My Alna P.O. is teeny, with less floor space in the lobby than my horse’s stall. Mike’s Walpole P.O. is about the same size. Granted, I rarely mail anything anymore and may have an OCD issue with opening mail—I don’t, if I can possibly avoid it. That doesn’t mean I don’t cherish the personal and tactile experience of receiving and sending cards and letters. Eli’s boxes of goodies from his Florida grandfather create a excitement like little else around here. [n.b.--the image is Alna's Meeting House. About four Alna Post Offices would fit inside it. Incidentally, I am recently of the opinion that Alna was named for a Norwegian town on the outskirts of Oslo.]
Mike has more to say about the USPS.
The handwritten scrawl of a person you know, love, or perhaps despise lies before you, like an uninvited guest or a birthday present. Your name on the oblong square of an envelope, you rip open the glued flap, stopping on your way to glance at W. E. B. DuBois, Ida Tarbell, Superman or other icon of civilized life framed neatly in the world of a stamp. Inside, in uneven curls and crosses, words flow across the page you are about to unfold. With the ongoing surge in electronic communication, the United States Postal Service could become a relic sooner than we think.
The warning comes from William Burrus, president of the American Postal Workers Union, addressed to Postmaster General John Potter. Given a projected 9 billion drop in pieces of mail delivered in fiscal year 2008, Burrus said unless something dramatic happens, the postal service faces its “demise” on Potter’s watch.
Among the factors accounting for the drop in traffic – ten times the 902 million drop in pieces of mail handled during the previous fiscal year – are a surge in the use of email replacing letters, and a drop in real estate and financial market advertising.
Handwritten words, like body language, communicate something about the sender. I remember the hastily penciled letters a friend showed me, written by his father from behind French hedgerows in World War Two. I see also in mind’s eye my grandmother’s shaky handwritten notes before she was diagnosed with dementia, the drunken loops of a father reporting golf statistics on the occasion of having golfed more than 188 times during the year, and the all seeing eyes and smiley faces my mother sometimes draws at the bottom of her letters, usually before some personal hurricane rips across the landscape of her life.
Instant messages, on the other hand, sentences marshaled in straight lines, text charged with cyber slang, lack the tangibles of a handwritten letter. And by it, something familiar slips out of this world.
According to Wikipedia, the USPS is the third largest employer after the Department of Defense and Wal-Mart. While cruise missiles and cheap Chinese shirts might serve a purpose, however dubious, I submit that handwritten letters would better guarantee the peace and the economy.
Founded in 1775 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia following the Second Continental Congress, the post office has been a staple of American life, as empowered by Article One of the Constitution. These days, with unwarranted wiretaps, unlawful searches and seizures and the establishment of a private militia on American soil (Blackwater), the constitution appears to be no guarantee.
Take a few minutes to set pen to paper this week. For 42 cents a handwritten letter would not only to encourage a friend, it might also preserve a venerable institution.
A long time high school English teacher, now mostly writing, I wish I could say I love my new vocation.
I don't. Though I have loved a steady news reporting gig, I've apparently outlived that work and haven't quite made the leap to monetizing by page views.
It's as if I hit my stride as a horse and carriage driver about the time Ford popularized the Model-T. My particular skill with a buggy whip seems a little redundant, at least in Maine where excellent writers are thick on the ground.
For now, I produce feature copy for a highbrow glossy real estate shopper called OpenFences, and am picking away at My Mother's Recipe Box, a project/paper meant to get me to the last stage of a ridiculously protracted master's degree in American and New England Studies.
However, I do love to travel. I've been to four of the six continents, every state in the Union but Alaska, and five Canadian provinces. With some luck, maybe I'll find a way to wrangle some writing assignments out of my devotion to the road.
On this blog, sometimes I write about high quality education, food, safe homes and workplaces, and reliable health care for all. Other times I don't.