December, here we are. We can now see our breath on every pre-dawn constitutional as November’s mild, sunny weather has finally given way to real winter temperatures. Snow has been minimal, so far, but shovels and salt stand at the ready for the inevitable. Trees are fully divested of their leaves. Figs have gone to ground.
All around us The Twinkling has begun—lights in Christmas green and red, but also “electric icicle” white. Plastic figurines are set up to either celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ or make offerings to the candy cane gods—take your pick. Draped on bare trees and outlining front porches, all those tiny LED bulbs act as sentinels to the night. It’s coming, they sing in quiet unison to an audience with no option, whether you want it or not.
In short, we are officially in what retail workers, mail carriers, and delivery drivers call the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s likely The Orbit‘s convivial readership will have plenty of visitors to their homes over the next few weeks. Hopefully some of those will bring glad-tidings, along with the requisite maids a-milking and geese a-laying. If you’re lucky maybe Uncle Joe will break out the myrrh—it’s just not the holiday season without myrrh.
Others will climb your front steps on business. Envelopes stuffed with year-end brag letters and pictures of golden children will come for many. Thousands—millions!—will receive packages ordered from enormous operations full of plasticware produced far, far away. Amazon doesn’t offer real live swans a-swimming for sale—yet—but that feels like merely a matter of time. If you’re lucky, a friend will send you something truly special by U.S. Mail.
This isn’t the start of the holiday season—that kicked-off right after Valentine’s Day—so let’s call the first week of December the beginning of peak Christmas. For that, we’re sending this photo collection out to all the folks visiting all the addresses with all the things while many of us get to sit cozy, work a puzzle, and fall asleep on a couch as the television spools out one myth after another.
In the back. That’s where Pittsburgh wants its packages delivered; not out front, right on the street. That is, unless the request is to place items Over the gate, Through the gate, Behind the gate, or Inside the gate, under the awning.
Some want their deliveries In the vestibule, Inside the door, or In the screen door. Others are more specific: On side of house on table, one; Up the side steps in front of the door, another; a third: Please bring floor 2 packages to side door up stairs down walkway.
We’re redirecting deliveries Next to the large wooden planter box, Under the mailbox (behind the flower pot), Next door, At the Cricket store, and Across the street at People’s Grocery.
We also set conditions on our parcels: Please place light packages over the fence; heavy packages go here [who decides what the light/heavy threshold is?] and Please, if package fits, place between doors OR deliver to side door thru gate at right.
Some of us believe our carriers have special secret knowledge. Mail Courier: Please deliver the letter in my mailbox to the correct address … this is not it.
Being a delivery driver cannot be easy work—especially right now, mid-pandemic, as the Christmas season officially gets into high gear, and when just about everyone is ordering from the Internet—at least, some of the time.
We’ll add the obvious aside here, that this is all one more reason to shop locally and independently as much as one can. The money you spend close to home supports local businesses, stays in the community, and creates the kinds of Main Streets populated with life that pretty much everyone wants to see.
Amazon’s drivers are reportedly given 30 seconds to make each home delivery. That’s not a lot of time for anything, let alone to stop the vehicle, locate and scan the package, haul it to the customer’s front door, and get back to the van. Now, imagine if the delivery address includes a note requesting packages not be left at the front door, but instead be taken “to the back,” or “up the steps,” or “to the side door through the gate.”
It’s a lot to ask—even when the instructions pretty much always include please and thank you—but the reasons homeowners make these requests is obvious, too.
If you live in a row house—as your author does and where almost all of today’s photos were taken—there is often no separation between the sidewalk and one’s front door. A package delivered to the front steps is as exposed as something left right on the street. It is effortlessly easy for the most part-time of thieves or teenage pranksters to pick up that intriguing brown cardboard box, pop the corn, and make an evening of the random possibilities that await within.
It’s a conundrum—one the home builders of the late 19th century could never have anticipated. So called “porch pirates” are their own well-known menace, even when they’re not targeting row houses. Today—just spitballin’ here—architects are probably integrating some kind of hidden/protected package receiving area right into the fronts of new housing the way the automobile was welcomed into the home in the 1950s and ’60s.
So with Black Friday behind us and Santa’s elves already packing for non-stop December deliveries, let’s all consider the overwhelmed and under-valued “last milers” who bear the brunt of all that Amazon Prime “free” shipping. They may not be able to “put all packages inside the gate under the awning,” and that’s O.K.
Package/Gate or Packagegate
Take a walk on the porch side
Have you seen the back?
Not here, not now
Someone is home: find them!
Special thanks to Orbit faithful Paul and Mark who came up with “Vestibulers Day Off” and “Post-Its with the Most-Its,” respectively, when your author was unable to think of anything nearly as clever. It’s always Snark Week with those two.