As I watched my mail carrier drive down the street below my office window, I was reminded of the days when that would happen, and I’d immediately go out to the mailbox to see what treasures awaited me.
Monday was especially bountiful, because with no Sunday delivery and Saturdays seeming to be only junk mail, plenty of real mail would travel over the weekend and arrive at my mailbox on Monday afternoon.
What would it be? A CD I’d ordered? A book from Amazon? A bill to pay? (Yes, I do derive a distinct pleasure from paying my bills on time every time.)
That was then and this is now. These days I download my music and books, my bills come to me via email, and almost all my parcels — and there are a lot of them — seem to arrive via UPS, FedEx, or some other similar service.
That’s not to say that the USPS is dead to me. I still receive important items through regular mail. In fact, my Square reader arrived in my mailbox last week sometime, and small-scale entrepreneurs on tight budgets use the USPS to mail me packages, so I still look at the post office as the provider of a valuable service.
However, I no longer have the same sense of excited anticipation on mail days. Hell, sometimes when I’m out walking the dog, I even check the mail, if we stroll past the community mailbox … and leave it in there. Admittedly, though, most days I don’t bother to check it at all.
I know there are a lot of jobs — about 600,000 of them as of January, 2014 — depending on the post office’s continuing its current operations, but with the USPS bleeding money (it lost $5 billion in 2013), the status quo does not seem to make business sense. For me, mail delivery twice, maybe three times a week would be plenty, and I’m guessing many other Americans have the same feeling.
So why do we hold on to the USPS and daily mail delivery? Simple — because, like any relationship that’s run its course, it’s easier to stay in the relationship than to let it go. After all, the USPS isn’t abusing us — well, unless you go to my post office on De Zavala Road, where the service was so bad that I moved my paid mailbox from there to the UPS store across the street at three times the cost. It’s not cheating on us — well, unless you count its being in bed with both FedEx and UPS, providing final destination delivery for cut rates to those carriers.
Hmmmmm…. Maybe it is time to break up with the USPS. It’s a mess, and, I mean, really, who’s got mail anymore, anyway?
WAIT! My April issue of MAD Magazine just arrived. In my mailbox. I know that paper magazines were supposed to have been dead by 2014, but I’ve tried electronic versions of magazines. You know what? I stare at a screen all day at work, and I enjoy a break from that. Plus, I know many of you do it, but I’m not taking my tablet into the bathroom with me. I still consider that to be “ew”.
Okay, so, howzabout we reconfigure the USPS into a magazine and greeting card — I don’t send them, but I know people still do — delivery service. Well, hold on, if you toss junk mail and cheap parcels into the mix, I guess that pretty much covers the primary functions of the USPS. If that’s the case, then delivery 3 times a week is more than adequate, and they can step it up around major mailing periods, you know, as if they were a real business.
So what’s the problem? Simple. While the USPS has not used taxpayer dollars since 1982, it is still controlled by Congress, and Congress does not seem to want to allow the USPS to run itself efficiently. Of course, we could ask for some common sense from our legislators, but I suspect that as long as FedEx and UPS continue their lobbying efforts — both are classified as “Heavy Hitters” by OpenSecrets.org — the USPS will remain hamstrung.
Until then, we may not want or need it, but, yup, we’ve got mail.