By George Capsis
I like to get calls—it gives me an excuse to break off from the tedious keying and talk to a human—any human.
I got a call shortly after the March issue came out where I documented my frustration at not being able to talk to a responsible person in the U.S. Post Office about our idea to use the graffiti encrusted collection boxes to display local historic information and pay for it by selling ads.
I was expecting compliments but not so—the young man on the phone was exploding with indignation—how could we recommend putting ads on collection boxes! His block association scraped off the ad stickers and even called the local postmaster who helped them get the boxes replaced.
I tried several times to interrupt him and suggested that he write a letter to the Editor, offering what I thought was a valid view and we would print it, but he was seemingly so convinced that I was in the pay for advertising trade association, that he went on and on.
Finally, he made me utter a curse word even Trump doesn’t use and I hung up.
OK, these words are for that young man. Certainly if a block association has people who can clean and maintain street furniture and can call the post office to replace graffiti encrusted collection boxes—great, but this is written for a block association like mine that simply does not have graffiti on their list of concerns—Spring planting yes—graffiti no.
In my frustration at not being able to talk to a person in the Post Office who at least had some idea of how to navigate a new idea through what is perhaps the largest entrenched bureaucracy in the world, I asked City Councilman Corey Johnson for help. He got “Mr. L” of the Post Office to call just after my rage sputtering young man. I will not use his real name because I don’t know if his inadvertently revealing Post Office myopia might cause him permanent—even fatal career damage.
“Mr. L” liked the idea and he talked it up with various Post Office departments, but at one point in the conversation the question was asked, “from which department does this idea come from?” Our “Mr. L,” caught off guard, realized you don’t ask a Post Office official to entertain suggestions from outside the chain of command.
So my young man of righteous indignation, have no fear—removing graffiti from your block’s postal boxes will continue to be one of the block association’s proud achievements for decades, even centuries to come.