I just heard a story (https://preview.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=131447482&live=1) on NPR’s Weekend Edition about how the US Postal Service, once again, is in trouble. They’re considering canceling Saturday delivery, and closing more Post Offices around the country. This makes me very sad, and also concerns me on many levels.
Having run a business in the past in which the USPS was my primary method of shipping, I know that a customer getting a package on a Saturday instead of Monday is a “Big Deal.” It allows them to use their ordered item several days earlier, and satisfys their desire for having their item as quickly as possible. It also means that I was able to SHIP items on Saturday morning, allowing my customers to get an item on Monday or Tuesday that otherwise they would have gotten on Wednesday or Thursday. And it’s done so using the most economical and efficient delivery service in the world.
As a consumer who recieves his medications in the mail, having it arrive on Saturday rather than Monday means that I don’t go without medications that do little things like keeping my blood pressure out of the danger zone. It means, for some people, having their paycheck, Social Security check, welfare check or retirement payment for the weekend, rather than the next week. It’s psychologically comforting to know that there is only one day that these things aren’t delivered, and that is on Sunday.
Being a child of a digital age, I was probably the first person many of you know who used e-mail, I am all about progress and technological growth. Sure, instant delivery is nice when it comes to a quick note or even a long letter… But let’s face it… Electronic Christmas cards, birthday cards and greetings are lame. I didn’t look forward to an email with a gift code when I was a kid, I looked forward to a card filled with quarters, or a dollar bill. And there is no greater joy than recieving a package from a far-off relative, or someone overseas, or even just a physical post card rubbing our noses in the fact that a friend is in paradise, at least for a week.
Progress is great, it has it’s place in our lives, in medicine, in computers, in automobiles and appliances. However, anachronisms are wonderful, too! While the USPS is a modern company meeting modern needs, it is also somewhat of a pleasant anachronism. In an age of “press 1 for English,” you walk into your post office, or greet your carrier, and they are pleased to see you, genuinely offer good service, and usually a smile. We’re an electronic society that is losing touch with many of the physical joys of our world… The simple, tactile ones such as tearing open a greeting card, or seeing the beauty of a foreign stamp. All of which, and so much more, provided to us 6 days a week by the US Postal Service. This service is in trouble, bleeding money like a trauma victim, and very much likely to go away if we do not see it for the national treasure that it is. It’s not only about efficieny. It’s about connecting our past and our present, about maintaining our sense of humanity through human contact and interaction. It’s about opening that card full of quarters on our fourth birthday.
I think I’m not going to send out any electronic greetings for the upcoming holiday season. I think I am actually going to mail out cards this year. It’s the least I can do for a service that has done so much for me.