bdayToday was Councillor Don Care’s birthday.  The pompous little man was excited because he was going to play a trick on his family. He had worked out this hoax over the past year, and what had started as a germ of an idea that would embarass his family had developed into a carefully planned plot over the previous twelve months. 

The plan was to intercept the postman who would be delivering his birthday cards.  He would stop the postman well before he entered the street where Don and his family lived and, as he was a well known member of the community, the postman would recognise him.  Don would ask if he could have his mail for the day.  He would tell the postman that he was in a rush to make a very important council meeting and that he was expecting an important document and it would be useful to have that document to take to the meeting.  Then he would take the household’s mail – including his birthday cards. 

Don planned to embarass his family.  He was going to leave the postman, take a different route home and enter the house via the back garden gate.  Then, he would make sure that his family were aware that he was eagerly watchinng the postman make his deliveries in the street.  “I wonder how many cards I’ll get this year” he would ask in a false excited manner.  And then, because he had already intercepted the mail, he would pretend to be disheartened that nobody had remembered his birthday when the postman failed to deliver any letters to the house.  And then his family would try to reassure him that there must be an explanation why he had not had any cards (apart from the ones they had given him by hand).  They would reassure him that he was still popular but that you couldn’t rely on the post these days and everything would be alright tomorrow when he would probably receive a sackload.  Only then, after all the fuss, would he produce the cards that the intercepted postman had given him.  “Tarrrrraaaaaaaaaaa”! He would say, as he flourished the cards in the air.  Then they would all have a laugh at how clever he had been. 

He had carefully noted the time that the postman delivered the post to his terraced house each morning which was between 7.10 and 7.20.  Some mornings it was earlier and some later, but 90% of deliveries were between those times.  He had observed the different postmen’s behaviour.  One postman left his bag of letters at the entrance to the cul-de-sac, taking out the letters and completing the deliveries to the street before picking the bag up and walking to the next street.  Another postman would start at the higher numbered houses and work his way to number 1.  More importantly Don had also observed the route the postmen took before entering the street.  All of them approached the cul-de-sac where the Care family lived from the west after they had delivered to the houses and shops of the High Street.  They turned right into Don’s cul-de-sac and either started delivering to the house on their immediate right or, as one postman did, crossed the road and started the round with the house with the highest number.  All of this had been carefully noted as intercepting the postman before they started delivering was a critical part of the ruse.

For the past year Don had been planning this.  He had even told a few of his fellow councillors who had told him it was a wonderful idea that would make a marvellous birthday surprise for his family.  They even joined in the fun by promising to contribute by making sure to send him a card – it would add to the fun of the idea. 

Today was Don’s birthday.  It was 7.00 am and time to put the plan into action.  Don’s wife was in the kitchen starting to prepare breakfast.  His daughter, Tammy, was in the shower.  It was raining hard.  Don told his wife he was going to the local shop to buy a newspaper.  It was Thursday, the day the local newspaper was published.  He asked her if she wanted anything.  She didn’t.  Don took his coat from the coathook in the small hallway, put it on and slipped out of the door.  He was smiling to himself as he made his way out of the cul-de-sac and turned left into the High Street.  He scanned the street for the postman.  There he was, about fifty yards away.  Don bought the local paper and went back into the High Street.  The postman was a few yards away.  Don approached him in the heavy autumn rain.
post
“Hello” he said, wearing one of his false ‘an election is looming’ smiles.  The postman stopped delivering letters and looked at the short balding man in front of him.  “Sorry to be a pain but I’ve got a really important meeting that I’m on my way to”.  The postman said nothing. 

“I’m a councillor” he continued.

The postman nodded.

“I’ve an important meeting that I’m on my way to” said Don.  “It would help me enormously if I could take a document along that you might well have in your bag”.  Don was breathing quickly, the butterflies in his stomach were flying, his palms were sweating.  “Is there any chance I could take my mail from you?” he asked.

The postman suddenly realised why Mr Pomp (as Don was known) had stopped him.

“No problem” said the postman.  “Number 18 right?”

“Yes” said Don excitedly.

The postman reached into his bag aware of a trickle of water just starting to run down his neck.  He hated being asked this, especially when it was raining and he just wanted to finish his round.  He fumbled around.  Don strained his neck to look into the bag.  This was all going to plan.  It was beautiful.  Don was already glowing with anticipation of the charade that would be played out back in number 18. 

The postman produced a bundle of letters that were all meant for Don’s cul-de-sac.  They were tightly bound by a thick red rubber band.  Don estimated that he would receive around ten cards, maybe more.  There were at least eight from his fellow councillors.  The postman pulled off the rubber band and started to sift through the letters.  Don could see three or four birthday card sized letters.  The postman muttered, “12, 14, 16.” There was a pause.  The postman looked at Don’s eager little face that was slightly blushing.

“Sorry sir”, he said quietly.  “There’s no mail for number 18 today”

Don’s fellow councillors had laughed at his plans and told Don that his plan to embarass his family was a wonderful idea and that they would join in the fun by assuring him that they too, would send him cards.  That’s what they told him.  What they told each other was different.  They didn’t like Don.  He was not popular with his fellow councillors because he was pompous and considered himself above his peers.  They didn’t like the way he strutted around the corridors of the council offices.  They didn’t like the way he produced vague facts about trivia that he thought made him sound intelligent but only made him look more of a buffoon.  They didn’t like the way he totally ignored his constituents other than at election time.  And they didn’t like the fact that he only bothered with them when he wanted something – like a birthday card.

Don stared at the postman.  “Are you sure” he asked.  The postman nodded.  “Nothing at all today sir” he said.  Don was confused.  This was not expected.  He said nothing but strode past the postman without a word.  The postman grinned.  Don made his way over the small patch of common land in went into the garden through the unnlocked back gate and then into the house.  His wife and daughhter were at the table eating their breakfast.  His daughter looked up at him but didn’t smile.  “Happy birthday” she said.  “Happy birthday” said his wife.  A single card was propped against the salt and pepper pots.  “We bought you a combined card this year” said the younger woman.  “We know how concerned you are for the environment and cards are made out of trees” she said. 

“Here comes the postman” said Don’s wife looking out of the window as the postman walked straight past the house.  “Oh well, nothing for us today” she continued.  “I expect you’ll get a sack load of cards tomorrow, the post is so terrible these days” she said.

Don said nothing.