"If it makes you feel any better," I told Andy Dominick, "I almost did it myself once."
It didn't make him feel any better.
Last Saturday afternoon, Andy was mailing some letters in College Park, near the campus of the University of Maryland. He accidentally tossed an $800 plane ticket down the hatch.
Andy said he has learned three things from the episode: "One, I'm stupid. Two, I'm stupid. Three, there are some pretty wonderful people in the world."
Jerry Roy is who Andy had in mind. Jerry was biking past the scene when he noticed Andy pounding the mailbox in frustration. Jerry stopped to see whether he could help.
"I don't know if you've ever been in a situation like this, Bob," Andy said, "but you lose your marbles. I mean, the first and only thing that occurred to me was to break into the mailbox and get my ticket back. If Jerry hadn't come along, I might have tried that. Would you have visited me at Alcatraz?"
I was happy to inform Andy that Alcatraz isn't open for business any more, unless you're a sea gull who needs a breather. I also told him what I would have done in his place.
"I would have called the airline and explained what happened," I said. "Surely they would have canceled the ticket and issued a duplicate."
"I'm sure you're right," Andy said. "But what's funny, Bob, is that that never occurred to me. And it didn't occur to Jerry at first, either. We were focused on getting the ticket out of the box. But we didn't have any luck."
Strike One: The last pickup of the day had already taken place. Strike Two: There wouldn't be another until Monday morning. Strike Three: Andy's trip was to have begun the next day, Sunday.
Jerry decided that there must be someone at the College Park post office who could come and open the box. But no one answered the phone (the office was closed, I later learned). Besides, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, it's unlikely that an employee would have trudged all the way to the mailbox to do Andy such a favor.
For one thing, the spokesman said, returning anything that has been dropped into a mailbox is against the rules. For another, "it isn't high priority when there are other jobs to be done -- and there are always other jobs to be done," the spokesman said.
Jerry finally calmed Andy down and urged him to call US Airways. Andy did. The airline was happy to cancel the original ticket and cut Andy another. His father's 60th birthday party in San Francisco turned out to be a blast.
I haven't been able to learn what happened to the original ticket. But what if it had been a weekday, with another pickup scheduled? Would a mailbox-emptier have believed Andy's story and handed over the plane ticket?
"There's nothing in the rules that would have made the carrier do it," the spokesman said. "But it happens all the time, just because carriers are kind."
Jerry Roy was pretty kind himself. "How great he was to help me through this," Andy said. "Would you publish his name so he knows that I think so?"
Message dispatched, Andy. As for mixing a plane ticket with letters, "Jerry said it very well," Andy told me. "He said, `This is why a pair of pants has at least two pockets.' "
On July 20, Barry R. McCaffrey, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, had this to say:
"Eighty percent of American youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17 have never touched an illegal drug. They leave the sixth grade strongly opposed to smoking, alcohol abuse and illegal drugs."
A week later, Mayor Anthony A. Williams had this to say:
"Don't get jittery about criticism that you're `not black enough.' You are what you are, and besides, a predominantly African American city elected you mayor."
Such high-profile guests and punchy quotes are regular attractions on "Levey Live," the online "talk show" that I host each Tuesday.
If you haven't yet checked it out, here's your engraved invitation. You can find it on washingtonpost.com, The Washington Post's Web site.
Some weeks, the guests are well-known officials like McCaffrey and Williams. Other weeks, we feature highly placed Washington Post reporters, editors and executives.
For example, today's guest will be Tracy Grant, who was recently named managing editor of the soon-to-appear midday online edition of this newspaper. Next week, we go on the road, to Bristol, Conn., where we'll visit with Don Soucy, the director of Little League Baseball on the East Coast.
Other scheduled guests include Jo-Ann Armao, assistant managing editor/Metro here at The Post (Aug. 17), Alan G. Spoon, president of The Washington Post Company (Aug. 31) and Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president of George Washington University (Sept. 14).
I also host "Levey Live: Speaking Freely" each Friday, from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. It's a Q&A about anything and everything under the sun.
Your questions are welcome, either before any show or during it. Just go to www.washingtonpost.com, scroll down to the box that lists that day's live chats and hop aboard.