The Black Hole

BH_LMCThis is a black hole, and that appears to be where three out of five letters of my great truth test ended up.

That’s right, to test how honest or helpful passersby would be, I dropped five stamped, addressed envelopes around town to see how many would be mailed for me. In England, where the test emulates an apocryphal claim by P.G. Wodehouse, the results have been as good as 85%. Here, not so much.

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, two were delivered. Sadly no others have reached their recipients.

letter 2Who can say what happened to the other three. Those on the ground might have been swept up by cleaners who never noticed these were stamped, unopened, un-postmarked letters. Or a letter had so little significance to the finder that it was simply thrown out as not worth the effort to mail. And, of course, a suspicion always lingers that untrustworthy finders opened the envelopes to see if there was something of value inside. In that case, I hope they read the contents and felt at least a tiny twinge of guilt.

But perhaps we should focus not on the three that fell into the black hole, but on the two that arrived at their destinations. Two honest, goodhearted people (40% of the finders) took the time to post the letters. They didn’t have to; no one would have been the wiser if they threw the letters away. Yet, these people made an effort because to them, mail mattered. The unknown sender and recipient mattered. So, let’s salute them, those anonymous passersby, who would have made P.G. Wodehouse proud.

5 thoughts on “The Black Hole

  1. Phoebe Conn says:

    One Christmas, my mother received a card from someone whose name she didn’t recognize. I told her to hang onto it until I arrived. She tore it in half and tossed it. I taped it back together. It was a typical Christmas note reporting on family news, but we didn’t recognize the names. I wrote to the sender and got a prompt response. The writer was a widower who had been married to my mother’s niece. He stated my mother had been her favorite aunt. Gosh. We’re really short on relatives, so I responded, and we’ve exchanged Christmas cards ever since. We would have lost the whole crowd had the letter remained in the waste basket. I wonder how many letters go astray every year like this one almost did. I think Terry may be right, you need a larger sample size to make any conclusions on how many “orphaned” letters will be mailed by strangers.

    • Susan Lendroth says:

      That’s a wonderful story, and as I replied to Terry, I would be happy to post on the blog any expansion of the honesty test by others willing to write and “lose” some letters. Just remember to put stamps on them to not tax your finders too much!

  2. Terry Lim Diefenbach says:

    I wonder if the sample size is against you with only 5 letters in the “test”. If each of us Postwhistle fans did the same thing, i.e. “lose” 5 letters each maybe we might get closer to 70%?

    • Susan Lendroth says:

      I love the idea of a larger sample “lost” over a larger area. If you are willing to write and cast some letters to the wind; I’m willing to blog about it.

  3. Sherrie says:

    Bummer. I had hoped that the letters to others would get mailed as well. I feel lucky that the Test Letter to me got thru.

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