Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Postal: going.

“Sometimes the truth is arrived at by adding all the little lies together and deducting them from the totality of what is known.”
~Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

I have to say that the thought of the possible demise of the United States Postal Service saddens me. For all its flaws, there is something profound about the ability to send a card or a letter to a dear one anywhere in the country for less than a couple of quarters. Some emails may fill people with excitement, but I have a hard time mustering the affection for a pixelated missive to compare to that heartwarming spark in the nervous system that comes on holding a paper written to you by a loved one. It really is a precious thing.

I wonder if people even recognize their own parents'/children's handwriting any more?

What is wrong and has been wrong with the USPS is something I saw as a crushing weight within mere months of my employment there starting in 1985. I was grateful for a well-paying job, and in my 20s with no debts and no responsibilities, I lived quite well for the 9 years I worked there. However, I found disgusting the way the labor unions had effectively hobbled the entire system. Shitty employees rarely got fired, and good workers without the wisdom to suck up to the appropriate parties would sometimes lose their jobs over non-issues. It was a brutal system and I quickly learned to despise unions and their tactics.

So it has come to this: the USPS with its excessive benefits/compensation structures has reached a point of unsustainability and is most likely not long for this world. If I still worked there, this would be my 26th year. If I had stayed, it would only have been for the security, and today I'd be in the same position I now find myself: going to school to start another career.

Thank goodness I left 17 years ago, rather than riding it out because it was sensible-- I'd be very bitter now, because when I left after 9 years, at the ripe old age of 28-- I was already feeling quite burned.

And still, I believe in the romance and the institution of the post. I believe in being able to write heartfelt sentiments and know that they will be in the hands of a loved one far away in the mere space of a few days. Who will deliver our Christmas cards and our birthday greetings and missives of condolence when there is no more USPS? For all its flaws, I wish we could break the union chokehold and save the good core of the system, and let it move forward on a more sensible business model with benefits and compensation to employees commensurate with current market values, but that ain't gonna happen. I'm sad that sending letter is going to be a quaint, far-distant memory for a lot of us soon, and for a good chunk of the population, it will be a never-was.

Pity, that.


Auntie J said...

I love getting letters in the mail. Beats getting bills any day.

I'm actually about to send a silly card in the mail to a friend. He could use the pick-me-up.

Anonymous said...

If another, more profitable company say of the Brown or Blue persuasion, already outfitted for similar pursuits, were to purchase the smoldering ashes of the USPS and ressurrect it as a private enterprise without unions, it could become one of the best, most efficient in the world. Stamps might be more expensive, you would still enjoy the thrill of getting actual paper mail in the mailbox. Sadly, I agree with everything you wrote. (sigh)

Anonymous said...

No one recognizes my daughter's handwriting.

I wonder if they could survive if they tripled the cost for sending out all that those credit card offerings that never get opened.


Jess said...

I know someone that spent about 10 years as a carrier. They had horror stories of delivering the mail of another carrier that spent the day in a bar and would have to be helped to their car every evening. When he left, the drunk was still on some type of medical leave and drawing a check.

John B said...

If the job is worth doing, someone will do it. And actually I don't see the price of stamps going up. All those companies offering junk mail, they could start their own post. I guess they'll have to!

Anonymous said...

I sent a package to my husband in AfghanIraq for no more than $15. I wonder what's going to happen to THAT price when the USPS finally goes belly-up and can no longer afford to send those types of packages to our servicemembers overseas...

Library-Gryffon said...

Back when we lived in Virginia we discovered that our mailman would randomly send mail back with "No such street address" written on it. He was finally fired about three years after the first instance that we knew and complained of.

Right now, virtually nothing that comes to us in our nice regulation mailbox is actually worth opening. The bills are all taken care of online or at the office in cash, and pretty much everything else is ads that are chucked immediately, usually without even opening. I'd say it's unusual to get more than one piece of real, un-duplicated-by-email, mail in a week.

Perhaps if they declared bankruptcy they could restructure without the unions? Nahhh. Wouldn't happen.