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April 17, 2003 / Maleesha Kovnesky

Loose-In Mail

Yesterday in the mail I received a form from the Denver Bulk Mail Center, the “Loose-In-Mail” department. It just so happens that a book I mailed across country a few weeks ago did not make it to its final destination. Apparently some mail worker discovered an empty, lonely package that contained nothing. By filling out the form, I can request that they search the mail for this item, and if it appears somewhere, it will be mailed to its original destination. There is a helpful “Description” box that is supposed to “assist in the identification of the missing item”.

The item that is MIA happens to be a 1961 non-fiction book titled “A Nation of Sheep” by William J. Lederer. It is out of print, and I bought it on eBay as a gift to someone who wanted it. It is actually a very informative, enlightening book about certain…um, well, things that I can only describe as “fast ones” that were pulled by a certain government. Anyway, the best description I could come up with was, ‘Book, Average Size, Hardcover”. Is this going to help them find it?

Now, I am trying to imagine the tons of mail that zips around the country each and every day. There must be a certain percentage (albeit small) that never makes it to its destination. Otherwise, they would not have this handy form just waiting to be sent out to senders whose mail became lost along the way. Considering the vast amount of mail that there is, even a small percentage would still be a vast amount. So this vast amount of lost mail is going to be searched? Why am I picturing a swimming-pool sized hamper filled with lost items? Really, who does this searching? Is every missing piece of mail keyed in to some database and matched to its location in the swimming pool? Is there a whole team of postal employees whose sole purpose is to comb through a plethora of random items whenever a request for a mail search is made? I am impressed that the Post Office even notified me of this in the first place. I thought that you would only get notified if you bought insurance on an item – if you didn’t, I assumed that you were S.O.L. While I am not expecting them to find this book anytime soon (or ever), I am intrigued. I am fascinated by the idea of some sort of Lost Mail warehouse, filled with gifts and books and important papers and photographs that never made it home.

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