So you've decided to break up with your boyfriend. He's a scoundrel and, even worse, he's living in New York. You've tired of the bicoastal relationship, his lack of commitment. So you pick up a pen and write him the nastiest "Dear John" letter imaginable. You drop it off at the nearest mailbox. The deed is done.
An hour or so later, you receive a call. It's your boyfriend, with good news. He's moving back to Los Angeles. He asks you to marry him. You say yes, forgetting about that letter for a moment.
As soon as you hang up the phone, you realize you have to get that "Dear John" letter back. But there's no way.
Or is there?
Actually, there is. Postal Form 1509 can come to your rescue.
The little-known "Sender's Application for Recall of Mail" does just what it says. All you have to do is fill it out--as promptly as possible--with details describing the envelope or package. The form can require the sender to leave a deposit "to pay for expenses incurred for necessary telegrams, postage, etc." to return the missent mail.
"There have been times when people say something in a letter, and then they have second thoughts," said post office spokesman David Mazer. "Maybe I don't want to hurt that person and make them upset. Sometimes, you might say something and, an hour or two later, decide I really don't want to say it that way."
Postal Form 1509 is used most often when senders arrive at their local post office, frantic after dropping something in a nearby mailbox. The Postal Service tries to be understanding. They deliver 35 million pieces of mail a day in the Los Angeles area, and realize there is bound to be some mistakes.
"The thing that happens the most is somebody accidentally putting in the box something that isn't mail," Mazer says. "A deposit slip, an envelope full of money, a wallet, keys, small purses. Those things that are in your hands when you go to mail something."
If they are not retrieved, such non-mail will end up at post office's "undeliverable section."
In more than a few cases, a letter carrier will arrive at the mailbox to pick up the day's mail and encounter a worried man or woman who has been waiting patiently for an hour or two to retrieve the envelope he or she had accidentally dropped inside.
In such cases, the mail carrier will ask the customer to describe the wayward letter and, sometimes, to go to the post office and fill out Form 1509.
Some businesses use Form 1509 when they realize after returning from the post office that they have sent two toasters or two sweaters to a customer who only ordered one, said Barbara Jones, supervisor at the Rimpau post office in Los Angeles.
There are also homeowners who, after rushing off to the post office to pay their bills, realize that they have neglected one or two important steps.
"We've had cases where peopled dropped their mortgage payment in the mailbox and forgot to seal it or forgot to put the money inside," Jones said.
But there are other objects found in mailboxes, which could never be mistaken for mail.
"A lot of strange things happen at mailboxes," Jones said. "You find a little of everything. One of the delivery people said a cat dropped out of one. They find dirty Pampers, a bag of flowers. One opened his box and a rat jumped out. Condoms. Everything."