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.