Thinking outside the box

Brother Ron Burdick, left, and the Dope, pose with the Mail-o-Wave. (Provided photo)

To city dwellers, the country bumpkin has long been a figure of ridicule.

We’ve all seen the cartoons and skits where he’s a gooch-eyed dimwit, loveable perhaps, but dumber than a bucket of bolts.

Millions of laughs were had at the rube’s expense, and still are. Because let’s face it, many city peeps who confuse having things with having smarts think hicks are their intellectual inferiors.

This is, of course, metropolitanism at its worst, since we hayseeds know all sorts of things they don’t. For example, if you live by the side of a main Adirondack road, you know better than anyone the life expectancy of a mailbox.

Adirondack roadside mailbox morbidity is based on two factors. The first is how much the road is salted in winter. The second is how many snowplow blastings the mailbox receives. In effete realms this is known as Premature Mail Receptacle Decease.

I didn’t know how old my last mailbox was, except it was beyond all expectations … and it looked it. It was a structural and aesthetic disaster.

Of course this didn’t happen overnight. First, the metal post lost its structural integrity, so I jury-rigged a 4-by-4 in its place. Next the door weakened, wobbled and went sideways — literally. Then, after a bunch of months of it hanging there like a drunk leaning on a lamp post, it dropped — like a drunk falling off a lamp post.

The paint peeled and blistered, replaced by wholesale corrosion of all sorts. Holes ate their way through the bottom, the flag drooped and dropped, and the post did a Tower of Pisa. It looked less like a mailbox than a victim of some horrific Asian spirochete shown in those equally horrific World War II training films.

Its time on Planet Earth was clearly over — at least its time above the surface of Planet Earth.

Appliance rejuvenation

On Sunday, preparing for a Monday dump run, I snapped the mailbox off its mooring and put it on my junk pile, right next to my antediluvian microwave.

They made a good pair — a moribund mailbox and a moribund microwa — Yow! Wait a minute!

I was hit by an epiphany.

The microwave was obviously useless … as a microwave. But could it have a new lease on life — as a mailbox?

It had a lot going for it. It was solid, waterproof and had a tight-fitting door. What more does a mailbox need?

Well, I checked that out.

While there’s a bunch of malarky about “officially approved” mailboxes, all they need to be is 41 to 45 inches from road surface, 6 to 8 feet back from the curb, with the entry facing the road, and your name and number on the box. Thankfully, they don’t need to heat up leftovers or thaw frozen vegetables.

So as far as the post office’s official approval, my newly dubbed Mail-o-Wave would pass with flying colors. Only one problem remained: How would it get mounted?

When it comes to the vexing issues of life, I have one hard and fast rule: Leave them to the experts. I’ve learned by long and bitter experience that any attempts I make in certain realms are doomed to failure. So I ignore that “If at first you don’t succeed …” crap and go straight to the Big Guns.

In this case, the Big Gun was The Brothers of the Bush’s official structural engineer, Brother Ron Burdick. I called and explained the situation to him, and the next day there he was, all bright-eyed and bushy-chinned.

Archimedes, the great mathematician and inventor, said (or at least it was attributed to him) that he could move the earth with a lever if he had a place to stand. Since he lived over 2000 years ago, he never met Brother Ron. But if he had, he might be famous today not for the lever but for the tie-down. Br. Ron has perhaps New York state’s biggest stash of them and uses them to secure everything to everything else. I figured the microwave would be no exception.

For your A and A

When I told him what I wanted to do, he thought it over for about five seconds.

“Well,” he said, “I’d use a tie-down.”

“Oh?” I said, feigning surprise.

He nodded.

“But what would you tie it down to?” I asked.

“You got any old tires?

“Do bullfrogs bump their dupas?” I said. “You want ’em with or without rims?”

“With,” he said.

And with that, the construction commenced. And not long after, the construction finished.

I tell ya, if that boy had been in charge of building the Taj Mahal, it would’ve been done in 16 weeks instead of 16 years. OK, so constructing my Mail-o-Wave may not be as complex as the Taj, but still, it was a tribute to Br. Ron that the Mail-o-Wave was ready to take care of bizness in under 10 minutes.

We both stood there admiring his handiwork for a while. When he had to go, I offered him some money for his help, but he refused it. Ron always gives freely with his labors; plus, I guess he doesn’t play Monopoly.

So my old mailbox was gone (RIP), and in its place was my Mail-o-Wave, perhaps the Wave of the Future.

I admired it for a while. And how could I not? It was a stellar example of — to use an insufferably pretentious word — repurposing. It also saved me time, effort and money. And maybe it will inspire other folks to pursue creative mailboxing.

But for all that, there was something not quite right about it. There wasn’t anything wrong with it — it just lacked a certain something.

I looked at it and cogitated … and then it came to me. Even though it was a tribute to ADK ingenuity and thrift, it lacked the tony style for which I’m renowned. In short, it needed a makeover, which in this case meant a paint job. Something to make it really classy. Otherwise, I could see elitists looking down their snotty noses at it, failing to see its innovative origins and instead thinking it was nothing more than a microwave on a pile of tires.

Look down your snotty nose at my Mail-o-Wave, will you?

Since my favorite color is purple, I drove off to Advance Auto in search of metallic purple paint. I could imagine when the sun hit it — that deep purple with the silver flecks would be the color of kings, fit for a king!

Once in Advance, I looked over all the touch-up paints — twice, and then three times. But, alas, there was no purple, let alone of the metallic ilk. I was deeply disappointed, on two counts. One was obvious — that my Mail-o-Wave couldn’t look how I wanted. The other was how sad, in this Great Land of Ours, so few people have purple cars. I thought how we’ll pay for such a lapse … but not for long. The makeover would have to take place, so I couldn’t just stand there mourning our national enjoyment of boring colors.

I checked all the colors once more and then made my decision: At long last, I was joining the 21st century. I was going Space Age. My Mail-o-Wave would be chromed.

Or, as it turned out, as chromed as paint can make it. Which is metallic at best, but not chrome at all. But being the gracious lad I am, I accepted that metallic it is, and metallic it will be.

A picture being worth 1,000 words, and my having only enough space left for a few dozen, I posted the above photo for your amazement and appreciation.

Clearly, the M-o-W is leaning to the right, but that’s not by mistake. Instead, it’s the second of two innovations that make M-o-W unique among mailboxes.

First, it opens by the push of a button. And second, because it’s hinged on the left, it closes by the force of gravity.

And all the while, it shows the power of levity.


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