I waxed my new mail slot. I used car wax. It guards a car's finish, so I figured it would also protect the mail chute's brass finish from the forces of corrosion.

Since I believe a freshly waxed car moves along the road faster than a dirty one, I convinced myself that slicking up the slot

would make the mail slip through it faster.

A mail-slot expert told me to do this. Amy Howell, who presides over the brass hardware fixtures at Walbrook Mill & Lumber Co., told me that applying a simple coat of car wax to the new mail slot would prevent it from losing its luster. A non-abrasive, high-polymer car wax keeps the brass from oxidizing, she said. She was so convincing that I bought an extra fancy slot. The heavy kind, with the super shiny brass.

Our household needed a bigger mail slot. The one we had was old, it had probably been around about as long as the house, which is close to 110 years. One indication of the age of the device was that it had the word "Letters" carved into the flap. It worked well in a time when people still wrote letters.

But now our "letters" slot was too small. These days a mail chute has to swallow many other items besides the mail. Since the door the chute sits in is locked, anything that travels through the passage lands safely inside the house. This means an easy way to drop something off without rousing the residents is to slip the item through their mail slot. Consequently when a key, or a kid's T-shirt, or a toy needs returning, I often drop it through the owner's mail slot. Similarly at our house, a check underneath the slot for mail regularly yields other material: a neighborhood note, a novel passed on by a fellow mystery reader, and countless birthday-party invitations for kids turning 7.

Once I found a doctoral dissertation on our doorstep. It was for my wife, and had been dropped off by one of her university associates. Thankfully, the treatise had not been thrust in the mail slot. Like most scholarly writing, this work was very thorough and had several hundred pages. Had it been pushed in the skinny old mail slot, the dissertation would have gotten stuck, half residing in the cold, uncertainclimate of the street, half residing in the warmth and safety of a home. It would have been a dissertation in a metaphysical bind.

Our new mail slot is fatter. The hole in the door has been widened. And now that it has been waxed, the slot it is slicker than ever.

It could eat a dissertation for breakfast. But that is not the main reason I got the big slot. I got it to guarantee delivery of another type of reading material, something quick and dirty. The daily newspapers.

Newspapers have to be able to fit through the slot because if the papers sit on the front steps,passers-by will steal them. I would like to think that the thieves take the papers to a discussion group where they quote the stories to buttress their position on Mideast water rights. But I think a more likely scenario is that stolen papers travel a few blocks away where they are sold on street corners for easy money.

My new, wide-body mail slot will keep my papers from getting purloined. And with that coat of wax on it, it looks so cool, like new set of wheels. Now I want to customize it. Maybe a pinstripe running down the sides.

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