A few days after we got to my in-laws’ condo in Florida, Dad opened a little box on the hall table and pulled out the tiny mailbox key. He took the key and headed out the door, down the sidewalk to the laundry room at the end of the building. Inside the laundry room he stared at a bank of narrow silver doors with little identification plates at the top. Finding the right door, he inserted the key. He opened the door and to his dismay found nothing but an empty metal box. Day after day, Dad got his little key and off he went down the sidewalk. Each day he came back to the condo empty handed. His face etched with worry, he would put the little key back in its box on the hall table. One afternoon, I heard him telling Mom that something was wrong. The post office had messed up and had not started delivering the mail to the condo like they usually do. Mom explained that the mail is being delivered to Dave’s house in Tennessee and that Dad shouldn’t worry about it. The two continued to volley the topic back and forth. When the voices became tense I knew this was my call to duty. I jumped up from my makeshift desk and met my in-laws in the front hallway. Dad explained to me that he has his mail sent from his place “up there” to this place “here” every year when they come down. Since the mailbox is empty, it is clear that the post office has lost his instructions and we need to go get it straightened out and find his missing mail. Luckily for me it was late in the afternoon. I told Dad we would go to the post office first thing in the morning. He agreed that the post office would be closed and the morning would be fine. With the situation resolved to his satisfaction, Dad dropped the little key in its box and went back to watching TV.
Quietly I went back to our bedroom/office and closed the door. Dave and I discussed the situation and decided to call Matt at our office. We had Matt gather up all the junk mail that had come for my in-laws since we left for Florida. He shipped it to us overnight and we had our package first thing the next morning. Now every morning Dave and Fred embark on a covert, top secret, mail drop. Dave slips an envelope in his pocket and quietly plucks the tiny mailbox key from its little box. He and Fred take off down the sidewalk under the guise of taking Fred to make her morning potty while my in-laws have their breakfast. I can just see the two of them, Dave doing his stealthy spy walk while whistling a tune so off key the birds can’t even join in. Fred, getting to the screen door, looking both ways to make sure their entry is undetected. I can just see my two postal black-op specialists quickly making the required drop and quietly slipping out the door on the opposite side of the laundry room completely undetected. Every afternoon after lunch, Dad finds his tiny key sitting in its usual box on the front hall table and makes the trek down to the mailbox. He comes back carrying his prize and spends the afternoon happy as a clam figuring out if he has won this month’s sweepstakes.
Thinking out of the box served me well twenty some odd years ago when I told Matt we were having “cookies” for dinner so I could get him to eat his chicken and dumplings at dinnertime. Our out of the box solution worked exceedingly well this time too, mainly because Dave and Fred were more than happy to become secret agents for the US postal service.