I’m home now but I’m anticipating a knock on the door from the Secret Service about a couple of weeks from now. It all stems from a simple trip to the post office this afternoon to get a couple of bills in the mail. My intentions were good although I doubt the Secret Service will take my word for it.
I was in line at the post office, as usual only one clerk was working so the line was rather long. A guy approached the line, he was holding one of those big books that holds all the zip codes across the country. He asked if I could tell him what a certain line in the book said. He said he was looking for an address in Washington. I thought he meant Washington the State but as it turned out he meant Washington D.C. the one we deny the right to become a State.
The lady next to me looked at the guy like he was crazy. Then she glanced at me like I was even crazier because I said, “Sure, I’ll help.” The man was disheveled and while my guess is he wasn’t homeless, he was down and out. The man admitted he’d been drinking – his breath affirmed that fact – and so wasn’t seeing too well. However, from where he was pointing on the page, and just the fact he had found a totally unrelated page that he thought was correct, I’m not sure he could really read.
This may sound strange to many, that a man in America can’t read. Truth is adult literacy is a huge problem in this country. I have worked jobs on factory floors and in offices where co-workers weren’t able to read their work schedules and so I would read it to them every week so they would know what shift they were working. I’ve signed people’s time sheets because they couldn’t really read it and barely could write. People learn to pass themselves off and I suspected this guy was doing the same so not to embarrass him I didn’t challenge his excuse and we walked to a nearby counter where I could manage the massive book better.
The book was confusing and it took a moment for me to figure out the man was looking for D.C., not the state. I finally managed to find a zip code for a postal processing plant in D.C. and told him that D.C. was only one city so that even if the zip was a digit off, it was going to get there. He slowly wrote the zip down on the envelope he had. Then he asked what address it was in the book and the question confused me. I didn’t really understand what he was asking and I explained it was for a postal facility but not to worry that the zip code was good and the envelope would arrive alright. He didn’t need the address for that processing plant.
He asked me again what the address was to put on his envelope and it dawned on me he didn’t know where to send his envelope. So I leaned over to see what he was trying to do, to see if could help further and that is when things got interesting. See, the envelope was addressed to President Obama … actually just ‘Barack Obama’ to be precise … and the envelope had been written in like 2-3 different pens, very childlike handwriting, and he had crossed out misspelled words to start over.
I told him the address he wanted was 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The man asked if I was sure. I assured him I was. I took great care not to touch the envelope as I didn’t want my DNA on it because at this point I was concluding the letter was not a fan letter and the irony is that when I looked up the zip code, I had used the one for the postal processing in D.C. and I know there is a special facility there to deal with these kind of letters. I had gotten the zip perfect, just didn’t realize it at the time. The man thanked me. I wished him luck – I suspected he was going to need it – and watched him drop it in the outgoing mail. I did make a joke about the incident when I got to the counter, the postal employee laughed, not sure how serious I was. I’m figuring the letter arrives at the plant about Tuesday. A red flag goes up. Secret Service assigns it to someone Thursday. The following week, they’ll track down the station from which it was mailed. Then they’ll scan the video from inside the postal office the following week and discover me standing next to this guy and his face is probably in the data base somewhere and their next question is going to be what I had to do with it. Like I said at the beginning, I’m anticipating a knock on the door in a couple of weeks.