To Mail, or Not to Mail

The art of handwritten notes and loving touch of personalized packages is slowly dying out. With all of our technology, there hardly seems to be a use for handwritten letters. Bills are typed and printed on paper before being stuffed in an envelope for stamping and mailing. Interpersonal communication with people outside of our immediate grasp now tends to come in text form on our cell phones or typed emails from our computers, but sometimes we’re even messaging someone we’re in the same room with. That’s something I’m still guilty of. The one piece of printed mail I still look forward to receiving is a check, but lately, that hasn’t been as exciting, but it certainly has been stress inducing.

Across the country, people like myself are waiting. Low income employees are waiting on mailed in payment checks from their employers and stimulus checks from the government, health conscious Americans are waiting on detox tea shipments, and the average sustainable girl is probably twiddling her thumbs waiting on a Poshmark or Thredup shipment. The harsh reality is that even with Trump physically out of the White House, we’re still feeling the effects of his term in our homes and wallets. During his term, the United States Postal Service (USPS) was- and still remains- a Republican majority which, is headed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who is hell bent on delaying mail delivery. He told Congress that he plans to be in leadership a long time and to, “Get used to it.”. His actions, quite frankly, have been unjust. According to a Mother Jones article, in an attempt to rectify this wrong, President Biden announced on February 24, 2021, the three nominees to the Postal Service Board of Governors. Such a move would tilt the nine-member board in favor of Democrats and could potentially lead to the removal of troublesome Postmaster General Louis DeJoy who is a big supporter of the former Potus ideals. The ridiculous slogan, “Make America Great Again”, should be transfigured to, “Make the USPS great again”, but that leads to questions in the vein of, “Was it ever great?”

The USPS began it’s mailing service with mailing newspapers and graduated to letters and then packages (people no longer included). In 1913, the Postmaster General received a letter inquiring about the appropriate way to wrap a baby; the customer noted that the Post Office was more trustworthy than the privately owned companies it competed against, which would be too “rough in handling.” according to National Geographic article, The tumultuous history of the U.S. Postal Service– and it’s constant fight for survival. Thankfully, shortly after that letter, it was regulated that mailing people was prohibited. The USPS noted ease of accessibility and reliability made them an asset and an integral part of showing this country’s strength in connecting people while braving the elements to make home deliveries. Author of the article, Boyce Upholt also mentions that the Constitution granted the federal government the power to establish “post roads,” which by 1823 spanned more than 80,000 miles. By 1860, these roads linked 28,000 post offices, where people sometimes waited in long lines to pick up their mail in an era before home delivery. Can you imagine waiting in a long line for mail today, especially in this Covid-19 world where the lines are even longer because of the need for 6 feet of distance between strangers? I can, and it isn’t pretty. The US Postal Service has come a long way, but despite the flexibility and evolution, it stills seems like it’s degenerating.

About a month or so ago, I found myself the winner of an online sweepstakes. After sending my mailing information, and receiving my USPS tracking information, I began the routine of habitually checking the tracking progress and staring out the window every time a mail truck came by. A week went by and nothing. The tracking would show it’s most recent scanning zone, but wouldn’t give an estimated time of arrival. When my package finally arrived the following week, I was unaware because the USPS service didn’t offer a text service to let me know my package had arrived and been sent back to the Post Office. Imagine my surprise and frustration when I went to the tracking site and saw that update. When I went to check the mailbox, I saw the note left that said they returned the package to the Post Office because my package was too big for the package slot. Ten minutes later, I found myself in the line at the Post Office waiting to pick up both my packages, of which only one remained. The other box had been returned to sender and needless to say, I never received that second package. When I got home, however, I opened my package and saw the contents were in a bit of disarray. I can only imagine what that box had to endure en route. There are videos circulating the internet today that highlight the differences between shipping services, and the depiction of the USPS seems comical, yet accurate.

Youtube: Amazon Prime vs. FedEx vs. UPS vs. USPS

The age of the internet has made things incredibly accessible; clothing, food, car parts, etc. With shipping services like the USPS, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon Prime, we can order practically anything online and have it shipped directly to our homes and places of work, but the reliability of the USPS is under heavy scrutiny right now. What happens when the middle man, like the USPS doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain? What happens when packages get mishandled or delayed in transportation? This delay in the mailing service isn’t good for businesses both big and small that offer direct shipping options. The delay could cause patrons to go to other shipping services such as UPS and FedEx for the shipping of their goods, but the way Amazon is expanding, they may as well throw their hat in the ring too. I don’t know what will happen with the future of shipping services, but I do know that if things continue the way they are presently with the U.S. Postal service, it will only go downhill from here and things like handwritten thank you notes and pen pal letters may become a thing of the past.

I truly find joy in receiving handwritten mail and I wish I could say that I remembered my first letter received in the mail, but I don’t. It might have been a birthday card or Christmas card from my agoraphobic grandmother in Durham, North Carolina. What I do remember, however, is the feeling of excitement in my belly. The texture of the paper envelope and my need to meticulously open it so I could save it. Letter opening is a mindful experience for me. To this day, I save all my Birthday cards, Christmas cards, and “Congratulations Graduate!” cards in a black cloth bag for safe keeping and perhaps one day I’ll upgrade their haven to a sentiment box from Marshalls, Ross, or TJ Maxx. Either way, I’m keeping them safe because they hold valuable space in my life because there are elements in handwritten notes that a technology generated note can’t convey. President Biden certainly has his hands full with this administration, but I pray this nomination goes well and soon so the joy of receiving mail can be restored.

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