by Neil Carleton
This Millstone posting was prepared from a three page e-mail letter I sent on December 20th to the National Editor of the Globe and Mail newspaper. Three photos have also been added.
All I wanted for Christmas was a home subscription to the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper.
When my mother-in-law had a subscription, the Globe and Mail was delivered right to her nursing home. Way over on the other side of town, my friend Al has been a subscriber for ten years or more. Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if there was a home subscription under our tree on Christmas morning.
That was in September, exactly three months ago today. It’s never too early to get things moving for a Christmas surprise. Back then I couldn’t have imagined I’d actually run out time. Neither had I reckoned on throwing a rock down the street, writing to a newly appointed cabinet minister, and finding a December petunia in flower at the post office.
Is the Globe and Mail delivered to our valley town in eastern Ontario? Yes indeed, the friendly telephone voice confirmed. Great, sign me up. No can do. My street, you see, isn’t on the Canada Post database the Globe uses to determine where it will or will not deliver.
But it’s a real street, I pointed out, and an important one. There’s even a school bus stop right in front of our house. Plenty of cars, bicycles, and mothers with babies in strollers pass by every day. The Mayor has been here. So has an author, an auto mechanic, baker, biologist, carpenter, cinematographer, curator, dog trainer, engineer, farmer, fire fighter, forester, linguist, mineralogist, numismatist, nurse, Olympic athlete, paleontologist, physicist, reporter, statistician, teacher, and a veterinarian. It’s a well known street. Ask just about anyone in town.
Sorry, I was told, my street isn’t in the database. O.K., so how can we add it to the list? A supervisor was consulted while I was put on hold, but he was busy and would call me back. With the phone in my shirt pocket, I cleaned up my work bench, hung laundry outside on the line, adjusted the backyard gate latch, and finished all the other chores on my list. Although disappointed that someone from the Customer Care Centre didn’t call back, there’s nothing like working outdoors to charge up the optimism battery.
My same day e-mail asked for help in sorting out the delivery dilemma. The Globe reply was encouraging. The Ontario branch had been contacted and asked to add my address to the database. It felt good to know there was a solution at hand.
Time flies when you’re raking leaves, staining a new shed, stacking firewood, and generally getting the house and yard getting ready for fall. Thirteen days later, with no news from anyone at the Globe, a meeting of the domestic sub-committee was convened. A motion was tabled, discussed, amended, and approved for immediate e-mail transmission to the Globe.
WHEREAS the Globe and Mail is delivered to homes in my town;
WHEREAS my street name is somehow absent from the Canada Post list and, therefore, a paper can’t be delivered to my front door; and
WHEREAS I live (i) right at the corner of St. George which is on the list, and (ii) just a short small town block from Country, which is also on the list;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Globe & Mail is requested to add my street name to the list so that I may consider a Monday-to-Friday home delivery subscription.
Maybe there’s tension between the Ontario branch and the Customer Care Centre. Perhaps there’s a history there. That, I mused, might explain the Globe’s reply. “We will keep your contact details on file in the event that a delivery route could be established in the near future due to a higher interest in home delivery.” On the plus side, I liked the idea that a file had been created.
Within minutes I was headed for the street. On the way I happened to pick up a stone from the side of the driveway that caught my eye. Turned out to be a nice sample of tremolite. Standing on the street, opposite our front door, I walked towards the corner. It was only 25 paces to the centre of St. George Street. With a small piece of metamorphic mineralization in my hand, I sized up the distance as much less than a good stone’s throw away. It was an easy pitch, more of a lob, to put the rock right back beside the driveway. Returning to my start point, the walk to the centre of Country Street at the other end of the block was only 68 paces. On one hand, I proved, my front door was not much further than a few hops-skips-and-jumps from both streets where Globe delivery is possible. On the other hand, being conspicuously absent from THE list, my address was in another dimension – a nope, sorry, can’t get there from here sort of place.
Although my address is less than a good stone’s throw away from St. George Street, where newspaper delivery is possible, the Globe and Mail can’t arrive at my front door because our street name is absent from a Canada Post list.
The next round of correspondence from the Globe, as a girl named Alice once remarked, was curiouser and curiouser. The first missive declared there was actually no delivery service to my area. This was challenged, politely of course, in the good name of reality. From my perspective, the sight and sound of a newspaper actually being delivered here in town should trump any idealistic or notional idea that the Globe doesn’t make it past the borders of our seemingly remote community. Apparently too, my address was not ‘routed’ and would have to be ‘updated’. Yikes, it looked like our town hall staff would have to help me on this.
The problem was finally identified as the Canada Post Corporation, our national postal operator. Here’s the reasoning. The Globe’s home delivery routing system relies on Canada Post’s database of listed addresses. My street isn’t listed so the paper can’t arrive at my door. Solution? It’s the potential subscriber’s job to get hold of someone, somewhere at Canada Post and arrange for an address addition. There was nobody at the Globe, I guessed, who had ever dealt with this sort of thing before.
I started at my local post office. Rain or shine, the folks there are always friendly, helpful, and the source of good postal advice. Although the manager wasn’t able to immediately resolve my dilemma through her corporate network, I was grateful for her suggestion to call the toll free number for support. When I got past the busy signal on my third try that day, the agent recommended that I create a service ticket on the support website. Good idea. Clickity-clack on the keyboard and I was on my way. That was way back on November 17, or just shy of two months since I first inquired about a Globe home subscription.
Sadly, none of the listed website categories and forms were appropriate to report my kind of problem. This wasn’t a matter of undeliverable mail, etc., and there was no selection for an ‘other’ category. I was glad to see that Canada Post encouraged Twitter and Facebook dialogue, but these weren’t yet options for me.
My hunt for an appropriate contact at Canada Post took me to many places within the Corporation’s on-line presence. Delivering mail, I can now appreciate, is a complex undertaking. It was an exciting discovery when I found a name and senior title with responsibility for something called Customer Experience. Under that office, surely, would be a team of problem solvers who could help. So how come you can’t reach anyone at Canada Post by e-mail?
I got the idea while listening to a CBC radio feature about our new federal government and cabinet appointments. Sure enough, the e-mail address of the Minister responsible for Canada Post was on her department’s website. I wrote with details, and asked that my request be forwarded to the appropriate office for a street addition to the Corporation’s database.
Perhaps the internet gremlins were having fun with the Minister’s e-mail that day, and maybe my message was sent to some sort of a digital dead letter office.
A month later there was still no response from anyone in the Minister’s office. Not a soul had replied from Canada Post. I headed for the post office to get the mail and update the manager. The December surprise on our downtown streetscape was a petunia in flower, growing in a concrete crack right under the post office sign. I stopped for a picture, and shared the discovery with others who were heading inside too. Our animated conversation continued right up to the stamp counter. The manager heard my voice and came over to tell me. She’d just been talking with someone in charge of the street names list.
Canada Post’s database, it turns out, is not a complete list of all the streets in our town. It was created by the Corporation as a reference for urban and rural mail delivery only, and it’s been maintained over the years just for internal use. Alas, interpreting the list as a comprehensive source of addresses in our municipality would be an error of inference.
If a petunia can bloom in December, might a newspaper surprise be possible for Christmas?
And there’s good news. An on-line alphabetical listing does exist of all the three-hundred-or-so crescents, courts, drives, lanes, lines, roads, sideroads, and streets in our amalgamated municipality. I just found it. Guess what? My street name is on it.
With visions of a good newspaper dancing in my head, Merry Christmas to all.