Monday, September 19

There's No More Work at the Post Office

Wow, two obvious things. Obviously I haven't posted here in a long while, and obviously the biggest news pertaining to this blog, arguably, is that the United States Postal Service might close down for the entire winter. Given that the Christmas season is unquestionably the busiest time of the year for the Postal Service, wouldn't that be shooting itself in the foot?

They're worried about losing money, and they need a bailout from Congress to stay afloat, despite it being the hands-down most popular department of government. Currently they employ twice as many people as live in Minneapolis, MN, and slightly less than live in Austin, TX (they have 770,000 employees). Proposed solutions to save money include shutting down all winter, ceasing mail delivery on Saturdays, massive office shutdowns and layoffs, or repaying it the $6.9 billion it says it overpaid to its retirement program.

Guess which side the Republicans come down on. No, don't refund the Postal System and don't "prefund" its retiree benefits. Instead, suggests California Representative Darrell Issa, bust the unions (popular with Republicans and the corporations that employ them; unpopular with the working class) and layoff hundreds of thousands of employees. That said, the Postal Service itself has said it's prepared to fire/layoff over 200,000 employees, starting with several tens of thousands that don't currently enjoy layoff protection.

What's causing this turbulence? As a letter-writer and stationery-lover, of course I'm concerned with the state of the postal system. My understanding is, yes, the Postal Service indulges in some of the most generous benefits packages outside of Congress itself, and without doing any research one can estimate the rise of e-correspondence has substantially compromised mail trade, from writing personal letters to bill-paying. I'm not anti-progress. I'm a huge fan of Google and all its online advances, I love tracking the cutting edge of social media. All these wonderful new ways to express and transmit new categories of information... but I don't want to lose writing letters. E-mail programs have dabbled with fanciful online templates and designs for their missives, but who uses them? They're clunky and frequently ugly, they soak up memory and processing, and sometimes they actually get in the way of the written material itself.

We don't have penmanship courses in school anymore--sometimes I wish we did, but these have been subsumed by typing classes, and who can say those aren't more relevant to today's world, aesthetics aside? Recent generations have been inadvertently cultivated to have shorter attention spans, so to ask a young adult to find the discipline to practice clear, attractive handwriting is hopeless. It'd be like asking someone to go offline for three days: sounds great on paper but in practice it's an exercise in neurosis.

And no, I'm not bemoaning the loss of the good ol' days. There were none: dentistry and medical technology are the best they've ever been. Today our postal carriers don't have to fight through Injuns or bandits or anything. We've got brand-new problems that prior generations couldn't possibly have dreamed of in the most speculative fiction. They didn't have the technology. Here, you try it: imagine the most advanced technology you can think of, at the consumer level, and then try to project the problems suffered by the generation that uses it. Then wait 30 years and see if you were right.

So what am I saying here? I'm expressing my concern at losing the post office--Saturdays, I could adjust to, but the whole winter?--but I can also totally see how it happened. It's a reasonable, if unfortunate, eventuality. I'm not pleased with this outcome but I don't see any reasonable solutions, so in the meantime I'm just going to keep writing letters to friends for as long as I have the infrastructure to do so. I recommend you do the same.

1 comment:

The Missive Maven said...

Default does not mean closure. Have a look at this post on Your Postal Blog and some of the links on my post about this issue. The mail will continue to be delivered, although it seems more than likely now that we'll drop down to 5-day delivery.