Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

on the post office

Some folks believe that criticizing the post office is a worth-while endeavor. I am of a different faith. Like the State of New York in the old film "The Miracle on 34th Street", I am "second to none" in my "admiration for the Post Office". Although I love the instant nature and sci-fi wonder of e-mail, the decline in postal volume due to the mass exodus to electronic mail put a bit of a dent in the post office business model. I think sometimes that we have entered a world in which people fly everywhere, consume everything, and irrevocably alter everything, when we used to live in a world in which people wrote letters, read picture books about everything, and treated their own environs as holding a potential vacation-land. I do not believe that pristine foreign beaches are improved by the luxury hotels spawned by "go all over the earth and scorch and burn it" way of living.

I remember the days when shopping was done less by car, and more by mail. Perhaps growing up in a small town 83 miles from the city affected my views. We went to the city to shop only a time or three a year. We did a great deal of shopping from the Sears Roebuck catalogs, from the J.C. Penney catalog, and from the Spiegel catalog. In an era before the internet and before Wal-Mart, we could buy almost everything useful, and get it quickly by mail. In that time, Sears' store brands--particularly for appliances and tools--spelled quality. In those days, when one had a customer complaint, one wrote to the vendor, and received a letter back.

I like that some modern things encourage use of the mails--eBay, Etsy, and even Amazon use the mails in ways I consider useful and constructive. The internet even facilitates all sorts of mail-order small businesses which could not have developed a following in the pre-web era. Yet I feel badly for our post-office, which is wrong-sized for its cash-flow stream.

I went yesterday to a local Garland postal station. This little post office is not the main post office in the town, but a little satellite station. I like the staff there. They work consistently, and they're usually quite friendly. I'm sometimes amused by the other customers there. Most are just fine, but a few consider waiting in line for a rather short time to be a glowing example of Government Slacker-ism and Our Misdirected Tax Dollars. I imagine, based on the evidence of my own eyes, that this same sort thinks nothing of waiting 20 minutes for a table at a chain restaurant or will drive forty minutes across the city in bumper-to-bumper traffic to go to a distant mall instead of a perfectly adequate local mall. Yet some days in line you'd imagine I was in line with an oppressed people because one postal clerk can only wait on one of six people at a time.

I dislike vicious spirals. As the Post Office loses money, things contract a bit. Yesterday I took four postcards, the products of the modest response to an "I'll send you a postcard with stickers of my photographs on it" poll I ran here on LiveJournal. When I arrived at the post office, there was no longer any machine where I could buy postcard stamps. I stood in a short line, and asked for postcard stamps. The clerk said she did not have any 28 cent stamps. This is a marked departure from an earlier era, when postcard stamps, like First Class stamps, would be handy and plentiful. I was intrigued that little enough call for a postcard stamp existed to justify her having the 28 cent stamp. The situation was a "not to worry" situation,
because she sold me 10 cent, 5 cent, and 3 cent stamps, and I was in good order. She also went to the back and got me several of those cool postcards with the postage on the card. I got 20 or so, though I rarely send postcards. I felt, somehow, for a moment, that I should send more.

My nostalgia for the past has taken a quasi-economic turn. I want to send things in the mail. I want to buy cars from Detroit. I want to take my weekends away in places near the town in which I live. I want to walk and bicycle more, rather than burn as much gas on leisure activities. I want to visit the library, buy local produce, and eat more vegetables grown in the Texas/Oklahoma border area.

But I live my life in very small steps. Yesterday I took 4 postcards and festooned them with 3 Moo stickers each. I affixed to each 2 10 cent stamps, 1 nickel stamp, and 1 stamp worth 3 cents. I mailed them to locales varied widely by geography. I wonder if they're arrive--my index cards were a bit thinner than the usual postcard stock.

I live in a world in which I love the images on stamps, and asking Radio Shack to deliver my order to a local store for pick-up. I long for little more than an inexpensive used cruiser bicycle, and a chance to kayak the Brazos River. I am not sure of all the right paths forward, even as I am becoming sure that the tragedy affecting the people of Japan will cause drastic economic dislocation far from the shores of that wonderful country. But I am pretty sure that the right answer comes from a mail-order catalog, ordered using the kind of stamps one licks.

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