Boxed In

posted 22 Apr 2004, 10PM | 17 Comments

I realized recently that nearly every time I need to drop outgoing mail into a blue metal US Postal Service mailbox, I hesitate uncomfortably for a second or two. I inspect my mail, doublechecking return addresses, the adhesive on the stamps and envelope. There's something a bit intimidating about the finality of US mail, in contrast to nearly all other routine dealings I have with objects in the real world. Most of the time when I put something somewhere, I can take it back if I want, I can pick it up again. But mail is final; with mailboxes, it's like I'm dropping a ring into Mount Doom.

I suppose part of the reason it's a big deal is that I only use snail mail for important stuff these days, like big checks and letters home. But it's funny that over the web, transactions and communication rarely seem so final. If I pay a bill, PayPal someone, or order from Amazon, I can usually take it back easily. I can edit or remove blog posts that don't come out right. Clicking the SEND button makes email final... but I never feel that same hesitation. It's like... staring at a bright screen full of 1s and 0s just doesn't drum up the same emotional reactions as that BLUE METAL BOX OF NO MAIL RETURN. I am a creature built for physical space.

There are 17 Comments


22 Apr 04 at 01:06PM Judas said:

So how did the MMP gig go? Or was that a joke?


22 Apr 04 at 01:08PM Ryan said:

No, that was real. There will be a slide show and commentary about the trip on soon. But thanks for reminding me!


22 Apr 04 at 02:32PM wah said:

it feels helpless but, it's mostly safe.
try sending postcards, it's fun.


22 Apr 04 at 05:20PM peter said:

i totally feel you on this one. i do the exact same thing. i think i live in fear of getting an envelope back with "insufficient postage" or "no such address" stamped on it.


24 Apr 04 at 06:47AM Anonymous said:

(Almost typed blogspit?,,,does this figure.) This is sophisticated stuff (technically) compared to mine but the sentiments ..Ah. Email is the notepad - the hasty dropped love/hate note. The horror of the tattymailbox (my Canarian one) Dear Sir/Madam, you owe us. yours sincerely (you bet)...or faithfully (worse)


24 Apr 04 at 12:54PM Anonymous said:

Still, I feel much safer sending important things(resumes and proposals and the like) via snail mail than via e-mail...

...for exactly the same reason that you hate it, because it feels more real.

It's much harder to delete a piece of paper than an e-mail.


29 Apr 04 at 04:47AM Reuben said:

On the other hand, anything sent through the regular mail can be destroyed. Burn it, throw it in the garbage or tear it up into little pieces and eat it - you can get rid of it. But with electronic communication, it always feels like its still there, no matter how many times you trash the thing.


29 Apr 04 at 12:00PM Ryan said:

Yeah, until a virus or a Microsoft product destroys my hard drive and I lose the last 10 years of my life. Lately I've been feeling more and more paranoid about the fragility of all of my data... so I try to back up regularly. And I worry that even if I do back up, that a fire or theft might kill my backup DVDs and my computer... so I've been planning to send a copy to my parents house, or put it in a safe deposit box, etc.

Real objects do feel more real. Things we can hold in our hands are supposed to.


29 Apr 04 at 06:31PM Reuben said:

hey, and now you have a copy of my post.

Sorry about that, I don't know what I did.


2 May 04 at 07:23PM Tonya said:

sore subject.


4 May 04 at 12:31AM Kitta said:

I'm the same, I always check the address and stamps. We have red mail boxes here, so it makes it just that bit more scary. The red box of doom.


3 Jun 04 at 03:18PM concerned fan said:

Dear god ryan.. please post another message... this one is so old and you public misses you.


3 Jun 04 at 03:23PM typo said:

insert instead of you


3 Jun 04 at 03:31PM ryan said:

wow, this IS old.
i'll see what I can do.


24 Jun 04 at 05:23AM renee said:

hey....i used to read your blog ages ago, starting with the car tests in plymouth.
i recently found my way back here to find out your wit is still as brilliant as ever.


29 Jun 04 at 09:15AM Stacy said:

I myself become nervous before sending out snail mail. What if something goes wrong? Ehhh... :(


21 Jul 04 at 09:29AM jenny said:

intensely pleasing! Good work and helpful with nature.

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