It has been my experience that the misdeeds of my youth have often come back to haunt me. Some surprised me almost immediately, others returned while raising children, and some are still finding their way back to remind me that what goes around often comes back around.
When my wife went out to retrieve our mail recently she found the mail was little damp — because pretty much one whole side of our mailbox was smashed in. Laying near the mailbox post was a large rock, like the size of one it would take most people two hands to pick up.
I don’t know if someone in our household did something to tick someone off, or if a bunch of youngsters were just out sewing their wild oats. But I do know that I was guilty of similar transgressions many times in much younger days.
Now, knowing that messing with mailboxes is a federal offense, my friends and I did not mess with mailboxes much, or at least that’s the way I like to remember it. We preferred those large, yellow road signs. They made a much louder clang when an empty beverage container connected with them, and were a more challenging target since they were farther off the road.
I know I probably should not admit such things in print, but it seems appropriate given my disgust with the current state of our mailbox. And, from watching movies like “Stand By Me” and “Dazed and Confused,” apparently we were not the only ones that participated in such activity.
You can raise your hand now if you were among such juvenile delinquents.
Before any of you youngsters start thinking similar activity might be fun, remember, mailboxes are protected by federal law and crimes against mailboxes (and the mail inside) are investigated by postal inspectors. Those who are convicted of destruction of federal property could spend up to three years in jail and be fined up to $250,000. At least that’s what a Google search turned up.
And then there’s that karma thing you’ll likely have to deal with.
As for my own mailboxes, we never had much trouble until we moved outside of town nearly two decades ago. When we lived in town, it was mostly things like smashed jack-o-lanterns, busted basketball rims, stolen bicycles and such that we had to deal with.
But ever since we moved out town, our mailbox has took a beating. Have I really deserved all that, I’ve often wondered. Because if we go more than a couple years without having to replace a mailbox, it seems unusual.
Vandals have been the culprit more than once. And I have done my own damage when I got too close on the riding mower. Heck, one time when I was on the mower the mailbox damaged me.
Ohio Department of Transportation snow plows have been the guilty party more than once, especially when the snow is slushy and extra heavy. ODOT has also repaired the mailbox more once, even though it’s not equal to the number of times it has left the mailbox pole leaning sideways.
And then there is my favorite mailbox memory off all.
One weekend afternoon I was home alone when there was a knock at our front day. When I went to answer the knock, there was a stout man, probably in his 30s or so, standing there that I had never seen before. He said he had been driving down our road a couple days before, pulling a large farm implement, and accidentally knocked over our mailbox.
“Do you mind if I fix your mailbox?” he asked.
I was pretty much flabbergasted, to the point that I’m not even sure how I responded, other than to say something like that would be really nice.
I was busy with some type of project at the time, and by the time I got done doing whatever I was doing, the man was gone, and our new mailbox and post were standing straight and tall.
When I went out to inspect the man’s work a little closer, I found that he had replaced our old mailbox (it was a pretty nice one) with a new one pretty much identical to the old one. And not only that, he took the time to place our house number on the new one, with better numbers than we previously had.
I was so taken aback when I answered the door that I never thought to ask the man’s name, then regretted missing the chance to thank him properly.
But his thanks will come. Because just like with misdeeds, his good deed will likely come back to him somewhere down the line.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.