It happened around 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday. In a scene out of “The Blackboard Jungle” a carload of—what?—rowdies? truants? hooligans? bad seeds?—roared into our quiet little neighborhood, bringing mayhem in the form of bashed mailboxes.
Really? Mailboxes? Only in Delaware.
The police came, interviewed victims, filled out some forms, then left us with five broken mailboxes, like so many front teeth knocked out of our main thoroughfare.
The victimized owners responded immediately with post-hole diggers, levels, Sakrete and other implements of recovery. As I jogged past them that morning, pondering my own luck in being spared, I cringed at the realization that I knew nothing about how to rebuild my own junk mail receptacle.
There was my across-the-street neighbor, digging, measuring, leveling, pouring. By afternoon he had a post as straight and plumb as the Washington Monument protruding proudly from the ground, his own monument to practical wisdom and know-how.
I thought of my own most probable solution: leaning the broken mailbox against a stepladder—“temporarily,” I tell my wife, whose countenance would already bear The Look. “You know, just until I buy a level.”
As I jogged around the neighborhoood that day, I imagined that stepladder bathed in summer rain, then brushed with fall leaves, then covered in winter’s snow. By then my “temporary” solution would have been strengthened by a length of extension cord which, under the weight of the snow, would better secure the stepladder to the mailbox. (I note that I’ll need to buy another extension cord on Black Friday, since the one used for the Christmas tree lights has now been otherwise employed.)
I imagine that, as the mail continues to be delivered, I postpone my vow to buy that level. My wife’s countenance remains fixed with The Look, as if were set in Sakrete itself, even as passing neighbors slow to marvel at my own version of practical wisdom—or to make a note to bring up at the next association meeting.
I imagine the ladder and extension cord holding until spring rains mark the arrival of another season and the onslaught of another gang of rowdies who, upon spying my edifice, will deduce someone has already beaten them to the punch. So my solution has proven to be a deterrent to further damage.
My run and daydream complete, I see how quickly all five of my neighbors have repaired their mailboxes and restored a wisp of Normal Rockwell to our shire. I reflect upon how much time it took me to replace the handle on the basement commode, my initial solution being to remove the cover from the water closet so users could reach in and pull the chain.
By Monday our little world was back in order. The mailman made his deliveries to sturdy new installations, including my own undamaged one. I could openly walk to my mailbox instead of sneaking up the step ladder under the cover of darkness, receive my delivery, then promptly deposit virtually all of it in the DSWA recycling bin.
The circle of suburban life is restored.
Reid Champagne’s wife has told coworkers what she’d like her husband to do with that level if and when he ever gets around to buying it.