A letter mailed to the Gazette in Jamaica Plain early this year took a three-month detour to the country of Jamaica.
“Missent to Jamaica,” reads a stamp on the envelope, which was mailed around Jan. 22 and finally arrived at the Gazette’s JP post office box on April 16.
It is uncommon but not unheard-of for Jamaica Plain mail to go to plain old Jamaica. Name confusion is the obvious reason. Mail detours to the Caribbean island nation from various places are common enough for Jamaican officials to create a stamp.
The Gazette found two other recent reports of JP mail being misdelivered to Jamaica. In 2011, a birthday card sent from Switzerland to a Gazette reporter in JP went to Jamaica first.
In another 2011 incident, JP artist Alison Safford had a double whammy of United States Postal Services (USPS) mistakes. Safford mailed a box of personally significant items from Illinois to her JP home address, and the box was delivered empty with its contents lost. It then took her six months to receive an official USPS form about the lost items at her JP home because it was “Missent to Jamaica,” according to the same stamp the Gazette’s letter got.
“Hate the JP post office. Awful. Better than they used to be, but still,” Safford said in an email to the Gazette last month.
On the other hand, the Gazette spoke to one JP resident who is from Jamaica and said he has never had this problem.
The misdelivered letter to the Gazette was mailed by JP resident Michael Frank. He told the Gazette that he probably mailed the letter within JP, possibly at the post office itself, meaning it had to travel only a couple of miles at most, and a few feet at the least. The letter had the correct address clearly computer-printed on the envelope.
Officials at USPS and the Postal Corporation of Jamaica did not respond to Gazette questions.
A Gazette Internet search found many current and historic examples of mail mistakenly going to Jamaica. Sometimes it was because the country of intended delivery had a name that looked something like “Jamaica,” such as Taiwan and Tasmania. In most cases, there was no obvious reason. All of those other examples, going back as far as 1891, involved international mail. The current design of the “Missent to Jamaica” stamp has been in use at least since the 1990s.
In other name confusion, the Gazette sometimes receives press releases about Jamaican news.
Jamaica Plain is probably not directly named for the island of Jamaica, according to the Jamaica Plain Historical Society. There are various theories about the origin of the neighborhood’s name, but the most commonly accepted is that it is a corruption of a local American Indian leader’s name that sounded vaguely like “Jamaica.”