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The mystery of ?dead' letter rooms - Michael Davis

Do you ever wonder what happens to the mail that people say they sent but you never received? Does it end up in a crevasse somewhere in a post office? Crumpled in the bottom of the postman's bag? Not hardly.

I recently read a story about a missing Malaysian postal worker who police are unable to find. What they did find were thousands of undelivered letters stashed in a room in his house.

It occurs to me that he may have violated some sort of oath to carry out his duties to the best of his abilities and make sure the letters got to their intended destinations.

Authorities didn't say why he began collecting other people's mail, or if he'd opened them. The mail turned out to be phone bills, magazines and the like.

This opens up a bit of a question. Is it safer to get letters, bills, and bank statements online as opposed to in your mailbox, where dozens if not hundreds of individuals might have access to them? I don't know about you, but sometimes I don't get my mail until late at night, after it's been sitting in a box all day, just waiting for someone to take it. Not that there'd be anything worth taking, except maybe my Reader's Digest.

Techno-geeks say that encryption devices make electronic transactions safer than they've ever been but admit there are still those out there trying to get at information on your p.c.

But then, you hear stories about folks digging through mailboxes and trash cans to retrieve personal info.

I read in the same story about a British postal worker who was accused of the same thing n hoarding other people's mail. What sort of kicks can somebody get from thumbing through someone else's magazines and birthday cards?

This sort of reminds me of the story of Bartleby the Scrivener, who at the end of Herman Melville's tale of stubborn despair, turns out to have come from a Dead Letter office in Washington. Melville's character of the Master of Chancery laments what he heard was Bartleby's previous vocation of sorting through undeliverable mail n dead letters.

He laments the thought of letters bearing the very thing that might have given hope to those who had none, their intended recipients never having received them. " ? pardon for those who died despairing; hope for those who died unhoping; good tidings for those who died stifled by unrelieved calamities. On errands of life, these letters speed to death."

One has to wonder about the many thousands of letters piled in these men's homes and what tidings they may have brought to those who needed it most, those who may have died before they were received. What relief to a situation might have been offered under the folded flap for someone in need of a little comforting?

Was someone expecting a birthday card from friend from far away and because they didn't get it, forever in their mind ended the relationship?

We know that postal services across the world are full of dedicated and professional employees who would never interfere with the function of the postal service. But accidents do happen. And humans are human. Perhaps that's just one of the chances we take, trusting in the faith and good will of others.

"Ah Bartleby! Ah humanity!"

Michael Davis covers government for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at mdavis@henryherald.com .