Not long ago I stood for 10 minutes outside the Nutting Lake Post Office, vainly attempting to drop a birthday card into the shiny new blue postal box. To no avail.
Despite poking and prodding, I could not find the slot, if indeed there was one, in the box.
Fortunately, as I drove back through the VA grounds, I remembered an ancient postal box in front of one of the buildings. It was a faded, rusty old box but it had the “pull-down” handle I am accustomed to using. Success.
Now as to the reason for driving to Nutting lake on a Sunday afternoon, well, the earliest pickup time there is 7:45 a.m. Monday morning and as my card was already going to be late, I chose this P.O. instead of the main facility in Bedford Center. Where, incidentally, there are two shiny new boxes with seemingly impenetrable openings.
Some research by a colleague (thanks, Doug Muder) pointed me to articles in North Jersey newspapers and in the New York Times. The new boxes—which have now been installed in New Jersey, New York, and most of Massachusetts—are designed to thwart “mail fishing,” a form of postal theft apparently common in NJ and NY.
Mail fishing is low-tech theft but effective. As the Times story reported in 2019, “Thieves, often at night, use string to lower glue-covered rodent traps or bottles coated with an adhesive down the chute of a sidewalk mailbox. This bait attaches to the envelopes inside, and the fish in this case—mail containing gift cards, money orders or checks, which can be altered with chemicals and cashed—are reeled out slowly.”
The new boxes have openings only large enough for a regular-size letter envelope, so no more dropping larger envelopes or small packages through the slot. The boxes will be rolled out in areas where fishing is a problem. As a spokeswoman for the NY Division of the U.S. Postal Service said, “It’s safety, with anything. Twenty years ago, maybe you wouldn’t have locked your door, or locked your car. But as time changes, we all have to change with it.”
And so we do.