The postman brought me a letter at 11:30 on Tuesday morning. I was impressed, because the postman normally doesn't bring me my letters until the afternoon. When I lived in an obscure village in Suffolk I used to receive my post by 7:30 every morning, in time to open it before I went to work and to act on the contents if required. Now that I live in the middle of the biggest city in Northern Europe, my post doesn't arrive until lunchtime, if I'm lucky.
The postman brought me a letter at 11:30 on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately I was out. I got home on Tuesday evening to find the dreaded card in my letterbox, the card that says "We're holding an item of mail for you". What this really translates as is "We're holding an item of your property hostage in our concrete fortress over a mile away, merely becase it was slightly too big for your letterbox and because you were thoughtless enough to be out of the house when we finally wandered round and tried to deliver it. We might be open for a few hours or so over the next week should you want waste valuable minutes of your own time travelling out of your way to try to pick the package up, otherwise we'll send it back to its owner and then it'll probably get lost in our system forever."
I walked round to my local sorting office tonight to pick up the mystery package. It took me fifteen minutes to walk there from my local tube station because some Victorian had decided to build the main railway line to East Anglia directly across my intended path. Thankfully I arrived minutes before the office was due to shut down for the evening. I was pleased I'd remembered to bring some identification with me, unlike the lady in front of me who got sent home for being potentially not who she said she was. And I left clutching a brown cardboard package from Amazon, containing two very late but very welcome birthday presents.
Amazon had packaged my two gifts inside a particularly large cardboard shield. This meant that they arrived in pristine condition (and, if you know me, you'll know that I like my books in absolutely pristine condition, and to stay that way even after I've read them). Unfortunately it also meant that they no longer fitted through my letter box. I have a reasonable sized letterbox, and a good depth inside that could take even an above-average-length package. Unfortunately the aperture was just a couple of centimetres too narrow. Had Amazon used slightly less rainforest to surround my two small cuboids, I could have enjoyed my birthday presents 48 hours earlier.
One day the Post Office will find a solution to the 'delivering oversized and/or special mail while the householder is out' problem. Until then the true potential for web shopping will not be realised, because all the things you buy via the net have to be delivered to your home and few of them will fit through your letter box. Everything else either has to be collected or a delivery time arranged for when you are at home to sign for the goods. I hope that one day the Post Office gets round to installing a smart lockable box on all our doorsteps, because then I can order whatever I like, within reason, and be sure it'll be at home even if I'm not. One day.
I arrived home from the sorting office this evening and took a look inside my mail box. I found one council tax bill, one pizza delivery leaflet... and a card from the sorting office saying they were holding another item of mail for me. Sigh. One day.