The day my employer told me I was losing my job—January 15—I came home to find that my mailbox had been broken into, along with those of a couple of my neighbors. There are seven units in our apartment building. I think I recounted this around that time: I realized that one thing that had been in my mailbox was a full set of my keys, which had been mailed to me by Hammett’s ex-cat sitter. I was going out when I saw them and had meant to bring them in later, but now someone else had them, so we had to have a locksmith come immediately and change the front door lock plus the two locks on my own apartment door. I paid for the latter and made an extra $25 contribution, since if I’d brought my keys in promptly, someone else wouldn’t have ended up with them.
Our building manager set up a camera in the lobby and we collected videos of two different people breaking into our mailbox, plus one who evidently meant to do the same but saw the camera. We were going to ask our longtime, very nice mail carrier if we could give her a key to the front door so that she could put our mail in the lobby. Our building manager installed a lockbox on the inside wall for this purpose, but just then, our mail carrier went out on medical leave and the substitute explained that they’re not allowed to have people’s actual keys, so we had no choice but to have all of our mail held.
Of course the building manager called the police, but they didn’t take any interest, and the post office said they didn’t have the resources to look into it. About that time, we saw a news story about the rash of mail thefts up and down our street. I took a walk one day and saw that only two buildings on our block were without protective gates or slots through which mail could be put. Our building manager very kindly went to the post office once or twice a week to fetch our mail, but sometimes, they would only give her hers, or they would claim they were turning over all the mail, but a few times, I got only one or two pieces, obviously not a week’s worth.
We decided to install a gate, at considerable expense to the landlords, who are also paying for earthquake retrofitting currently underway, which will be more than $100,000. (Also, we have brown water coming out of our faucets, which has long been the case, but now it’s quite a dark brown, and a newer tenant called this to the attention of the building manager, so something expensive will probably have to be done about that one of these days. I gather it’s not life-threatening unless you have a certain rare disease.)
Once you have a gate, the post office has to come out and install its own lock, so our building manager called to arrange that, but was unable to get anyone to call her back, or she’d speak to someone who claimed to have no knowledge of such a request. She was told to put in a work order, which she did. Then she was told to put in another work order, which she did. Then the post office decided, after eight weeks, that she needed the signature of everyone in the building in order to be able to fetch our mail. This certainly makes sense. I’m surprised they didn’t ask for this in the first place, but since they’d been giving our manager (some of) the mail for two months, it seemed like just one more hassle.
Finally, our building manager contacted our state senator a couple of times, and our congresswoman, who happens to be Nancy Pelosi. The post office suggested opening a (third) work order and said there is a citywide shortage of the lock mechanisms that the post office installs. But shortly after Nancy Pelosi’s office was contacted, someone from the post office showed up with no notice and installed the lock. By then, of course the newly installed gate had ceased to close properly, but what a thrill it was to find a piece of mail in my mailbox last week, even if it was just a credit card offer from Delta. Three months almost to the day from when the mailboxes were first broken into.