Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mr. Kobayashi's Mailbox

So, the part that I left out of the last post is that I almost killed myself after the bad news from Tuesday's doctor appointment.

No, not on purpose. That is NOT how we roll.

How we do roll, however, is down the highway for an hour, with tears streaming down our face the whole time. After a night of fitful sleep, and half an antianxiety pill taken because we had to go to the doctor appointment alone.

Accordingly, I fell asleep at the wheel.

Not, mercifully, on the highway or a main road. Somewhat embarrassingly, I fell asleep at the wheel of my husband's brand new car around the corner from my house. Within easy walking distance.

I remember feeling like I might like to relax for a bit when I got home. I don't remember feeling especially sleepy. I very vividly remember jerking awake as my vehicle drifted to the right, and swerving rapidly to the left. Mercifully (again), I did not make contact with any cars, humans, strollers, or animals.

What I did make contact with, because I swerved a split-second too late, was Mr. Kobayashi's mailbox.

The mailbox, with mail still inside, landed squarely in the middle of Mr. Kobayashi's tidy lawn. I stopped my car, inspected it for damage (of which there was, thankfully, very little), and turned around, pulling into the driveway of the house with an intact mailbox post, but no mailbox. I had no idea whose house it was, but there was a truck in the driveway, so picked up the mailbox in my arms like it was a baby, and knocked.

It took him a while to get to the door, almost long enough for me to give up, except I didn't give up because I had an armload full of mailbox and no idea what to do with it. So I stood there until the door opened.

Which it eventually did, to reveal an older Japanese man who spoke English, but obviously not as a first language.

I do not know why Mr. Kobayashi came to this country, or when, or what he expected when he did. But I am certain it was not for an incoherent middle-aged woman to ring his doorbell, weeping hysterically, and bearing his deceased mailbox like a temple sacrifice.

At the moment in question, neither of us had an excellent command of the English language, so he kept asking if I was okay, and I kept saying yes (um, obvious lie, but the truth was too complicated). I kept apologizing and said I would get him a new mailbox. He said he would attach it to the post. He asked again if I was okay. I said yes again. We exchanged names and phone numbers like it was a normal traffic accident, with, you know, a normal driver.

The car, miraculously, had only a crack in the casing of the side mirror and some white paint on the door handle. I drove it home and called my husband to ask if, on the way home from work, he would mind picking up a standard white mailbox for me. And then, I explained why I needed it.

To the man's credit, he did not once ask about the condition of his vehicle. (Although, being a good engineer, he did want more specs on the mailbox.)

The next morning, I somewhat sheepishly carried the new mailbox over to Mr. Kobayashi's house. He opened the door a little quicker this time, obviously cheered by the fact that I no longer appeared to be a recently furloughed patient from the state hospital. He bowed repeatedly, smiling and saying, "I'm glad you're okay!" He accepted the new mailbox as if it were a surprise gift that turned out to be exactly what he had wanted all along. 

Now, this is the time of year when my people are thinking more than usual about forgiveness--asking for it and giving it. This story involves two men who had every right to be angry with me, because I broke their stuff, and could have broken it much worse. But neither one of them so much as betrayed a moment's irritation. Only concern for my well-being. I didn't even have to ask for forgiveness. It was just there.

And perhaps this is the best part of the story, aside from the fact that I didn't plow into a tree or another car: just when angry, grouchy, pinched-up little me could use an earthly model for how to forgive, I actually get two.


  1. You are a gifted writer and I'm so glad that you were ok!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story … takes courage … but stories are us - mountain-top stories and valley-stories …