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Frank Gray

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Addresses help you find your way, but can confuse when absent or even be abused

An address is a handy thing to have when you’re trying to find a business, such as a gun shop, bike shop or doctor’s office, that you’ve never been to before.

At the same time, addresses can be meaningless. In the North Anthony Area Association’s case, some residents are unhappy because someone has gone address crazy in parts of the neighborhood.

One thing that has always irritated me is trying to find a business with a four- or five-digit address along a road several miles long. It can be nearly impossible. That’s because many businesses, for some reason, don’t put their addresses on their buildings.

It makes no sense. If you’re going to advertise or have a Web page giving your address, you’d think you’d spend the money to buy some huge numbers for your building. When no one puts their numbers on their buildings, you really have no idea where you are.

Glenbrook Square’s address, for example, is 4201 Coldwater Road, but I’ve never noticed that number posted anywhere on the building.

People, though, are different.

In some towns, charitable organizations used to go through residential areas painting people’s house numbers on their curbs in exchange for small donations. It was a way to raise money, and it made it easy to spot a home’s address, as long as it wasn’t snowing.

Most people put their house number somewhere, either on their mailbox, on a big rock in the yard or on their porch.

That’s the way it is with houses in the North Anthony neighborhood. Practically everyone has their house number prominently displayed on their home. Some have the number displayed in two or even three different places.

I spoke to one woman who said she had specially ordered big numbers for her house so they’d be easy to read. The numbers must have been about nine inches high.

A lot of residents in the area, though, are a little puzzled and a little miffed because someone has gone through the area and, using a felt pen or similar marker, written the house number on their mail boxes, and, in some cases, even on the mail slots set into the brick of their homes.

It hasn’t happened to a lot of houses. But the incident caused a lot of chatter on the neighborhood association’s Facebook page.

Some assumed that it was the letter carrier who had done it. Their previous letter carrier, whom everyone seemed to know, had retired, and lately there have been replacements carrying the mail who don’t even wear postal uniforms.

Some asked why the carrier, if that’s who did it, would use two different colors, red and black. Others couldn’t understand why the carrier couldn’t remember their addresses, which were displayed within perhaps five feet of the mailbox.

Others wanted to know how to erase the marks, offering various solutions including hairspray and fingernail-polish removers.

I knocked on the doors of some of the houses that had their numbers scribbled on their mailboxes but got no answer.

I can’t help but wonder, though, was it the letter carrier? I called a toll-free number for the post office in Indianapolis. They referred me to the Hazelwood branch office, where I asked if they had any idea whether the letter carrier might have done it. That office referred me to the post office’s public relations people, who never called back.

The damage, if you want to call it that, to the mailboxes and mail slots wasn’t major. I’m sure some Babbo or a dab of paint will remedy the problem.

But it is hard to understand why a letter carrier can’t remember someone’s address for as long as it takes to walk up three steps.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.