The card came to our mailbox from the east coast at least twice this holiday season. The first time, I dropped it back in the outgoing mail slot. For context, we live in a rural area where not everyone gets mail where they physically live. Our neighborhood mailbox, for example, is a quarter-mile from our house. When we first moved to town and were establishing services, one of the questions people would ask is, “do you receive mail at your house?” Some people are required to pay for p.o. boxes.

So when the card addressed to 118 Another St. showed up the first time, while puzzling, it seemed like an honest mistake. When it arrived again, it highlighted a gap in process or understanding. For added interest, we live two hours from Denver. Even local mail within our town of 3000 people or within our county seems to go to Denver before it gets back to its recipient, which might only be a mile or two away. So this particular envelope racked up another rubber stamp from Denver.

When it came back the second time, I felt a universal responsibility to get it to its recipient. There must have been a reason it came back.

We looked up the address and drove to the other side of town. Based on surrounding addresses, it looked like 118 Another St. was a mobile home park. I got out and knocked on a door. No one answered, thankfully, b/c while standing there, I realized it was addressed to a different unit. I went to the door of the other mobile home and no answer. We drove back into the community to see if there was any central mailbox. There wasn’t.

The following Monday, I took the card to our post office. I waited until after lunch thinking it would be less busy. When I walked in, there were six or seven people ahead and the two right in front of me had around ten packages of varying sizes. After twenty minutes of waiting, it was their turn. The packages were not addressed and they had to look up digital codes for each one. One package was so light the scale didn’t recognize it. After about ten minutes of trial and error, they left having mailed only one or two of their boxes, with more work to do at home.

It was finally my turn. I explained the situation and tried to ask if the community or the individual had a box at the post office.

“I’m just going to write ANK on it,” the woman behind the counter said.

“What does that mean?”

“Address Not Known. They usually just get returned to the sender.” I felt a bit sad and deflated that this would be the ultimate outcome. I hope it does get back to its sender.

Yesterday, we received a new card to Different Human at 118 Another St. My heart sank. I wrote Please Return to Sender on the envelope and dropped it into outgoing mail, but didn’t have the heart to write ANK. The address is known. We found it, we think. But something is broken along the way. 

. . . . . . .

Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

Categories: Rural Life