Vandals

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

This is one of those columns I’d hoped to never have to write, the kind that’ll probably get other libertarians pointing fingers at me and preaching about all the things I could’ve done differently, but here’s what happened – or has, so far.

I moved to a different residence here in Vermont back in November, and along with the new maison, I also decided it was no longer practical or desirable – physically or financially – to have a post office box for “snail-mail.” However, the new pad, built in 1972, didn’t have a mailbox – and never had. So I went to a hardware store, got a big large capacity one, some stick-on number and letters, and a post to mount it on. I’d spoken with the district postmaster by phone about getting placed on the delivery route, and the regulations were simple but non-negotiable: So many inches from the ground to the bottom of the box (I had my neighbor’s pre-existing one to judge by), name inside the box, house number on the outside. And, it had to be on the opposite side of the road from my driveway. There was then a discrepancy as to my address – something you’d think would be pretty self-evident. But you’d be wrong . . . at least when dealing with the US Postal Service. In order to receive mail, a town different from the one I live in must be used, along with its zip code. Private couriers – such as FedEx or UPS – routinely use the actual town without mishap, but evidently this is too much to expect of a government monopolized operation. No real surprise, I shouldn’t think, to most anyone living in the real world.

Well, I got the box set up well enough and started getting mail. Then on December 22nd, just after dark at around 5:00 PM, I was standing at my living room windows when I saw a large pickup truck (what I could really see were the running lights) slow down suspiciously on the road out front. Before I could even react, I heard three loud whacks in the stillness of the relatively remote area where I am, and then the truck continued north, not even hurrying, as if the driver expected no immediate reaction.

Unfortunately, he was right. My driveway is about .2 miles from the road, and so even if I had run out there at full tilt (with a firearm for protection – I like to think I’m no fool, and I had one with me at the time), the driver would’ve been gone before I could’ve ever gotten close enough to try memorizing the vehicle taxation and tracking number (i.e., license plate). What I did do was pile myself and the dog into my vehicle at a normal pace, blaze out to the end of the driveway, high beams on, and survey the damage.

Sure enough, that bastard of a driver had stove in both my mailbox and my absent neighbor’s (it was at that point that I surmised the small amount of damage to my neighbor’s mailbox I’d observed two days prior was in fact no accident of the mail carrier’s during the icy conditions at the time, especially since my own wasn’t damaged that time around . . . but that’s another story). It looked like the work of a bat, possibly a pipe, and after beating the opening of my own mailbox around with a hammer for a bit, I at least got the door to close again. The red flag on the outside of the box for outgoing mail was also rendered useless, so I scooped it up off the ground, and headed back to the house. Merry Christmas to me.

Next came a very tough decision. Because in examining my further options in a fit of righteous anger, from anything I could see, I could do absolutely nothing – or I could engage the State apparatus in seeking some kind of “remedy.”

Let me be very clear that I was under no illusion that contacting government employees would make me whole again in any way. In fact, I saw it for precisely what it was – a useless gesture. It was, perhaps, in many ways, the same as or even worse than doing nothing. But it was also the sole recourse I had. Such is the absurd way in which our current world is structured. So in the interest of science (and yes, by then I was already formulating the idea of writing this), I followed what steps were available. And they weren’t many:

The town I reside in has no local police force (which I find agreeable), so it was the Vermont State Police to whom I placed my call. After dithering with two 911 dispatchers, I was told I’d be getting a return call from a trooper. Five minutes later, I did. He was polite, understanding, and in no way able to take any meaningful action, as I expected. He said he might drive by my residence later to see if there was any evidence of other damage elsewhere, but if he ever did, I never heard about it. I expect he didn’t.

