Last night, my husband and I were talking about social security benefits and I remembered some postal mishaps we used to experience early in our stay in Japan. Coincidentally, Joseph at Tame Goes Wild also was experiencing a postal snafu so perhaps we're all on a postal wavelength these days.
When it comes to retirement, the situation for my husband and I is pretty murky. Both of us worked for a bit in the U.S. before coming to Japan and paid into the system and I know from experience that people who never worked are entitled to collect certain types of benefits. However, we're not taking getting any benefits for granted and are socking away our own savings for the future. How does this relate to the postal system? Well, we've pondered as of late whether becoming a permanent resident in Japan screws up one's ability to collect social security benefits back home and the fact that we had an experience which demonstrated that someone living in Japan can get American social security checks came to mind.
A long time ago, our local postal carrier seemed to think that anything with a foreign name on it was ours. In fact, there was a time when anything written with roman letters that was to be delivered in our immediate neighborhood ended up in our mailbox. There aren't that many people getting mail in our area written in English, but we were once delivered someone else's "MacConnection" order. (MacConnection is a portion of the mail order place, PCConnection.) This person, who was also an American as we later learned, lived on the same huge "block" as us and we trekked to his place and carried the package to his door. He wasn't home, so we left a note and the parcel outside his door. Later, he sent us a thank you message for doing what we did and noted that the fact that I left the message on Apple logo notepaper was reassuring as he knew we were "good people". Though what he said was nice, I will say that I don't think platform choice has anything to do with how good a person you are.
There were other small incidents where a few things which were addressed to people in the same building that we live in were left in our box and we just put them in the proper box. The only other time I recall when we had to hand deliver a misdelivered piece of mail was when a social security check from the U.S. was left in our box for a Japanese woman who had a Western last name at the end of her Japanese name as indicated on the check. Obviously, I won't give her real name, but I'll say that it was something like "Rie Saito Smith". Keep in mind that, at least in those days, the type of check that was in the envelope was written such that you could see it through the address window. In my work as a program worker in Pennsylvania, my "clients" (the crazy people I had to deal with in the halfway house) received social security disability checks and I knew very well what they looked like anyway. We didn't have to open it (and we didn't) to know it was a social security check.
This woman also lived on the same huge block that we do and we'd seen her name at the front of her building while taking walks together on occasion (this was before my back got too bad for such simple pleasures). We walked to her place and couldn't work out where her mailbox was so we rang the bell to give her the check. My CH tried to explain to her in simple Japanese that we'd gotten the check delivered to us by mistake, but she was very rude and suspicious of us. I can't recall whether she snatched the check from us and slammed the door in our faces, but she definitely treated us like we'd stolen the check from her mailbox and, for no logical reason, then decided to deliver it to her door rather than like we were trying to be good neighbors and do her a favor. The look on her face was an angry one and her attitude toward us was decidedly hostile.
I'm not sure what went through her head that day, but we decided that we would never go out of our way to deliver mail that ended up mistakenly in our box to a Japanese person outside of our apartment building again, and we definitely wouldn't be trying to help her again. I don't know what we would have done if her mail had shown up again because clearly tossing it in a public mailbox may have yielded the same result (it'd end up back in our box), but fortunately, we soon got a better mail carrier who could deliver to addresses properly even if they were written in roman characters.