“What’s your 911 number?” Raymond and I were asked that more than once after we’d bought the Manse. The first time we were completely puzzled. What on earth was meant by a “911 number”? I mean, 911 is a number – and it’s a general number, for everyone. Why would we have our own?
We did eventually figure out that “911 number” is how folks in rural Ontario refer to the street numbers that all addresses have been given over the past few years. When I was a kid growing up here, no rural homes had numbers; you explained where you lived by saying it was “the brick house on the west side down the hill from the church,” or some such. And your mailing address was simply your rural route number. (And more of that anon.)
But yes, some urbanization of the Ontario countryside took place during the decades I was away from it, and roads that never had any name before – save perhaps for “Concession 5” or “Seventh Line” – suddenly do. Here at the Manse, for instance, we are at 847 Bosley Rd. But Bosley Road is a new moniker since the days of my childhood at this address. I assume the name comes from the Bosley family that used to live just down the way from the Manse, and that’s absolutely fine with me; but it still feels a little artificial – put-on, you might say – to my ears. As for street numbers – well, I do find them useful when I’m driving to a certain home or business for the first time, but they still seem rather odd. However, I suppose in the overall cause of emergency workers being able to locate you when your house is on fire, street names and numbers are a good idea. And I think I’m safe in assuming that efficiency in emergencies was a primary reason behind coming up with these names and numbers in the first place.
But while I’ve more or less got used to street numbers for rural addresses, I was not prepared for the old ways to have disappeared entirely. And I’m not sure I’m terribly happy about it. Here’s my story:
The other day I wrote a thank-you note to an old friend who had done something special for Raymond and me. I had her telephone number and email address, but I wanted to send her my thanks the traditional way, in my own handwriting. What I didn’t have was her street number, and her listing in the telephone book failed to cough it up; all it said was “RR2 Madoc.” Well, since that is the way all rural mail was addressed through all the years I was growing up in Queensborough, and since that mail always reached its destination, I assumed I was safe in going with that. After all, don’t the rural mail carriers know everyone on their routes? They always used to, that’s for sure.
So you can imagine how surprised I was when my thank-you note showed up back in our own mailbox only 24 hours after I’d dropped it off at the post office in Madoc. As you can see from the photo atop this post, it bore a large “Return to Sender” stamp on it, which further informed me that the address I had used was “incomplete.”
Well I never! What is the world coming to?
Longtime readers might recall a post I did quite a while ago (it’s here if you’d like to refresh your memory) reminiscing about the introduction of those new-fangled things called postal codes back in the early 1970s, and how infuriated many people were about them. Back then I heard more than one person of a certain ago – like, say, probably around the age I am now – vow never ever to use postal codes, since the mail had always been delivered perfectly well without them. As a young teenager I found their old-fashioned anti-progress attitude (which is how I saw it) quit hilarious.
Now, however, with my annoyance at my thank-you note having been peremptorily returned to me, I see that things have changed.
I have officially become a postal fuddy-duddy. And you know what? I am proud of it.