Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Postal Phantoms I have known

I've just finished reading The Letter Opener by Kyo Maclear, which I have absolutely fallen in love with. I'll fit in a review during my empty tomorrow, but at the moment I want to write a bit about something I read in the "PS..." section of the book (and may I point out how always interesting is the "PS content" in these books).

Maclear writes about the "postal phantom" at her house, the inspiration for her novel-- "Mr. Szabo-- a man who, for whatever reason, never got around to having his mail redirected." And of course I know about postal phantoms, though I'd never considered them in such specific terms, never thought of these people as a collective, and it hadn't occurred to me that such figures could even be given a name.

My postal phantoms as follows: there was Robin Stephenson, in my university apartment on Dundas Street. I can't remember if it was her or a roommate that received Scientology paraphernalia, but Robin had forgotten to change her address when she finished university, and was always getting alumni notices from the U of T Geography Department.

No phantom, I believe, will ever be as prolific as Mrs. Sandra M. Spencer from our house in Nottingham. We'd suspected she'd died, as she'd left all her cake tins behind, and death is as good an excuse as any for leaving no forwarding address. She owed a ton of council tax, going back a few years, received regular notices for mammograms, and often was summoned to court to come and testify against her son. Note, we didn't start opening the mail until about after a year, after we'd called the council to tell them she wasn't there anymore, and they said they'd keep sending her bills anyway, because it was her last known address (which also goes part way towards explaining why there's no longer a British Empire).

We received a lot of mail for the Moniz family here at our current address, as well for Amanda Hickman (who is on the list of numerous charities) and Michael Popowich (and in case he googles himself, Michael-- McGill University is desperate to get in touch with you.) Each of these are characters, wholly present in their own peculiar contexts, which is their absence. And we practically know them, we do, though the foundation of this knowledge is the fact we never ever will.

Further, what about the bizarre idea that somewhere out there, somebody's postal phantom is you.