Please Mr. Postman

For nearly 2 decades, dermatologist Robin Oshman had an office near Fortuna’s.

When Crate & Barrel displaced her, she set up a home office in the handsome Long Lots Road house she’d owned for 20 years.

She put a discreet sign in front.  She got approval from the selectmen and the Architectural Review Board.  “I met all the requirements,” she says.

But that was not good enough for the Zoning Board of Appeals.  They ordered her to remove her little sign.

She did.

And then — because she remembered hearing somewhere that the town has no jurisdiction over mailboxes — she called the post office.

Are there any size requirements for a mailbox? she asked.

No, they said.  It can be as big as you want.

Can you put information like your name, address, profession and phone number on it? she wondered.

Sure! the post office said.

What about shape?

It just has to be the right height for the mail carrier to reach, they replied.

Oh, and be sure to put a little orange flag on the side.

Dr. Oshman designed what looks like a little sentry house.  Carpenter Al Williams built it out of wood.

It’s got black and white lettering — and a little orange flag.  Here — take a look:

Dr. Oshman’s mailbox went up in January.  Her patients — 250 of whom signed a petition to allow the old sign — love it.

So do her neighbors.  Now her patients no longer pull into their driveways, wondering where her office is.

Public Works didn’t like it, though.  Someone called, saying they had to remove her structure.

It’s a mailbox, she said.  Not a “structure.”

Well, a mailbox has to be on a post, they told her.

It is, she said.  There’s a post inside, holding it up.

She offered to saw off the bottom, to show them.  They said that wasn’t necessary.

Then they said a mailbox had to be 8 inches back from the road.

Hah! Hers is 14.

Well, it’s on town property, they said.  It can’t be there.

Dr. Oshman said they’d better remove every mailbox in town, because every one is on town property.

No one ever called back.

Funny, isn’t it:  Everyone driving by now notices the mailbox of Dr. Robin Oshman, M.D. (101 Long Lots Road; Dermatology; 454-0743).

No one ever noticed the discreet little sign the ZBA made her take down.

10 responses to “Please Mr. Postman

  1. Dennis Jackson

    A very satisfying story indeed!

  2. Joanne Heller

    This was a very clever idea. I had a hard time reading the sign that used the be there, but the wording on the mailbox is readable as I drive by. Congrats on being creative and getting what you needed Robin!

  3. I love the pro-active, positive approach she took all the way. And it seems like it was meant to be!

  4. A good lesson that you can, indeed, “fight city hall” and win! I am a patient of Dr. Oshman’s (no, not Botox) and I gotta tell you, she is one smart cookie. Not only an excellent physician but could have been a damn fine lawyer! And I do so love the Postal Service! Bravo to both!

  5. I love the way Dr. Oshman thinks outside the box!

  6. outside observer

    Dr.Oshman told me about this over a year ago. I even signed the petition. It is amazing our elected
    town officals and town employees did not have something better to with their time and our money. They need to be reminded they are working for us instead of against us!!!!!!

  7. Innocent Bystander

    Great story and a prime example of why people are so anti-government regulation these days. It does make me smile, however, that the Postal Service, another government entity, did come to the rescue of a very bright woman.

  8. If someone did not see the original sign, it was a very discreet small caste iron labeling on two 6″ posts stuck in the corner of her driveway. I think P&Z needs to take some sensitivity training and perhaps an indoctrination into the law. On a sidenote, have you noticed how very friendly they are at Westport Recreation???? Wow, the Town Hall folks ought to take a lesson from Stewart McCarthy’s group. Awesome blog article!

  9. I’ve been past this sign many times and didn’t think commerical signs were “allowed” in residential neighborhoods and then thought about the Merritt “no commericials vehicle” but that certainly is not enforced. Commerical is probably not the right word, maybe “family-friendly” could be introduced. In the big picture how important is it really but we know one small leak can turn into a big one. I’m not as liberal as most who commented.

  10. I can empathize with your concerns. However, the good doctor just found an appropriate remedy through various available regulations. And we liberals certainly have learned that “small leaks” like packaging subprime mortgages to credit default swaps and then insuring such derivatives can “turn into a big one.” And by the way, “family-friendly” has been outlawed within the real estate market as being homophobic.