Next, I found out via a brief Internet search that a victim of mailbox vandalism can file a report with the US Postal Inspection Service – the armed police force branch of the post office. You can do this the old-fashioned way, by filling out a paper PS Form 2016, or by sending a webform on the USPIS’s site. I chose the faster, postageless latter. The only ostensible purpose of this is to compile statistics for various regions. Investigations are only even considered if there appears to be an epidemic in a given area over time. This is by their own open admission. As a result of this, I am supposed to receive a PS Label 33, pictured here. The actual sticker is only 4 ½” X 2 ½” and is supposed to be stuck on the front of the mailbox.

Like that’s really going to deter a drunk 17 year old showing off for his buddies on a deserted back road at one o’ clock in the morning. Next joke.

Finally, at around eight o’ clock the following morning, I contacted the same local district postmaster to inform him what happened – mostly so the lady who serves as the actual carrier would be aware of the vandalized boxes in advance – and to make a second request for one of those stickers, just for the sheer hell of it. Let’s see if I get either of them ever.

At the time of this writing, that’s the end of the story. There’s been no further vandalism, but there’s also been no government response. As for that last, I’m not holding my breath. But it might be instructive to see how this entire episode might not have happened at all in a truly free, voluntary society.

To begin, for certain, any society will have its share of indiscriminate malefactors – and teenagers blowing off steam on holiday break from the government indoctrination centers (publick skools) they’re forced to regularly attend are one kind we’re for the time being saddled with. But it was US postal regulations that mandated my mailbox be placed where it was in the first instance.

Let me actually rephrase that. I said my mailbox? Actually, even though I paid for it (including sales tax), and performed the labor to install it, according to federal “law,” the mailbox is actually government property. Hell, where’s my “free” (taxpayer financed) replacement if that’s the case? “Free” cell phones, but not mailboxes? What’s up with that, Obama? So not only was I forced to put the box in a government-designated area if I wanted mail delivery services, but – just like telephones in the days of the AT&T monopoly prior to the 1970s – the box itself is not even considered mine.

In a free society, any number of competing companies might’ve allowed for me to place my mailbox wherever I liked, based on competing fees and rates. Right near my front door would likely be an option. Or anywhere else on my property, within sane limits. I might even choose to place video surveillance or some other form of intruder detection in the area, to be extra safe. And the box would be mine. Or if not, willingly rented from a firm that would be obligated to remove or abandon it, as appropriate, should I choose to switch services. Any damages by hooligans might be investigated fully by the mail company itself, by a separate insurance firm, or through a private detective agency. The suspected perp, if then located, would either demonstrate his innocence or accept responsibility and compensate me, the property owner, or otherwise suffer the economic consequences of his refusal. There would actually be a property-based incentive to find him (or her, or them) in fact, in order to prevent further financial and material loss. In the current government-infested socialist model, however, no such justice is obtainable, as is clear to see. Correspondingly, no such motivation is present, either.

Mischief-making teenagers running amok can certainly be destructive. But who are the greater and more constant vandals, Huns and barbarians? Who demands and absorbs our tax monies in ever greater quantities while offering nothing but non-performance, arrogance, corruption, and senseless waste in return?

Government is the greatest failing of what is erroneously referred to as “civilization.”

It’s time we got rid of it. And then as for civilization, we can actually start building one.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 113

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

ReverendDraco's picture

The sad thing is, Postal Service is one of the few jobs delegated to the Feds in the Constitution. . . even sadder, is that they spend more time, effort, and yours (and my) money on things which have *not* been delegated, or even which have been delegated or reserved to State and/or Local governments. . . than they do on those things for which the Feds *do* have a mandate.

Burn it down.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Reverend:  Well, if you want to talk constitutionalism, last I looked at that piece of parchment it only talks about the establishment of post offices and post roads.  It says nothing about maintaining such (as in "to establish and maintain a Navy"), and when was the last time the USPS repaired or paved a road?
 
Fact is, as Spooner so sagely pointed out, constitutions are all bunk.  Pieces of paper don't limit or govern psychopaths.

