Jeez. I didn't realize how long it would take me to get the front door of our mailbox properly non-sexist and non-authoritarian. Here's the final result:
Last year we got a Fort Knox mailbox, which are made a few I-5 hours south of us in Grants Pass, Oregon. We chose the slam lock door option, because we get quite a few packages -- largely because of my Amazon addiction.
The door is left ajar so the mail can be put inside. Then the mail deliverer pushes the door shut, locking it without a key. When we get the mail, the door is unlocked and the mail retrieved, leaving the door ajar for the next delivery.
Only problem has been, sometimes the mail deliverer forgets to do the slam lock thing.
When this happens, I've left a note reminding him or her to push the door closed after putting our mail inside. But since substitutes sometimes deliver the mail, and I was getting tired of dealing with the notes, I figured that attaching a reminder to the front of the door made sense.
Kneeling on the pavement, it didn't take me long to afix my first draft:
Pithy. Precise. Yet with a few problems.
I went inside for some lunch before tackling the next outdoor chore. "I put the letters on the mailbox," I said to my wife. "It says Mailman push door to lock. I had to go with Mailman because only three 'Os' came in the stick-on package, and I needed to use all of them on Push door to lock."
Laurel wasn't pleased. "But our mail deliverer is a woman. She's going to be offended. You need to change it. Can't you say Mailman/woman?"
I told her, "There aren't any special characters in the package. And I'd still be short an 'O,' though I guess I could use a zero. A bigger problem is that there isn't room to add woman after mailman without peeling off mail and moving it over to the left, which might not be possible now that the letters have been on for a while."
Laurel had stirred up some politically correct anxiety in my psyche, though, so I headed back to the mailbox to ponder what I could do to correct my incorrectness.
I toyed with changing Mailman to Mailhuman. I'd even peeled off an "h" and "u" and was ready to demasculinize the term for our deliverer. However, it struck me that man would still be part of the word. Wouldn't this also be subtly sexist?
I decided to go with the zero for an "O" idea, and put up...
- MAILPERSON -
I added some dashes to the beginning and end of Mailperson in an attempt to disguise the now-uncentered placement of the word (since I didn't want to unpeel Mail). But something still didn't feel right.
The message was too blunt, too stark, too commanding. The front of our mailbox now sounded like a drill sergeant barking out an order. I didn't want our deliverer to feel like she was an inferior public servant being told what to do by domineering, unhappy taxpayers.
So I added Thanks. That made the door front wordier, but "thanks" is a pleasant word.
Today the door was pushed shut and locked after the mail was delivered. As it usually has been, admittedly.
Still, I hope our mailwoman/mailhuman/mailperson appreciated the tone of our gentle reminder message.
And for what it's worth, we definitely have the most politically correct mailbox on our street.