It was my first day in “The Burg” and things weren’t going great.
A day after completing a 12-hour drive south to our new home in Harrisburg, North Carolina—a journey made 90 minutes longer due to unexpected traffic, and our pooch Reese’s propensity for suffering motion sickness—I opted to take on a simple task: deposit the proceeds from our house sale into our joint savings account.
We had created the account in early February, the same week my wife moved into our rental home in the Canterfield subdivision, so she could pay the rent until we sold our home on Long Island. We purposely opted for an account that linked our checking with savings, to ensure the easy flow of money between the two once we had actual money that required flowing.
The teller who greeted me with a smile quickly broke the bad news: our savings account had been automatically closed in March due to inactivity, and my wife, who was at work, would have to come in so we could reopen it.
Confused best describes my initial reaction, as the checking account linked to our closed savings account was very much active. Also, no notifications or warnings were received from the bank prior to closure.
Trying to save my wife an unnecessary trip to our local bank branch, I attempted in vain to plead my case: I explained that they already have all of her information on file (just check the checking account!), that she works Uptown (Charlotte proper for those unfamiliar) and cannot take a day off, and that I was only looking to make a deposit—it was not like I was trying to drain an account. Gheesh.
My pleading turned to annoyance after the teller pointed out that we could have avoided such a scenario if we had made a small deposit into our savings account when we opened it—information that was never shared with us in February. Yes, a $1 deposit would have kept our account active and avoided a bunch of unnecessary aggravation.
There was no avoiding it. My wife would have to come down and, following some rearranging of her busy schedule, we agreed to meet at the branch at 2 p.m. so we could reopen our savings account and ensure that our hard-earned money would earn more than the 0.001 percent rate of return offered by our checking account.
Shrugging off the experience, and trying to kill some time before our 2 p.m. rendezvous, I headed over the Harrisburg Post Office to check on our P.O. Box. My wife had opened the box three weeks earlier and shared that she thought it was odd that she had not yet received a single piece of mail—not even junk mail.
As had been her repeated experience, I was too greeted by the same empty metal cavern. But unlike my wife I also noticed a clear strip of something, which turned out to be packing tape, placed neatly across the rear of our box, where postal workers would normally slip in our mail. I almost missed it myself. Weird, right?
I decided to inquire. I was called to the counter after a few minutes and figured I’d start with a softball question: How do I add myself to the list of recipients for our shared P.O. Box?
The postal employee shared that since my wife opened the box, she would have to come down herself and add me to the approved list of mail recipients. (It was the theme of the day, apparently.) After stating that would be impossible, he asked about my relationship to the owner.
“Owner of what?” I asked, confused by the question.
“The owner of the box,” he replied.
“You can ‘own’ a P.O. Box?’ I countered, not trying to be a jerk as I was thoroughly confused by his terminology, and told him as much.
“Sure,” he said. “It’s like when you rent a home. You’re still the owner.”
Ummmmm, no. But I decided to let that one go unanswered.
He then asked if my wife and I share the same last name (we do) and, much to my relief, he said there was no need to add me to the list. All mail sent to a “Costanza” would be delivered to our box. Finally, some good news!
I then inquired about the lack of mail and the piece of clear tape affixed to the rear of our box. After disappearing in the back room for several minutes, allowing the line of waiting customers to triple in size behind me, the postal employee reemerged with an embarrassed look on his face.
He explained that he had been searching for the fellow who had opened our box three weeks earlier, explaining that he never “officially” opened it. The final step was using a label maker to print out a label reading “Costanza,” sticking it to the rear of our box and removing the piece of tape.
Due to his inaction, all mail sent to our P.O Box had been marked as “undeliverable” and automatically returned to the sender.
“All I can do is apologize,” he said, adding that he would give his coworker a “good talking to” when he returned from his lunch break.
He then added: “It’s a good thing you noticed the tape.”
Opting not to think about all of the returned mail, I decided to share my latest Burg experience with my wife via text. Her response: “Holy cow. Really?”
“Really. I’m choosing to laugh about it. Things are different down here, that’s for sure.”
For example, we’re now the proud owners of a P.O. Box that may or may not be opened.