When we decided to sell all our worldly possessions to do something crazy like move onto a boat to go cruising, I prepared myself as much as possible for all the things I knew would change. Smaller spaces… no problem. One pot meals… got my The Boat Galley Cookbook right here! You get the idea.
Then there were things that I had to experience first-hand in order to really understand just how much my world was changing. I learned what it really meant to conserve water after I used 45 gallons in 3 days because I was washing dishes “the old way”.
I learned just how lucky I was in my former life, when all I had to do was push a little chrome lever to make my poop disappear instantly into the abyss that was the city sewer system, never to be dealt with again. And I learned firsthand that the U.S. Post Office discriminates against homeless people… including me.
Oh… you didn’t know I was homeless? Huh. Neither did I.
You see, at the time, we had been cruising for about 6 months when we pulled into Fort Lauderdale, which would be our haven for the winter. Chris had some freelance work there and we were excited to be somewhere warm for the winter, not to mention I had never been to South Florida before. The beaches were stunning, we found a great dock with a million dollar view, and we made some awesome friends shortly after our arrival here. Life was fantastic.
One of the things that had been difficult was getting our mail. We had a Post Office box back in Nashville where we had moved from, and every few weeks, one of my dear friends would check it for us and send our mail to whatever marina we were at during those first several months.
However, I hated asking her to drive out of her way to check our mail, and I really wanted to find a better solution. Because I knew we would be in Fort Lauderdale for several months, I decided to rent a PO Box locally so that I could get mail sent there without putting anybody out.
Not So Fast
I drove down to the closest Post Office branch – it was December and there was a pretty long line of holiday gift-givers, so I went to a wall where they had an array of forms available and picked out the one to fill out to apply for a PO Box. I got out my pen and filled out the form and hummed Christmas tunes as I waited in line for my turn. (Ok, I lie. I didn’t hum Christmas tunes while standing in line… I played Candy Crush on my phone.)
After about 20 minutes, I reached the front of the line and told the very jovial, older woman behind the counter what I was there for. She smiled and said, “Alright, honey – let me see your paperwork and we’ll get you all taken care of!” I handed her my form and she said, “Oh, you forgot to fill out your address – we just need your local address.”
I explained to her that I was in town temporarily and didn’t really have a local address and could I use my Nashville PO Box in the address spot? She explained very kindly that it needed to be an actual street address, “so you can just put the address of the place you’re staying… friend’s house, hotel, whatever, as long as it’s local.”
I didn’t know the address of the place we were docked at off-hand, so I said, “Well, I’m here on my boat. I live on my boat – I don’t have an address.” To which she laughed, rather heartily, and exclaimed, “Oh honey! According to the United States Post Office, you are homeless!” And she then explained that she couldn’t rent me a PO Box without an address.
Now, if I were smart, I would have just made up a damn address and gotten my PO Box, but I’m not able to think on my feet that quickly, and I’m too honest for my own good sometimes. So don’t ever ask me if your jeans make your ass look big, because I might accidentally-on-purpose say yes.
So here we have the US Post Office – who lost a record $16 Billion in 2012 – refusing my money because to them, I was homeless. How does that make sense?
Shortly after that, we discovered a mail service called St. Brendan’s Isle, based just outside of Jacksonville, FL. They cater to cruisers, RVers and people who live a mobile lifestyle, and they even have an optional service in which they’ll scan your mail so you can view your mail online. They’ll ship your mail as often as you want, anywhere you are. The best thing about it is that you can use it as your permanent mailing address, meaning you can establish residency in Florida, which would allow you to get a driver’s license, register to vote, renew your Coast Guard documentation, and yes, even get a Post Office box.
But I won’t be doing that anytime