Ray Brisbine has never suffered fools or foolish bureaucracies gladly, and when he found the phone book had listed he and thousands of his suburban Marana neighbors with the wrong city and zip code that could delay mail deliveries, the war was on.
It's been five years since the 75-year-old Continental Ranch retiree first discovered the misprinted zip codes, and his battle continues to this day. He has badgered phone company executives in their offices, contacted his representative in Congress, and fired off scads of letters to Qwest Dex, the company that prints the phone books, and Qwest, the regional phone service company that provides most of the addresses listed in the directory.
The long-simmering issue for Brisbine is that Qwest Dex has continued to erroneously list Continental Ranch and south Marana residents as having a zip code of 85653 Marana when the proper mailing address is 85743 Tucson.
The problem isn't cataclysmic. Most people in south Marana know their address is properly coded as 85743 Tucson, and provide the proper city and zip code to those people or companies they wish to correspond with, Brisbine said.
But for someone who doesn't know a south Marana resident's address and looks it up in the phone book and uses the Marana zip to send a letter, the mail will be delayed.
"Could be a few days late, it could be weeks late," Brisbine said. "It's happened to me and it's happened to people I know. Go to your phone book and take a look, just about everybody's listed wrong."
Postal officials confirm that any letter or packages sent to Continental Ranch and nearby areas using the Marana zip code will more than likely be returned by Marana area postal stations to the main post office in Tucson.
The main station, located at 1501 S. Cherrybell Stravenue in central Tucson, will then reroute the parcel to the proper post office for the 85743 Tucson zone - the Tucson Mountain View Station at 7959 N. Thornydale Road - resulting in a delayed delivery.
Qwest, Qwest Dex and postal officials say they haven't had many complaints about the problem, but a quick check around south Marana found several people who had run into the zip code snafu.
Muy Yeng, who works at the Donut Wheel, 4524 W. Ina Road, said customers have sent her Christmas cards in the past by looking up the shop's address in the phone book.
"Everybody knows me, and they delivered the Christmas cards anyway, but the postman pointed out the wrong address and said my mail could be late if people use that zip code," Yeng said.
Brisbine is the first to admit that in this day and age of real wars, terrorism and other horrific problems in the world, his phone book battle is small potatoes. The number of people affected is small, and the delay relatively minor.
But still, Brisbine hates to see "stupidity and incompetence" anywhere, and he's made it his mission to correct this particular problem.
"I don't go in for incompetence," Brisbine said. "I've been called an ornery S.O.B. and that's probably accurate. My wife says when I quit checking into stuff like this and pestering people she's going to take me right away to the morgue."
Brisbine's maintained an annotated log of the complaints and contacts he has made over the years trying to straighten out the Marana zip codes, and lately, many of his calls aren't being returned. Qwest would probably prefer he go away quietly, he says. Brisbine makes clear that's not going to happen.
So far, Brisbine's been unable to correct the problem beyond getting himself and a few of his neighbors living on Hermitage Place listed with the correct address. He said he has no intention of surrendering until all the south Marana addresses in the phone book list the proper city and zip code.
Brisbine, who retired 13 years ago from working as a commissioner for Santa Clara County, Calif., has a track record of persistence and bureaucracy-battling that doesn't bode well for Qwest.
In the early 1990s, he helped organize picket lines in Continental Ranch protesting what he believed was an improper relationship between members of the Marana Town Council and Continental Ranch developers that was influencing his homeowners association.
When Marana police seized his group's picket signs, Brisbine joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to fight the town court. The signs were returned, the police backed off and the picket line resumed. He was also active in the unsuccessful recall election that sought to unseat Marana Mayor Ora Harn and Vice Mayor Sharon Price in 1995.
While he's since kept a low profile in Marana politics, Brisbine's particularly annoyed that Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton, Jr., who works as an advertising executive for Qwest Dex, has not done something about the misprinted zip codes.
"I'm not even sure if Sutton is aware of the problem, but you'd think he would be and that he would do something to keep his constituents' mail from being delayed," Brisbine said.
Sutton could not be reached for comment, but Mike Spiva, manager of Qwest Dex's regional office, said his company is not to blame.
"We get our listings from a number of different sources, and with this particular issue, the source is Qwest," Spiva said.
George Favela, Qwest's area manager in Tucson, confirms that his company provides Dex with the addresses, but claims the postal service is to blame.
"We use a number of different databases in compiling this information, and after researching it, we believe that a data disk we obtain from the postal service is automatically kicking over the correct Tucson zip code to Marana's zip code because it's in Marana," Favela said.
The U.S. Postal Service disagrees.
"I don't know why Qwest is having this problem, but if our information was wrong, everybody would be getting their mail misdirected, so I really don't think it's us," said Greg Lehner, manager of the U.S. Postal Service's customer service operations in Tucson.
Favela said regardless of where the fault lies, he plans to find some way to ensure the correct zip codes get listed in future editions of the directory.
After five years of battling, Brisbine says he's not holding his breath.
"I'll stay on it until they get it right," Brisbine said. "Nobody seems to care about consumer affairs issues anymore."