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Mail Theft and Unbearable Filth

18 May

May 18, 2011

The following is the federal statute governing mail theft:

Section 1702.
Obstruction of correspondence
Whoever takes any letter, postal card, or package out of any post office or any authorized depository for mail matter, or from any letter or mail carrier, or which has been in any post office or authorized depository, or in the custody of any letter or mail carrier, before it has been delivered to the person to whom it was directed, with design to obstruct the correspondence, or to pry into the business or secrets of another, or opens, secretes, embezzles, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both

Now I am not a lawyer (God forbid) but I have done my share of lying over the years so I am qualified to interpret the law.

Cue The People’s Court music while I introduce the litigants.

The Plaintiff: Me. Paragon of virtue, friend to all, lover of animals, honest to a fault, handsome too.

The Defendant: My lowlife sneaky neighbor. If I may indulge the Court’s time with some background on this mail thief? Thank you.

Try to imagine a young tanned George “The Animal” Steele. Or Tor Johnson, take your pick. Now dress him in the clothes your mechanic wears to drain the oil out of the old Chevy that never seems to get out of his garage and you start to get the idea. (Not similar clothes, those exact clothes.) To protect his anonymity, let’s call him Torvalds Sigurdsson.

Torvalds is a scrapper and-

DEFENSE LAWYER: Objection Your Honor! The plaintiff’s bias towards scrappers is well documented and we ask that you throw out his testimony.

JUDGE: Overruled. This is small claims court and lawyers are not allowed. Who let you in here?

Thank you your Honor.

JUDGE: Now get to the point before I throw this gavel at your head.

Torvalds is a scrapper and unlike the wonderful paragons of the community that you see on Spike TV this guy is a lowlife. For example, he stole the gate from my building. We had a six-foot tall gate at the entrance to the courtyard and he was seen by a witness, now dead (just a coincidence, I am sure) cutting it from its hinges and putting it into his van in the early hours of the morning.

One night I went to throw out some trash in my building’s incinerator and his disgusting sweatshirt was lying on the floor. At the best of times the floor in that room is as far from clean as you can get without quite being filthy but it comes close. This was not the best of times. The sweatshirt itself was over the line of filth. If there is a definition of “unbearable filth”- and I have wondered- this shirt was it.

So, being a good tenant, I threw out my trash and left the sweatshirt there on the floor. You think I’m going to touch that thing? That’s what the lazy part-time maintenance man is for. And knowing him he wouldn’t touch it either.

I did, however, step on it on the way out.

The next day- c’mon, you know where this is headed- Torvalds was wearing it, and my footprint was faintly visible on the bottom.

JUDGE: Move it along, this case is about mail theft.

My apartment and Torvalds’ are at opposite ends of the building. There is no reason at all for him to ever come near my door. The staircase is at his end and the elevator is in the middle.

I had been waiting for weeks for a package and just about given up hope. Remember the episode of MASH where Col. Blake has Radar order a film from the Tabasco Film Company and sign Radar’s name to the order? This was nothing like that. Really, I swear.

Anyway, I came home around noon one day and got off the elevator. In front of my door was the package I was expecting. The mailman almost never leaves packages if I am not home. He leaves a slip and I go to the post office to get it. However, since this box was very large and heavy (and not leaking some foul substance, I swear) he must have decided that he schlepped it once, that’s enough, and left it in front of my door.

OK, so far so good. Here’s where it goes bad.

When I got off the elevator the first thing I saw when I turned to my left was my neighbor lifting the box and turning to walk away.

ME: Hey, thanks! (Why was I thanking him? He is a lot bigger than me so I figured I’d put on my stupid hat and pretend he was doing me some kind of favor. I am not generally that non-confrontational, but I am generally that averse to getting the shit kicked out of me.)

TORVALDS: Oh, hey, there you are!
ME: Yeah!
TORVALDS: (Putting the package down.) I was just making sure this was for you. (Squints suspiciously at the door next to mine) I don’t trust some of the people around here.

For the record, the people who live next door are in their eighties and have been there since I was as kid.

ME: Yeah, I know. You can’t trust anybody.
TORVALDS: Look, you know the mail. Anytime you want to tell the mailman to leave your packages with me. I’ll do the same to you.

How nice. I’ll save him the trouble of stealing my mail by sending it right to him. It eliminates the middle man, but unfortunately the middle man is me and the mail is mine.

TORVALDS: Look, you have a great day!

He was talking very fast right at that point. He clapped me on the shoulder and started to move down the hall like he forgot that his birth certificate was burning on the stove.

ME: (Winning smile) You got it!
THORVALDS: (Hurrying away) You know how it is! You’re a good guy, your sister is an angel!

I don’t have a sister.

A couple of days later something else I was waiting for arrived. This was from UPS and the delivery guy came to my door. I had missed the delivery the first time he came and just to make small talk I said that I was sorry I missed him the other day. He said “I don’t know why the other guy didn’t just leave the package.” I told him I was glad he didn’t.

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