I’m in the habit of doing a lot of dumb things, but this past week, I hit two home runs in the major-league ball park of stupidity.
First of all, for the second time in as many snowstorms, the town’s plow viciously attacked my mailbox and left it lying in a heap on the side of the road. The first time, it still had mail in it. The second time, it was empty – which means either the mail hadn’t been delivered yet…or I’ll find my electric bill hanging somewhere on a tree branch during the spring thaw.
The first time, I managed to nail the mailbox back onto its wooden post. It took about a half-hour and some nearly frostbitten fingers, but I reattached it. This second time, however, for some reason I couldn’t hit a nail even if I’d used a sledgehammer.
After an hour of kneeling on the frozen ground with my head inside my mailbox (I have a huge, oversized mailbox that fits my huge, oversize head) as I attempted to hammer some long nails into the base, all I succeeded in doing was bending three nails and whacking my thumb.
“I give up!” I finally cried out loud, flinging the hammer.
I live in the middle of nowhere and my mailbox is the only one on the road for a half-mile, so I was pretty sure it was directly targeted by the town’s plow in some fiendish form of a mailbox demolition derby.
Anyway, there I was, still kneeling in front of the mailbox (mainly because I couldn’t get up at that point, my legs were so stiff) swearing at the box as it teetered precariously on the platform with a bunch of bent nails banged halfway into it, when I heard a voice behind me ask, “Are you okay?”
Considering that my nearest neighbor is a coyote, I wasn’t certain whether I should be afraid…or admit that my brain had frozen to the point where I was hallucinating. Hesitantly, I peered over my shoulder to see a very handsome man standing there.
Well, if this is a hallucination, at least it’s a good one, I thought.
“Um, I’ve spent the past hour trying to nail my mailbox back onto this post,” I said in a tone that sounded more whiny than I’d intended. “And all I’ve managed to do is bend a bunch of nails and whack my thumb. So I’m giving up!”
“Here,” he said, flashing a smile worthy of the best toothpaste commercial, “let me do that for you.” He bent to pick up the hammer I’d tossed, and within five minutes, had pounded at least four nails into the box.
He grabbed the mailbox and shook it. “There – that’s sturdy now. You should be all set.”
“Till the plow comes by again,” I said, frowning. Then, before he walked away and disappeared from my life as swiftly as he’d appeared, I thanked him and, on an impulse, hugged him.
“Any time,” he said, smiling and returning the hug.
As I watched him walk off, I found myself actually wishing the plow would come by again and wipe out my mailbox.
That same night, I decided to tackle my income taxes – a task I find more odious than cleaning out the shower drain in the bathroom. I had everything I needed stored in a big manila envelope, on which I’d written “2017 Tax Info” in large letters on the front. Seeing I’m self-employed and have an office in my home, I had quite a collection of receipts, 1099 forms and documents stuffed into the envelope.
After about two hours of painstakingly filling out information on my computer tax-program, I decided I’d had enough for one night and would continue the torture at another time. I hadn’t read my newspapers all week, so I sat down with a cup of tea and read all of them. Then I took them out to my recycling container in the garage.
Two nights ago, I finally convinced myself to finish doing my taxes. My search for the manila envelope that contained all of my tax information, however, turned up nothing. It was gone. Poof! Vanished into thin air.
That’s when I realized where it HAD to be. When I’d read the newspapers the night I’d been working on my taxes, I’d stacked them on top of the manila envelope on my desk. So when I threw out the papers, I’d obviously picked up the envelope along with them and tossed it out, too.
Panic overcame me as I thought about all of the personal information in that envelope. I mean, it contained everything but my bra size – and for all I knew, it might have contained that, too, on one of the receipts that also had office supplies on it (because I buy my bras and most of my office supplies at Wal-Mart).
Unfortunately, I’d put out the recycling container for pick-up nearly a week before, so I knew the envelope was long gone. The question, however, was where?
So early the next morning, I called the recycling company and asked what happens to paper in the recycling containers after it’s picked up. I had visions of my envelope sitting on top of a big pile in a landfill somewhere, calling out, “Hey! Criminals looking for a new identity! Come grab me! I contain the entire life’s history of the dumb woman who accidentally tossed me out!”
“The paper goes onto a conveyer belt,” the woman at the recycling company told me. “And then anything that’s trash or not paper is picked out of it.”
“By human hands or by a machine?” I asked.
“By humans,” she said.
I was hoping she wouldn’t say that.
“Then someone could grab my envelope and keep it, especially since it says TAX INFO in big letters on the front?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s not at all likely,” she said. “The conveyer belt is very fast. It wouldn’t be easy for someone to read what it says on the envelope as it goes zooming by. And, you figure, it also will be mixed in with a lot of newspapers and other paper.”
“And where does it go after that?” I was afraid to ask. I silently prayed she would say a giant shredder.
“The paper gets sorted by grades and is then compressed into bales. Then it goes to companies that turn it into other paper products.” She paused as if trying to think of some way to make me feel better about my big goof. “Just think,” she said brightly, “your envelope could end up being something really nice – like wallpaper!”
I groaned as visions of someone’s wallpaper having my social-security number plastered all over it ran through my mind. And with my luck, it would be lining the walls in a prison recreation room.
So I guess all I can do now is wait and see what happens.
I’m just hoping I won’t receive a bill next month from a hotel in Tahiti where I supposedly spent two weeks in a luxury suite.
But there might be hope. After all, about 10 years ago I accidentally tossed my entire checkbook into the trash and nothing ever happened…at least not yet.
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