New Post Office schedule changes everything, but nothing at all


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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Some meandering thoughts that might just eventually connect…

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Post Office was closed the other morning.

I found that out by trying the door myself.

Had a package.

Door was locked.

It’s my fault. I forgot it was a holiday.

Happens every so often (especially on a few Mondays, when something like President’s Day or Columbus Day can sneak up on you). Suddenly there you are, standing in front of the Post Office branch, package in hand, and the door is locked.

And all you can do is pause for a moment… make a face and think “duh” about your error… and turn back to the car.

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Do you use direct deposit?

I remember… years (and years) ago… when I first signed up for it with an employer. Chances are the presentation and introduction I was given was quite similar to what you may have experienced.

One of the advantages they bragged about? Getting paid early.

Which, of course, is a flat out lie.

Oh sure, it looks early. Perhaps your company distributes checks on a Thursday or a Friday… checks are cut on Monday… and the company’s direct deposit is done at the same time checks are cut. Bibbidi -- bobbidi -- boo… you get the money early.

But the reality is, once you get past the deposit of that first check, the paycheck ends up in your account on a schedule. And whether that is once a week or once every other week, it is usually following the same distribution rate as the live checks.

Now… fair enough… many companies are getting away from live checks completely. And electronic banking is taking over the world. Still… here’s the big thing…

The real benefit of direct deposit is not getting your funds early… it’s getting your funds even when the bank is closed. Because technological advance be darned, you can’t cash a check or do more than an ATM deposit of a check when the branch is closed.

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The Post Office has been making suggestions based on cutting costs.

Realistically, technology has run roughshod over traditional mail. No need for a long explanation there, since we’re all familiar with the concept. I can send an e-mail to my family in Australia and have it arrive in seconds. Essentially for free. Not quite the same deal with that letter I placed in an envelope and sent on its way to Sydney.

Some of their suggestions include reorganizing the way they handle their packages and other services. Some of their suggestions include revisions of operations, such as cutting off weekend deliveries of most items to homes and businesses.

The thing to understand is… as incredible as their service is when you begin to consider it… their model for operations needs to change. And they are, for lack of a better word, regulated in ways that don’t change quickly.

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I enjoy the good old days of letters and mail.

Some people occasionally call it an art, and I actually think that’s fair when considering letter writing.

For me, it created a connection between people… in a way heightened by the appreciation of the effort… that e-mail doesn’t quite match.

When I was in college, my grandmother used to stay in contact with me by mail. This was pretty much an age of no e-mail… long distance charges for phone calls that had you considering whether or not to make a call (and how long to stay on the line when you did)… and sending a letter from one side of the country to the other would run you about a quarter.

Nana would take her copy of our hometown paper, clip out comics and articles by columnists she knew I read regularly, and then place them in an envelope along with a letter. A few days later, the care package envelope would arrive at my dorm.

Others would send me letters during those days as well, and I made it a point to always respond the same day I received a letter. A quick turnaround made it possible to exchange details with a person once or twice each week.

(Imagine that. Hearing from a person once or twice each week! Incredible.)

Amazingly… perhaps… as technology has improved, my skills have worsened. There will come a point when I will sit down and send out all of my overdue e-mails and letters, and return the phone calls. But it likely won’t be today. And, try as I might, it likely won’t be tomorrow.

(I only hope my friends understand.)

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Over the years, the everyday interaction with the U.S. Post Office for most people has changed. And, it has changed significantly.

This idea that people need mail delivered to their homes on a Saturday is silly.

In this 24/7 world, the weekend isn’t exactly what it was even ten years ago. The simple reality is that once a short adjustment period has passed, there really won’t be a difference. It might take a billing cycle or two… for those of us that still mail bill payments in with checks… but the reality is the drop from six days of delivery to five would effectively be meaningless.

Hey… in some ways I get it. I wish there were still two editions of the daily newspaper. That ship has sailed, and it is never returning. But simply put, if your life is based around the mail you receive on a Saturday, we need to find you a better hobby.

We learn to remember when the Post Office is closed on holidays… we’ll learn to work our lives around the Post Office not delivering mail on Saturdays.

Businesses succeed and fail… open and close… adapt and adjust… all the time. That the USPS should be any different… despite the tremendous history of efforts and the service network involved… is a bit naïve, and quite likely part of the problem.

A large part.

Over the next few years, as technology continues to improve, offer new services and options (many of which we never knew we needed), and even replace things we tend to take for granted, it will be up to the Post Office to keep up. (Which, again, is not really something they’ve proven to be magnificent at so far.)

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I am today… as I have been for many years… one of the cheerleaders and supporters of the United States Postal Service.

In the cup holder of your car… on a counter or in a bowl at home… someplace, you have two quarters just sitting around. And I still think it’s incredible that those two quarters can send a letter across the country.

Fifty-cents is hardly enough to buy the gas you need to get to and from work every day (and likely isn’t enough).

Fifty-cents won’t buy you a copy of today’s local newspaper in most places.

Fifty-cents is certainly too little to get a cup of coffee.

But turn those two quarters into postage, and a card or a letter will be carried from the mailbox you place it in to the address you write on it -- Florida to Rhode Island -- Maryland to California -- and most stops in between.

A new schedule and other assorted business-related decisions won’t change how vast and, honestly, fascinating it is to get your letter mailed. The price might change a bit… the pick-up from the blue bin might change… and even a few other elements might change a bit.

But the world is changing too.

When I was younger, a neat trick was the understanding that there was going to be a mailbox in the parking lot of your bank. Of course there was… when you went out to run your errands, the list of grocery store, bank, post office was just about as set as a grocery list that started with bread, eggs and milk.

It’s been years since I’ve seen a bank and a mailbox share a parking lot.

The changes have been happening all along. You may not have even noticed. And more changes are on the way. But the timeless elements remain unappreciated.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at