Glock27's picture

I fully and strongly agree with you Alex on this point. How about Hilliary Clinton being voted most popular woman in America for the 12th consecutive year, according to a Reuters poll. God Bless America, and Goddamned the American Government. I just recently closed on a home, and I was nauseated by all the rules and regulations and charges. 8 and 3/4 percent of the value in a closing tax on the home. among other stateist dream laws, rules, regulations and etc that a home owner must pay just to by a house. That tax is higher than the state tax itself. What's up with that.

Glock27's picture

O.K. Alex. Mybe I should have read your article first before pronouncing my previous judgement. My mail box has been vandalized by drunk teens also. Living in the country is one of the hazards, however, mine could not be battered in with a baseball bat. It had to be blown up with a pipe bomb. Sheriffs department investigated to no avail, especially since bombing of U.S. Mail boxes is a felony offense. Twice has my mail box been blown up. The most recent, a piece of iron pipe 8 inches in diameter. The box is fine but the hinge was blown completely off. I see many boxes now protected by a dual 4x4 post with 2x6 slats making it difficult for drunk teens to bat a box.This is my fourth mail box in about 30 years. Once I found a dead, skinned out raccoon in my box. Think you are enjoying your mail experience wait a few more years. Ha! Don't ever expect authorities to do their "protect and serve bit". Goo luck.

Jim Davies's picture

Commiserations, Alex; what a rotten way to welcome you to the neighborhood. Those yobs make up the population pool from which policemen are recruited.
 
Congrats though on getting a dog. He or she is one fortunate pooch.
 
Your antepenultimate paragraph is the kicker. Infuriating though such vandalism seems, it's nothing compared to the wreckage government causes. This damage you have already mostly repaired with a hammer; application of a nut, bolt, and a pair of washers may take care of the red flag. Try using a hammer on a b-rat.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Hi Jim -- Happy 2014!  I'm already a couple of steps ahead of you, and have done precisely as you suggest with the red flag.  I have even used it once, to mail my 2014 Gun Owners of America members' survey. 
 
There was contained therein, regrettably, no proposed move to arm mailboxes.  :-)

Thunderbolt's picture

This reminds me of the burglary episode near where I live. I had seen the perp, although did not realize what he was doing at the time. I was interviewed by two policemen and three detectives, who knew the likely individual, but were unable to find sufficient evidence. A thousand dollars of office equipment had been stolen from the politically-connected victim of the burglary. Presuming salaries (stolen at gunpoint) of about $3000/month for each of my intervewers, I calculated the theft of an additional 15K.
Eliminate government, indeed!

Paul's picture

"To begin, for certain, any society will have its share of indiscriminate malefactors – and teenagers blowing off steam on holiday break from the government indoctrination centers (publick skools) they’re forced to regularly attend are one kind we’re for the time being saddled with."

In a free society there are no publick skools. This will take care of most of the problem right there, since I've mostly gotten my mailbox bashed the night after skool let out.

I disagree there is no other recourse. I have frequently just hammered the box back in shape, and simply not worried about it otherwise. Some folks weld up heavy duty boxes that can't be bent by a 2x4. Some weld up steel frames around regular boxes. Some make the connection to the ground an intentional break-away so you simply pick the little-damaged box back up and position it again. And you could rig up a camera with a flash to take pictures of license plates, or infrared game cameras. All of these work better than getting govco involved.

Hey, kids are stupid. I still remember when I was one. ;-)

Your story reminds me a bit about a somewhat similar episode, recounted here:
http://www.ncc-1776.org/tle2009/tle502-20090118-03.html

We don't know how things would work for these kinds of irritations in a free society. The bar is low, though. Most likely things would work better than they do now.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Great article on L. Neil Smith's site, Paul!  And your suggestions for mailbox fortification, as well.  :-)  Of course my caveat "for the time being" speaks to your first statement, and I agree that it would likely take care of most of the issues right there.  My own further caveat, at the very beginning of my column, presaged your entire reply.  :-)

Jim Davies's picture

Your misfortune, Alex, has spun the wheels of invention. I've come up with a concept design for a non-lethal defense device. It requires expertese in chemistry, electronics and firearms.
 
