Through Rain, Sleet, Snow, or Gloom of Misdirection


Here’s a lovely story about the abilities of the USPS. It stems from my connections in Inazawa city (稲沢市) in neighboring Aichi prefecture (愛知県).

While visiting for some international exchange event or other, I was introduced to a young woman who was going to do ‘homestay’ in the Seattle area: I’ll just refer to her as ‘Harumi’ for this post. The society in Inazawa has some connections near Seattle who were set-up to take care of Harumi while she was studying there; however, Japanese people are very concerned about personal safety issues and wanted me to be the second layer of assistance.

She asked me many questions about her school, her host family’s area, transportation, and other details around Seattle. I filled her in as best as I could and told her she could contact me anytime.

A few months passed and I visited Inazawa again. Harumi had traveled to America and my contacts introduced me to her mother. Mostly I gave her advice about contacting America by phone or email, but also a lot of reassurances about the safety level of Seattle and its surroundings. She seemed very concerned about her baby being so far away and alone, so I assured her that she could contact me anytime.

Perhaps you caught the common thread: contact me anytime. Recently, I was contacted with a request to call America and find a missing package. Harumi had requested her jacket and warm clothes, as it is getting cold in western Washington. The package got shipped by… well… ship, and it hadn’t arrived at its destination. She was fairly insistent that I should contact the post office and figure it out. Several times I tried to pawn it off on Harumi’s hosts, but she really wanted me helping. I got the impression that she had leaned on them a bit and wanted more action, or was just trying to cover all the bases.

I stayed up until the post offices opened in Seattle and started calling around. I pursued this with diligence, but was a little doubtful about what I could find out and; moreover, the odds of the package ever arriving. Missing information in the address being what started this whole process. First, the zip code was not included. Computer technology is pretty slick though, and the USPS can pull up a missing zip code from the address in seconds. You might think this would give me confidence, but there’s more.

Sammamish was the desired destination. Even people from the Seattle area often misspell this name, so the post office might be lenient; however, the city was written as Sammish. I figured that, without a zip, this was more likely to be mistaken for Samish (near Bellingham) than Sammamish (near Redmond) and could end up heading too far north. I was still holding out hope, figuring the postmaster of such a small town would know most of the addresses and would send it back toward Seattle. This could cause a bit of delay, but wouldn’t kill our chance of ultimate success.

I called up the host family as well and chatted a bit. The man of the house has a Portuguese (Brazilian) given name and a German-sounding family name. He said that he has received many incorrectly addressed packages because of his unique name. This was really our greatest hope; especially since my conversation with him revealed that the street was 50 blocks off of his actual street!

The next morning I went to the post office here in Japan and had them track the package. They had no indication of it entering the US yet. The indicated delivery window for SAL mail, still had another week or two, so some more waiting might be needed. I contacted Harumi’s mom and tried to give her a properly guarded confidence. We had some chance of success, but no guarantee, and might have to wait patiently to find out. I also offered to have my mother take Harumi to a thrift shop to look for a temporary jacket. Her mother sent a message back indicating that she would be praying.

She got an email from her daughter the next day saying the package had arrived. I was amused that we spent so much time trying to figure things out and all we really needed was to wait a touch longer.

  • No zip code
  • Mistaken city name
  • Wrong street address

No problem for the USPS!

Update: Wow! I just got home from Japanese class and there was an envelope inside my mail drop from Harumi’s mother. Two pairs of tickets for an ukiyoe exhibit and a pottery exhibit in Nagoya were slid inside with a sheet of commemorative stamps. Pretty cool presents. Makes me feel a little bad about initially begrudgingly helping.


6 Responses to “Through Rain, Sleet, Snow, or Gloom of Misdirection”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    A while back I heard about an experiment where someone tried to mail all sorts of unusual things, including a can of soup. I think most of the objects made it, and sometimes they were even wrapped by Canada Post to protect them in transit. Basically, if you stick an address and postage on it, they’ll deliver it. I love posties.

  2. びっくり Says:

    Oh, I thought Canada Post was supposed to be somewhat suspect. I remember when airport security in Montreal took my knife away (not because it was illegal, but because it looked dangerous) and gave me an envelope to address. Allegedly they were going to send it to me, but it has been about seven years now. It is definitely possible that this had nothing to do with the postal system and was just a problem of covetousness on the part of the staff at security.

    Based on your comment, I’ll assume the negative rumors are false. 🙂

  3. verbivore Says:

    The Swiss postal system is known for its ingenuity – we tested with a friend of mine and sent a letter to his grandfather with an address of “in the apt across from the big bridge” in such and such village. It actually arrived. This was a small village but still, we were impressed.

  4. Sylvia Says:

    There will always be ingrates who like to put down public servants. They probably don’t call their mother on Mother’s Day either. I ignore them. Here the posties actually volunteer to answer every letter kids sent to Santa Claus at Christmas. These people care.

    Oh, I remembered that one of the other objects mailed in that experiment was a frying pan. It arrived also.

  5. びっくり Says:

    Sylvia – I haven’t had very good luck with any public ‘servants’ in Montreal, but BC is awesome. Whenever I go to BC, it feels about the same as heading out of the big cities in Washington. Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan: they were all awesome as well. The countryside around Montreal, too. The people in Montreal were great, too; it was just the public employees.

    I’ll ignore anyone bad-mouthing your Posties.

    BTW, I didn’t call my mom on Mother’s Day. She delivers flowers in Oregon on the major holidays for flowers: Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, Easter. I always have to call her the day before or after.

    Verbivore – I wish I lived across from a big bridge. The last town I lived in, probably would have delivered my mail if it just had my name and the town, but I’m back in Tsu now. My previous place actually had multiple addresses, but the mailman didn’t worry about it too much. My current house has the same address as the two houses behind it. Maybe someone could send me something addressed: In the front house of the three which have the same address.

  6. Slay a Demon, Save the World « Neo-新びっくりブログ Says:

    […] a Demon, Save the World Sunday morning I met a Canadian friend for a trek into Nagoya. Helping Harumi netted me generous gifts from her mother and we set about making use of the Ukiyo-e exhibit […]

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