Garbage In, Garbage Out

The post office keeps threatening to declare bankruptcy, but as with a diva who has long ago lost her glow, it’s questionable as to whether many people will notice.

The arrival of the mail used to be one of the highlights of my day. You never knew when you’d get a letter from an aunt or a great-uncle or a pen pal (do kids still have pen pals, or are they now just Facebook friends?). I still remember the frisson I got when, unaware that an entire cadre of east coast relatives, upon receiving my high school graduation announcement, would begin writing checks send them off to me with congratulations.

Letters were important because phone calls were expensive. Those were the days when my parents would yell, “Keep it short, it’s long distance.” When was the last time you heard somebody say that?

Now phone calls are cheap and e-mail is plentiful. The post office is this amazing piece of Benjamin Franklin-invented infrastructure that delivers mail anywhere in the U.S. within a couple of days, but technology has made it almost obsolete. Those massive halls of mail-processing fervor echo with diminished amounts of mail. Imagine what our roads will look like after someone invents teleportation or jetpacks.

Here’s my idea for fixing the post office: Stop delivering crap every day.

What was once a highly efficient system for delivering mail is now a highly inefficient system for delivering garbage. Think about it: most of what arrives now is second- and third-class mail. Someone hired by the government delivers it. Most days the mailers and the catalogs and the other stuff I don’t want come out of the mailbox and don’t even make it to the kitchen table; they’re dropped in the recycling bin first. Then once a week, I roll the recycling bin out to the curb, where someone working for a different government entity picks it up. That’s just wrong.

But it was my inspiration for how to fix the system. If the garbage is only picked up once a week, then why not just drop it off once a week?

I know there will be days when I’ll look in the mailbox and see nothing there, and I’ll wonder if that day is a holiday that I’ve forgotten, but I can live with that. I have absolutely no problem with receiving all my magazines and privacy notices and Val-Pak coupons one day a week. The other days of the week, feel free to deliver first-class mail – the checks, the bills, the birthday cards, the love letters, the thank-you notes, the Netflix envelopes – whenever there are any. Imagine how quickly mail carriers could blanket their neighborhoods. They’d only have to stop at every fourth house, and could be done by lunchtime.

Of course, they’d still have to figure out the logistics of deploying the right number of carriers to accommodate that huge pig-in-a-python one-day junk mail delivery. Or they could just box it up and have UPS deliver it.

Note from the author: Middle Age Cranky at 100: Fine Whines & Muddled Memories, a compilation of my first 100 columns, is now available as an e-book at Smashwords and other digital bookstores.


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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9 Responses to Garbage In, Garbage Out

  1. This is the most cogent idea I’ve heard of how to “phase out” something that is almost at it’s natural end-of-life. You simply must run for public office.

    • Thanks for the endorsement, Marty, but I’m just an idea man. There’s a whole subtext of how to get such an idea past the unions, and that will take more savvy than I have in my bag of tricks!

  2. Faith Rogers says:

    But what about the employment aspects? How will those mail deliverers make their mortgage or rent payments?

    • So we should keep paying them even though there’s no work? If we did that for every career that got subsumed by technology, we’d have more people not working than working.

    • gingerR says:

      The one day a week would rotate. They can early-retire a bunch of people off. A lot of other mail activity is contracted, poof — they never existed.

  3. Jean says:

    You are GENIOUS!

    Feeling particularly cranky this week, I was wondering if it was just my age. I mean, older people are usually cranky, and I’m getting . . . well . . . older. So I Googled “Why do people get cranky as they age?” and I found your blog. I can’t wait to read more after work!


    • Aw, shucks.
      I’ve often wondered why we get more cranky as we age. Is it because our bodies get more creaky? Is it because our minds get more crumbly? Or is it because we remember the way things were and wish they were that way again? Or is it because we have trouble reconciling the two? I love the 21st century’s relaxed attitudes about so many things, but I mourn the diminishment of the social contract (basically, how we treat each other). I love technology, but I’m not going to text someone who isn’t there when the person I love is standing right next to me.
      What a world, what a world.

      • Jean says:

        I’m still thinking about this. Do you think we could just put our recycling box out and they would drop it right in there? Then wheel it out to the curb! I think you’re onto something.

  4. Pingback: The Tax Man Cometh and Supporteth Idiocy | Middle-Age Cranky

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