DEAR EDDIE LOYOLA; POSTMASTER; SANTA CLARITA POST OFFICE: Hope the holidays were more than kind to you and the wonderful staff at the post office on Lyons and pretty much, all the branches in this riparian community all of us share. Can’t thank you enough for all the hard work and grace under pressure you and all the postal workers have given the community. You guys deliver letters, packages and patience for years without a single whoops.
Of course, it’s only after that rare occasion when a toothy machine chews up an envelope or a love letter gets sent to Guam instead of Canyon Country when you hear from the customers.
I’m responding to a note you sent me prior to Christmas. I’m guessing everyone at the Newhall branch received one. Here’s the text:
“Your satisfaction and safety are of the utmost importance to us. Due to safety concerns, the Lyons Station will be closing our lobby at 6 p.m., effective Saturday, December 10, 2022. If you have any comments and concerns please feel free to contact me.” — signed, you, Eddie.
I appreciate you asking. I have many concerns. Big ones. Ones that seep into the fabric of community.
I’ve paid for a mailbox at the Newhall Post Office sneaking up on 50 years now. While I haven’t changed my address, I’ve moved I think about a half-dozen times. I started out my long relationship with the United States Post Office back when it was over on 8th Street, across the street from the brick morgue. Heavens. My PO address had just three numbers then. While I can remember The Signal’s box number (877) I can’t remember mine. There’s been changes over the years and I’m up to six digits — eight if you count the two at the end.
I can’t remember how much I paid back in the early 1970s — I think it was something like 20 bucks for the year. Today, I fork over $138.
For. Six. Months.
Worse, several years back, the bill was due at the end of December. Somehow, the suits at the nosebleed levels of the PO lopped off a month and it’s due now at the end of November. I never liked that. Don’t like the price going up 12-fold. But, I love my little cozy mailbox there. Better? I love the sense of community. I bump into people I haven’t seen sometimes in years. I run into people I went to high school with that I didn’t have two words to share (just a nod and pursed lips). Those people I seem to see three times a week.
But what I absolutely adore about this arrangement — and the reason why I have my mail delivered to a PO box in the first place — is that I can trek over to Lyons at any hour. The lobby is open 24 hours. My personal internal clock is a mess. I’m often up at 4:30 a.m. to write but then I’ll stay up until mid-morning and sleep for half the day. So it’s not uncommon for me to run over, at 3 a.m., to get my mail.
While your letter doesn’t specifically state why, after all these years, the PO started locking its doors at 6 p.m., I can guess why.
I’ve been over there at all hours and there was one particular homeless gentleman who made the lobby his evening residence. Smells like an ashtray. Filthy. Sprawled on the floor in ragged clothes, passed out. Honestly? I can’t blame him. The post office is a cozy sanctuary, warm in winter, air conditioned in Newhall’s unforgiving summers. Alcohol? Drugs? Mind viciously turned on its master? There was some point in time when this man was not a wretch. He used to be somebody, had a future filled with hope, dreams and possibility. And now.
Not so much.
There but for the grace of God go I. All of us, really.
I have a couple of dear friends who were there, homeless, when the goal of the day was to score that fix of alcohol and/or drugs, when they sought a home that matched their soul, ugly, dirty, dangerous. Not all, but many, preferred living on the street. Or in the next alcove over from my post office box. A few actually change their lives. Most don’t.
You kindly asked if I had concerns, Eddie. I do. I am witnessing my country, culture and community being dragged down. Daily, we are pushed, shoved, herded into an existence by lowest common denominator. One homeless man, one lost soul, ends up affecting the lives of the many. It’s sort of a variation of the old zen koan that a fool can throw a rock into a pond that 12 wise men cannot retrieve.
I don’t know how many mailboxes the Newhall branch has in their lobby. I’m guessing in the hundreds. Of course, not all the box holders visit during vampire hours like me. Still. It strikes me as draconian to inconvenience customers because of one (1) homeless man camping on restricted linoleum. The USPS does a stellar job and another chore of solving the homelessness crisis doesn’t need to be added to their daily list of things to do. But, there is a big but.
This is beyond me and other Lyons Station Post Office patrons picking up our mail. It’s part of an extremely disturbing trend where the government keeps using smoke, mirrors, COVID or hobos to create public policy. Just utter the phrase, “public safety,” and it becomes an excuse to shut down society, one little and seemingly innocent aspect at a time.
Picking on the Buddhists again, death by a thousand paper cuts.
It’s really a simple, but awkward solution. Open the doors to the Newhall Post Office. Throw the bum out. Firmly. Kindly. More than once if the sheriff’s deputies must. But let’s stop designing society to appease the insane.
John Boston is a local writer. Visit his bookstore at johnbostonbooks.com.