In the Post

I’ve been thinking for a while – based on my own use of the service – that the good old US Post Office is something well past its best-if-used-by date. Oh, no – not that it should be done away with as a government service entirely. But I can contemplate delivery of the mail only two or three times a week with perfect equanimity … which is at least a little tragic for there were times when the daily arrival of the mail was a much-looked-forward-to thing. When I was overseas, or in a remote location – like Greenland (and in military outposts today I am certain) the arrival of the mail (three times a week) was anticipated with keen interest, since it was our lifeline to the outside world. There were letters from family, loved ones, magazines, catalogues and packages with goodies in them – sometimes gifts, sometimes items ordered … the whole world, crammed into a tiny box with a locking door in the central post office; the magical envelopes, the catalogues and magazines in a tight-packed roll, the little pink slips that meant a package … and then, between one or two decades, it all changed.

Now, the packages come mostly through UPS or Fed-Ex. The various utility bills arrive as emails and are paid on-line. My pension and my daughters’ VA disability are paid by automatic deposit to bank accounts. Magazines? I dropped a lot of my various subscriptions through lack of interest (I am looking at you, Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly) or through the magazines or the publications themselves going under. My news and intellectual-contact jones is fed on-line. Email works for just about everything else save for birthday cards to Luddites like my mother. My various businesses as a freelance are conducted thru Paypal, or through email with my business partner. I realize that not everyone has this kind of luxury – and in the case of the zombie apocalypse or some sort of solar event that crashes the internet I will be SO screwed … but then I am not advocating abolition of the post office. Just that in those metropolitan areas in the continental US that are well-served by internet services and by the various rival delivery services, the Postal Service can probably dial it back, quite a bit. Nothing much comes in the daily mail any more, save the print equivalent of the stuff that I empty out of my spam email box. Really – I am never going to respond to the Capitol One offers for a credit card, so do they need to have their weekly c**p underwritten with tax dollars? My way back into the house from the group mailbox leads past my trash and recycle cans; convenient, as that is where the bulk of it winds up.

I’ll shed a nostalgic tear for the USPS, when they cut back services. I really will – as there are (or were) the occasional business that would send a payment check by mail, instead of an automatic transfer. And the businesses which depend upon cheap bulk mail deliveries will be set back a peg or two. I do dispatch my own books when bought by readers through media mail, and the workers at the post offices where I do and have done business are wonderful, competent and cheerful people (Yeah, I know that is SO much against the usual stereotype) … but otherwise I fear that the USPS is a zombie corpse, being kept alive out of habit. To enable it to keep shambling around in those places where it does truly provide a neccessary service, I’d be willing to give up delivery service on Saturdays and at least two weekdays.

I’d also be able to avoid encountering my slightly-deranged and very chatty neighbor, who haunts the group mailbox; another win-win, as I count it.

(cross-posted at and at my book blog)

6 thoughts on “In the Post”

  1. The mailman is as useful as a chimney sweep, a candle trimmer or a stable boy. Of the top three professions that made home deliveries in the 1940s, milkmen, icemen and mailmen – only mailmen are stil around because they alone are government employees.

    Perhaps Obama will recreate all these lost jobs for chimney sweeps, candle trimmers, stable boys, milkmen and icemen – and provide employment and benefits for over 10,000,000 middle class americans (legal and illegal) and wipe out unemployment.

    What a great president!!

  2. My family & my husband’s have had postal employees in them – I like them. And I like media mail – today after two days gone, here are books waiting for me and journals. But a strange thing has been happening here lately and I don’t know what it means – sometimes we get two or three people’s mail in ours, sometimes we don’t get any, the box Amazon said it had sent didn’t appear for my husband’s birthday, then a week later a young guy showed up with it, saying it had been left at his girlfriend’s. Her address was ours reversed. Figured the new carrier was dyslexic until I met him – he doesn’t speak English at all well. Maybe he’s dyslexic, too. I don’t know. But I do think they may not be testing as well as they used to – or . . . I don’t know. But I’m tired of redistributing the mail left in our box and I’m tired of wondering exactly where our mail is going. And a couple of packages went wildly astray in St. Louis, as well.

  3. David,
    Apparently the author didn’t like it and refused to renew rights and it was tangled up in court. (I just dvred it, seeing the title and wondering if that was what it was – no stars); fortunately Turner copies the intro. Osborne explaind Turner finally got the rights last year and showed it at their summer festival; this (sometime lately?) was the first television run. Not much character development or dialogue but really big ideas – technology, communicaiton, heroism, wrapped up in a high budget early thirties show with really great visuals. Then, they saw a potential in films that isn’t always realized – they saw purpose and it gives you some moments when we see the bigger picture (of technology and geography). And that bigger picture from the sky and threading the Andes can be beautiful. Has an attractive stoicism and an impressive cast. I don’t think I’ve read the novel in thirty or forty years, so I can’t say much about its treatment. Obviously, he didn’t like it – but then, as Osborne observed, few authors like the screen versions.

  4. For one of my paid projects – I’ve been doing reading about the mail to the Western US – it was so essential, that people and commercial establishments even funded courier services between wsestern settlements (Salt Lake City and California) before the US government awarded contracts to carry the mail to companies like Butterfield, and to Russell Majors & Waddell. Originally, contracts by private companies to carry the mail westwards were much sought-after, and made the difference to those freight companies. Alas … that was then. This is now.

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