Saturday, November 19, 2011

Please, Mister Postman

"No mail days are sad days." That was the caption underneath a drawing of a GI staring into an empty mailbox that my wife once sent to a friend. I understand this. For as long as I can remember, going to the mailbox to check the contents Monday through Saturday has been part of a life-affirming ritual. For a few years when I first moved to California, my wife and I had to walk up the street to retrieve all our letters, packages and postcards from one of those little post office boxes: with the key and the little door behind which all manner of circulars, magazines and catalogs could be stuffed. And every so often there would be a little slip of paper. I always greeted these with a mix of excitement and trepidation. If there was a package back there, somewhere, I could ring a bell and the mail droid would exchange the slip for a box at the window that opened at the far end.
Sometimes, no one was there, and I would have to walk down the street, poring over the letters and numbers on that slip, trying to figure out what might be waiting for me when the post office personnel returned the next day. Now I wonder how much more anticipation I will have to suffer as the United States Post Office expects to run out of cash in September of 2012. That could mean fewer deliveries. That could mean no more packages delivered or exchanged for those little slips. It will most definitely mean that stamps will be more expensive.
What am I willing to do to keep this from happening? Will I stop sending e-mail to friends and family? Can I imagine a form of communication that relies on the sure-footed clear heads of postal employees across this great land of ours? Could I have that package sent USPS instead of UPS?
Here's a little truth: My grandfather was a mailman. He delivered letters and packages and postcards back in Salina, Kansas seventy-some years ago. I never knew the man. When we finally met, he was in failing health on a bed in a rest home. Still, somehow I took this association as a badge of honor, much in the way that others salute the flag in honor of their grandfathers who fought in the war. I salute the mail carriers. I am considering printing this one out and putting copies in envelopes, the analog way. But don't sit by your mail box waiting.

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