OK, I admit it: I’m a box person.

I’m enamored of cardboard boxes. I collect them for gift-wrapping, shipping birthday and Christmas presents — or just because I might need them one day for various and sundry purposes. The more unusual the shape and size, the better.

This water pitcher, I theorize, would fit perfectly into that rectangular gift box; this smaller, square box is just right for that coffee mug.

Boxes in my sphere of existence used to be scarce, especially those lightweight, foldable ones that work best for gifts. If I found a stack on sale in a store, I’d snatch it up. I actually have a closet shelf just for boxes.

But of late, I’ve been inundated with them. I thought for a while I was in box heaven until, that is, they started arriving from everywhere — in the mail, by FedEx, UPS and in unmarked vans that rumble up and down our street all day, every day.

I never thought I’d find myself ripping up and recycling all these precious boxes I used to covet and hoard. In the last few months, we have been receiving packages galore from friends and relatives containing gifts, food and all sorts of surprises.

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It must be because of this pandemic, I surmise. We who are reluctant to visit crowded stores have discovered the efficiencies and safety of online shopping, and the joy of gift-giving. I find it amazing how swiftly packages arrive — sometimes as quickly as overnight.

Watching the news around Christmastime just a few years ago, we’d be awed by scenes of warehouses with boxes stacked to the ceiling, flying along on conveyor belts and tumbling off into shipping bins.

Now it’s big business, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and our homes are the recipients of all that cardboard and paper.

Thank goodness for curbside recycling.

Speaking of curbside, as I watch the couriers rush past our house daily, stopping at this neighbor’s house or that, I begin to digest the fact that this is our new reality.

I feel sorry for veteran mail carriers whose initial job description likely didn’t include toting hundreds of packages. Their trucks are packed to the gills with boxes, forcing deliveries even on Sundays.

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Talking recently with a mail carrier friend, we asked how mail delivery has changed over time. He said the last few years have been unreal with so many people shopping online. And the pandemic has magnified that phenomenon.

He told us about a woman who received lots of packages at her home, sometimes as many as three of four a day. To the layman, it appeared she was an online shopaholic.

Her husband, uncomplaining, just continued retrieving the packages from the doorstep.

One day, the woman moved out, the packages stopped and the mail carrier finally got a break.

But then the bills started coming — and coming. She was no longer around, but her mailbox continued to overflow with bills and late notices.

I got to thinking about how these mail carriers and couriers know a lot more about people’s lives than we might imagine. They just go about their daily lives, zipping up and down the streets, slogging through snowy driveways and punching doorbells.

And delivering boxes. Loads of them. And my doorstep is not immune.

The lesson to be learned here, I guess, is be careful what you ask for.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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