By Denise Stoughton
Bainbridge Islands Most Wanted VW Beetle
I knew mailboxing would be fun, what I didn’t know was that it might land me in handcuffs.
Reflecting on my recent roadside run-in with law enforcement, I consider the humorous likelihood that officer Joe Shields of the Bainbridge Island Police Department has body-cam footage of me earnestly explaining away my “suspicious” behavior as routine mailboxing.
The day in question was like any other - until it wasn’t. I’ve got three months of mailboxing under my belt and with time the need to explain what I’m doing while out in the field has diminished. Nowadays, when I’m working a neighborhood, I mostly get, “Oh yeah, I heard about that!” or “I love your Facebook page!”
The recognition of my quirky project is satisfying and while cheerfully tooling around the island in my white VW Beetle, I fancy myself on the precipice of off-beat local fame as the “Mailbox Lady” and should this odd-ball title be my everlasting legacy, I wholeheartedly accept.
On the sunny afternoon of August 11th while driving up and down the lavishly treed streets of Battle Point, I again acknowledged my good fortune to live and work on this bucolic island and to have embarked on a project which allows me to explore, meet new people and celebrate the creative identity of our community. I felt like the luckiest girl this side of Kitsap County. Ensconced in this reverie I failed to notice the frantic lady running behind my car, trying to wave me down.
At the same time, in an alternate (but equally powerful) universe where I am not the darling of all things happy and light, but rather “the suspect”, there were no less than three patrol cars actively looking for me and the white VW Bug which had been on law enforcement radar for weeks.
It’s a fact, mail theft on the island is up 200 percent and one of the perps has been caught on camera in a white VW Beetle. Armed with this knowledge, the frantic flagger / concerned resident observed me fussing about a mailbox and fleeing the scene in a white VW Beetle thus she wasted no time in calling 911. Being shrewd in the management of practical affairs, she also posted a warning on the Battle Pointers Facebook page. Thus, the neighborhood and the local police force went into high alert.
Blissfully unaware and having finished mailboxing for the day I pointed my white VW Bug toward home but as often happens, stopped to photograph one last mailbox – it was an adorable pastel striped number. That’s when the first patrol car showed up.
The officer exited out of his vehicle real leisurely like and spoke something indecipherable into his walkie-talkie. Do they even call them walkie-talkies these days? My interactions with law enforcement are thankfully limited to the benign. The next thing that popped into my head was, “Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” I nearly laugh at the absurdity but Officer Shields (as per the embroidered patch on his uniform) looks serious. I imagine he’s calling for back up and I quickly take stock my own appearance and think it can hardly be menacing – straw hat, clam diggers, espadrilles…white VW Beetle replete with a dog bed in the passenger’s seat. Not exactly Aileen Wuornos but probably a good cover if there ever was one, “she looked so normal, so vanilla…”.
Motioning with a slight nod of his head toward the house behind me Office Shields requests identification and asks, “Do you live here?” (In a way that indicates he knows full-well I don’t).
Fumbling to get my license out of my hot pink Vera Bradley wallet with a Marimekko like printed lining I mumble something ridiculous about the wallet being new as the reason for not getting my license out from behind the clear protective plastic more easily but the truth is, I’m scared witless.
He says he’s received a call about someone suspicious in the neighborhood stealing mail and I launch into my explanation hoping he’ll believe the unlikely story that I’m writing a book about the quirky mailboxes of Bainbridge Island and see the entire situation for the misunderstanding that it is. He does.
By the time backup arrives, the situation has been diffused and Officer Shields explains the situation to Officer Joe Fastaia, “She’s writing a book about the quirky mailboxes of Bainbridge Island”. Officer Fastaia responds, “That is the most Bainbridge Island thing to happen to me on duty in three months!”
PSA: It should be noted that the white VW Beetle suspected of mail theft is a convertible model (unlike mine) and was caught on camera during after-hours. Rest assured, the “Mailbox Lady” does not case neighborhoods under the cover of darkness.
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