(ran SE edition)
National Geographic made the "mistake" that makes George Palmer crazy.
They sent his magazine and the videotape he ordered to George Palmer, correct street, correct lot number, correct ZIP code. But they just wouldn't believe him when he said that 34642 is Seminole, Florida.
They addressed his merchandise to Largo.
"I finally called the magazine, right to the office, and I said if you can't send it to my right address, forget it and you can give me my money back," Palmer said. "All they say to me is the computer doesn't recognize Seminole."
The computer doesn't recognize Seminole as a separate and distinct community because the U.S. Postal Service doesn't. In the eyes of the Postal Service, the area that we know as Seminole is Largo, pure and simple.
Even though the post office on 113th Street says "Seminole" in big letters on the front of the building, it is merely a branch of Largo.
Computer software programs used by magazines, retailers, catalogs and other mailing lists recognize ZIP codes as the Postal Service does. Seminole is Largo to them.
Try explaining that to Palmer or to Seminole Mayor Holland Mangum or to Seminole chamber of commerce official Paul King.
Listen for the harrumphs.
"I chose Seminole. I'm proud of Seminole. If I liked Largo, I'd go to Largo," Palmer said. "Why should I be taken from the city of which I'm proud to be living in and automatically be shunted off to Largo, where I wouldn't live on a bet?"
Mangum, who helped found the city, said he is livid when mail comes addressed to City of Seminole, Largo, FL.
Or when it comes to his house with a Largo address.
"If I get a bill sent to Largo . . . I tell them my address is Seminole and if I get another one that way, I would not return the check until it got addressed the proper way," Mangum said. "Most of my people that send me bills now send them to Seminole."
Get Mangum started on the subject, and he will tell you the issue reaches further than his personal civic pride.
"Until they went to all the modern computer techniques and so forth, even the smallest little hamlet had its own name. Generally people are proud of the hamlet or town or area in which they live," he said. "I think they're going a long way to destroying small town identity in this nation. Small towns are the backbone of this country."
The Seminole name game has long been a sticking point with Paul King.
"I just absolutely detest mail coming to my house in Seminole with a Largo address," he said.
Now that he's executive director of the Greater Seminole Area Chamber of Commerce, he's doubly offended.
He once canceled a catalog order for Christmas presents that he was completing when the computer wouldn't accept Seminole as his proper city.
"That's how strongly I feel about it," he said. "There are 75,000-plus people in the greater Seminole area. You would think someone would wake up to the fact that we are a community here and should be identified as such."
David Fairbanks, who has been acting postmaster in Largo for less than two weeks, said he doesn't know the history of Seminole's postal status.
But if the people of Seminole feel that strongly about having their own identity, maybe there's a solution, he said, tongue in cheek.
"We (at the Postal Service) are hurting for cash," he said. "Are those people willing to pay? I don't know if we offer that kind of deal, but everybody has a price."