Saturday, November 22, 2008
I'm in Slate this week with a piece on the rare but curious phenomenon postmen who hoard mail:
The hoarding and abandonment of mail is a phenomenon that extends at least back to 1874, when Providence, R.I., postman Benjamin Salisbury was caught throwing mail into the ocean "to avoid the trouble of delivery." In 2006, the last year the U.S. Postal Service released figures, there were 515 arrests and 466 convictions for "internal theft"... They've been caught by meter readers, by housesitters feeding a rabbit for a vacationing postman, and by state troopers making traffic stops. "Dead-letter cars"—old clunkers filled up like a junk-mail piñatas—have been discovered by mechanics and used-car dealers. And a number of cases are broken after the stashed mail catches fire: In 1974, back-to-back cases a week apart yielded 1,200 sacks of mail in a Louisville, Ky., attic and another tractor-trailer load in a burning attic in suburban Connecticut.Inevitably, there's a literary angle: William Styron's mail went missing in one case.