Post Offices

Sometimes I just know what I want to write, and other days the confluence of inbound email and other people’s thoughts and comments drives the train. In this case I don’t mean going Postal nor do I mean the kind of games that children play.

Rather, triggered by numerous requests for my mailing address (no, I need nothing with calories) and some interesting thoughts provided by Carmen:

 “the Post Office cut back its hours… I know – The Post Office is having budget problems.  But doing more with less is how businesses increase productivity. Doing less with less is how they fail.  So, what are we going to do when the PO fails?”

I started thinking of the role the Post Office plays in our lives.

A Postal Service is a unifying communications network used by ordinary people. Yes, postal services support government and businesses, but it is the average citizen who benefits or suffers the most depending on the availability of services. The written word is how we communicated for thousands of years before the electronic age. Those written words, in the form of papers and letters sent by individuals form a rich tapestry of history against which we can measure expansion, progress and the changes of society.

 Letters have been sent by ship, hand, donkey, mule train and the pony express. With the development of Franking, regulation, oversight and governmental responsibility for the system came into play. Probably because the government itself did not want to pay for the privilege of using the system for free (francus=free).

 I think that one of the current US postal problems stems from people trying to run it as a business. It can’t compete with UPS, DHL or FedEx. End result is that they are no longer handling the easy stuff on which they made money and now have only the difficult and high cost stuff on which they lose. It is a government decision – do we need postal?

 I keep thinking of David Brin’s “the Postman” (the book – skip the movie) or the social changes that came with the Pony express.  There is a need for written words to be moved and packages sent. Although the US is largely urban, there are vast tracks where the commercial, profit making entities do not provide service. Keeping the service to those areas of the country is important. It is part of what holds us together as a country and marks us as a modern nation, rather than back jungle of Africa.

 Prior to the electronic age, letters and cards from home were all that linked service members to their families when off to war for months and years. Mail call, getting a letter from home, was a major event. The military puts major effort into the postal system in order to keep the mail flowing in both directions. Just like in the civilian sector, the packages are increasing and the letters decreasing.

 But letters are precious. They represent time and effort far past that of an email or phone call. They are enduring, not requiring electricity to be enjoyed and savored. Those letters can be passed down to children, grandchildren, family members. They may be the only thing that remains from a service member lost in the war.

Packages are important, probably more for the sender than the receiver. But letters, now those have become special.

(who is musing about things and NOT asking for letters).

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4 Responses to Post Offices

  1. Angeluna says:

    Interesting musings. In tracking my family’s history, I have often been thankful that so many were prolific writers of letters. We have letters from the late 1600s. Letters from the Revolutionary war and the Civil War. The men’s letters from the various fronts and the women’s letters which were the fabric of holding together family relationships with sisters and mothers and cousins they would probably never see again if they had moved as pioneers to the south or west. That struck me strongly. These women said goodbye to everyone and everything they knew and loved, never to see them again, yet kept up with everything through letters. What will we leave our children and their children’s children? E-mails, text messages?

  2. Diane says:

    You have brought back many good memories. Nights sitting there with a tablet of air mail paper and writing lengthy letters to people that you never actually met in person but knew well through letters. When they sent photos it was a special treat. And occasionally, very occasionally if you had the money, you could actually call them to say merry Christmas. Did that once and what a thrill (the days when you had to call the operator and then wait for the connection and she would phone you back). It was also something to think of the distance the letters travelled and collecting all of the stamps. You are right, those were the days. Letter writing is, today, a bit of a dying art.

  3. Ruth says:

    Timely thoughts….that’s what these were for me. My number 3 son has been US Air Force property for just long enough that we received an address for him to receive mail at. Naturally, being “good” parents, we want to write to him during Basic and hear from him as well. There is no other method available, barring the odd phone call, for us to communicate with Jeremy. So, last night, when I wrote today’s blog entry, I stated a thankfulness for the Postal service. Not the first time for me to do so. Likely not the last.

  4. Ann says:

    In the electronic age, the decreased use of paper/pen will have repercussions for scholars. Can you imagine studying the e-mail correspondence (not to mention IM’s or Twits) of a modern author? In the absence of letters, the postal service is now the delivery method for JUNK!! It’s sad.

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