Friday, November 10, 2023

Misdirected Mail

I have recently started getting mail for a person  who is now deceased and lived in my house over 20 years ago...

I wrote before how I wrote a Patent on a system that scrapes data from obituaries and formats it into name and address searches.  The software "scrapes" data from obituaries, which are formatted in a certain way, and can thus tell you where someone lived, who their relatives are, and so on and so forth.  The software, for example, can look for phrases like "survived by" and parse out the names.

Well, recently, I have been getting mail - mostly credit card offers - for a Don or Joyce Russell.  When the first letter arrived, both me and the postal carrier just shrugged it off.  But then more mail started coming and I wondered whether someone got the wrong address and this couple were neighbors from down the road or on another island or something.

So I typed in their names and "Jekyll Island" and got a plethora of hits on these "spokeo" type address sites.  One listed both of them as owning my house!  I searched some more and found an obituary for Don and a great article about his life from one of the players he coached.  I guess Don and Joyce "snowbirded" between a lake house in Vermont and at Jekyll Island, presumably at the house we now own, until they got older and decided to move closer to her family in Texas.

From what I could piece together, they must have stayed here in the 1990's or thereabouts, before relocating to Texas.  Like most Jekyll "snowbirds" they didn't stay too long - it seems five years or so is the average.  For us, the burden of having a lake house and a house here was too much for us at age 50 - so we sold one and settled here - for the last 18 years.

We met the children of the original owner of the house, which was built in 1970.  They marveled that the "twig" of a Magnolia tree that their Mother planted (and they mocked like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree) was now 50-feet tall and six feet around at the base.  Over the years, the house has been bought and sold - and rented for an extended period of time - and somehow, apparently, the Russells lived here during that time.

But why are we just now getting their mail?  I am not sure, but again, these data-scraping applications can find old addresses and names and once they are in the database, they are darn hard to get rid of.  So, according to one site, Don (who is now deceased) and Joyce (who is 92 years old) are living here with us.  And the Internet will keep that bit of bad data for all eternity.

But speaking of misdirected mail, I had a small heart attack the other day when a piece of mail went astray.  The "check engine" light on the hamster came on a month ago and then just as suddenly went off.  I had no code reader handy, so I assumed it was a spurious code.  When it came on again, I ordered a code reader - they are surprisingly cheap online - $14.95 on eBay including shipping!  The package was supposed to arrive Monday and was listed as "out for delivery" and then inexplicably was listed as "held at Post Office at request of customer!"

I was pissed.

You see, some KIAs and Hyundais have had an issue with loose connecting rod bolts.  It is only a few cars (out of millions they have made) and pulling the engine on hundreds of thousands of cars to check the bolt tightness is just not an option - when only a few thousand are suspect, but they don't know which ones those are.  So they reprogrammed the knock sensor software to detect the characteristic vibration produced by a loose connecting rod and extended the warranty to 15 years or 150,000 miles and due to a class action suit, apparently lifetime at least for the short block.

So when I see a "check engine" light, naturally I am nervous that the reprogrammed ECU has detected this fault.  Don't want to drive the car and see the connecting rod go through the side of the block!  I called the dealer and they told me that since "the guy" who could read codes in Savannah had quit, all the owners in Savannah were coming here for service and it would be two months to get an appointment.

I needed a code reader now!

So it was frustrating that it was being "held at the post office" supposedly at my request, when I requested no such thing.  I called their phone number, but instead of going to the local Post Office, it went to Washington DC, where a robot gleefully reported that I requested it be held at the Post Office and that it would be delivered by November 15th.

I tried to find the local phone number, which I think I found on the local Chamber of Commerce site (the USPS doesn't give out local phone numbers, apparently).  I called and it answered and I pressed "1" to speak to an operator and it rang 40 times before hanging up.  Some service!

I finally found a "contact us" page on the USPS "Informed Delivery" page and submitted that.  I got a call back from the local Postmaster (success at last!) and he told me that the package went "on the wrong truck" and the only coding the carrier can do on his scanner is "return to sender, address unknown" or "deceased" or "hold at post office by request of customer."   So apparently, this puts the carrier in a bind, or perhaps they are trying to up their delivery time numbers.  If it went uncoded, it would just show a day late in delivery.

Anyway, he promised to have it on the correct truck the next day and our local carrier sorted it all out.

I plugged in the reader and got Code P0441 which is an evaporative emissions system code - nothing that serious - it could be a loose gas cap situation.  But more on that later.  No connecting rods falling off just yet!