or maybe a pair of dice or maybe an astrological chart to get a house number.
This numbers game makes it a challenge when you’re invited to someone’s house for the first time. Before I had my car here, I remember walking up and down a street for a half hour looking for a house in Riberas. As I approached the end of a block, I would think I was getting close, only to find that the numbers changed dramatically on the next block.
All this confusion must provide amusement for the locals, and an occasional interesting surprise in the mailbox.