When Hristo Stamenkovic got a 4-year-old check from the phone company, he decided to calculate which was faster: mail or snails.

Answer: snails.Stamenkovic, a retired city engineer, opened his mailbox recently and found an envelope sent from San Diego. It contained a telephone company check for $104.69. Postmarked Feb. 14, 1994, the envelope was properly addressed and had correct postage for the date, 29 cents.

"A beautiful, clear envelope," Stamenkovic said Tuesday in The Press-Enterprise. The envelope bore no clue as to why delivery took so long.

Stamenkovic, 80, then went to work calculating distance against time. He figured the enveloped traveled the 90 miles from San Diego to Riverside at a rate of 6.921 inches per hour. That's easy cruising, even for slugs.

"A snail would come faster than my check," Stamenkovic said.

Mike Cannone, a Postal Service spokesman in San Diego, conceded the hypothetical race and apologized.

"Although it's impossible to say where it was, it's almost more fun to guess where it's been," he said. "The possibilities are endless."