The chemist would concoct a supply of that kind of liquid that a skunk squirts to deter predators. You know, the sort that fouls up the whole neighborood for hours on end.
 
The circuit to be designed would have two parts, sensory and motor. The sensor would detect the noise made when a baseball bat (wooden or metal) hits a mailbox. Account would have to be taken of amplitude (to prevent false alarm when the flap-door is slammed by a mailman) and the audiographics profile. The motor part would cause a trigger to be released as follows, when the impact noise is detected.
 
The firearms expert - your goodself - would secure a toy water pistol to the mailbox and to the circuit, painted neutrally (battleship gray might fit well) and positioned to be invisible to approaching marauders. It would be pointed at where the open starboard window of a passing pickup would be, directly after an attack. And it would be filled with the chemist's brew.
 
With good luck, the resulting squirt will hit the bat-wielder full-face, so reducing him to the Untouchables Caste for the week following - and greatly assisting detectors of his crime. With a little less luck, it will at least enter the pickup cabin, necessitating the heavy use of perfume - which will expose the owner to various kinds of ridicule. At the very least, a wide shot will smear the side of the vehicle so as to make it unattractive to passengers such as dates.
 
The device, once built and perfected, should be marketable by the million, so propelling you at long last into the 1%. Whaddayathink?
 
 

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Jim, it's a shame the late, great Loompanics Unlimited is now defunct -- I believe you'd be able to sell Michael Hoy on the publication of a slim instructional volume, Mailbox Musk Guns, or something similar.  :-)  The old Johnson Smith Company of 1970s comic book ads comes to mind as well.
 
For the time being I've rendered the battered box useful once again for both the receiving and sending of government mail.  It's just cosmetically challenged.  Perhaps, given that Uncle Sam arrogantly considers it his property, that is appropriate.  Should another attack occur and make the box nonfunctional, I will then replace it with something far less attractive to an assault.  'Nuff Said.  :-)

Glock27's picture

Alex--I suffered the batterd mail box syndrome for years. It is an inevitable all over the country. My first box was made of steel welded together. You think that would stop kids from battering the box. Nope. They blew it up with a pipe bomb. Federal offense. Sheriff came out looked around and said. " What do you want me to do about it?" I said "Find the." He said "How. there is absolutely no usable evidence". Down one steel welded mail box. Next was the typical mail box. Smashed, third one was plastic. They melted it with a fire bomb. My last one and still standing is made from oil field pipe 3/8" thick. Well. They blew the hell out of the door but the box remains. It stands today. Oh!. It is mounted into the ground with oil field pipe about 3 feet deep with concrete. If a snow plow were to hit it I am sure it would up root the box, but it would send the truck for a couple of 360 degree turns down the road and maybe into the ditch. Snow plows seem to avoid my mail box like it was a plague because I see wide sweeps away from it.
Just a bit of trivia for today, and so you now you are not alone in this disease. Some people around here build a batter board. It is placed to the side of the mail box from the direction traffic flows. 4x4'ss are used and 2x6 are slatted up the 4x4's. In either direction the batter is going to be shaken with a serious reverberation from trying to batter it. This tactic seems to work around here. I've not done it because mine is 3/8" oil field pipe, seven to eight inches in diameter.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Update:  In today's mail, I did receive 4 Label 33s from the district postmaster.  If you'll look at the .pdf image of one from the link in my essay, this label is red with white letters and a black USPIS seal.  It was also from an update of Label 33 in May, 2009.  Perhaps this is the most recent version of PS Label 33, perhaps not.
 
Regardless, the ones I received are white with red letters only...and are the version from June, 1980.
 
Maybe I should just hang onto them at this point as collectibles?  :-)

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Second Update:  I today received from an area post office, of all places, 4 of the aforementioned May, 2009 Label 33s.  Let's see if any more come sailing in from the bungling bureaucracy.  Seems I'm starting a collection.  :-)