15 April, 2009

US Postal Employees, Take Aim

The United States Postal Service announced several weeks ago that it will increase postage rates yet again this May. An additional two cents for first-class mail, plus who-knows-how-much more for larger items, irregularly shaped mailings, or anything exceeding that initial ounce — that's the increase. A hop over to USPS.gov might tell you, but, as I've not had Internet access since mid-2001, I can't. Somewhat ironically, it is my disconnected status that makes this information desirable,but, if I could point my browser anywhere, I wouldn't be in a position to care about the cost of postage.

What can I say about the Postal Service that hasn't been noted hundreds, perhaps thousands of times before? It is a creaky anachronism in so many respects, frequently more expensive and less reliable than its private sector competition. From my perspective, it owes its continued existence to catalog distributors, archaic bill-collection methods, Hallmark, the elderly, the incarcerated, coupon distributors, and the fact we are still unable to teleport our parcels of holiday cookies. Why would anyone else tolerate its slowness? Shuffling a letter someplace that takes only a few hours to reach by car should not take four days. That's just inexcusable. And yet the USPS continues to operate in this age of ones and zeroes.

The rate increase and the reported reconsideration of the economies of continued Saturday delivery have me wondering what a post-Postal Service America might look like. It's possible I lack some imagination, but aside from an absence of short pants traipsing through its neighborhoods six days a week, plus a slightly greater proliferation of UPS Stores, I believe the change would be modest. An uptick in e-mail volume would probably be noticed. Luddites, however, would probably continue their reliance on paper communiques, beginning right away with the inevitable salvo of angry letters to anyone and everyone of potential influence: Dear Mr. President..., Dear Senator So-and-So..., Dear Abby.... Coupon circulars would find other methods of distributing their clippy wares, and utility companies would ensure their customers were still conveniently billed every month.

The demise of the USPS may occur largely without mourning. Some neophytes, myself included, will even chuckle, ask a rhetorical, "What took so long?" and go back to not reading our newspapers.