USPS, You’re Losing Me

USPSIn spite of everything, I’ve always been a defender of the United States Postal Service. When a conservative Congress forced them to sock away an inordinately large and unnecessary amount into their pension fund in an effort to drive them into insolvency, I was sympathetic. When they faced opposition in their money-saving proposal to end Saturday delivery, I was supportive. (I have no problem receiving Saturday’s stack of junk mail on Monday.) And when anti-union people rail about generous benefits accruing to postal workers, I remind them “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” the unofficial creed of the Constitution-mandated postal service.

And how has this loyalty been rewarded? Let me tell you.

My husband is fighting a serious illness, something we wrote about in last year’s Christmas letter, so he wanted this year’s letter to go out early to assure friends and relatives that he is not dead. We purchased the paper and envelopes in the summer and wrote the letter immediately after Thanksgiving. In the first week of December, I delivered 171 stamped letters to the post office (yes, it’s a large mailing list). The next day, a dozen or more were delivered to our own mailbox. I stormed down to the post office with the stack in hand, ready to do battle, but the clerk in the nicest possible way told me the mistake was mine: I never should have put my return address on the envelope’s back flap even though there was a specially designated area there for just that sort of thing. “I always tell people not to do that because it confuses the machine,” she said.

She added that I would not have to pay for the postage and then grabbed a marker and drew big black lines across the machine’s printing on the front and back of each envelope before tossing them into a box for re-delivery. I shuddered at the desecration inflicted on an envelope printed with doves of peace and told myself to live with it. The next day, one more letter came back to us. That one I made a new envelope for.

Having never been in the inner recesses of any post office, I have no idea of the procedures once the mail leaves my hands. Are there robots back there, feeding mail into machines? Are some of the workers visually impaired, a good thing for the post office to do just not in that particular job. And what about the delivery person, a nice friendly guy who is frequently replaced by strangers? Did nobody notice something odd about envelopes with stamps on one side and an address on the reverse? I tried to put it all out of my mind.

Until I began to wonder about the others. Were people receiving them or are stacks sitting in some postal facility in Tennessee? I have begun asking people if they’ve received the letter, something I’d rather not do as it puts them on the spot. Perhaps they looked at the envelope and thought, “Oh God, here’s that awful letter she always sends. I’ll read it after the holidays, if at all.” Our New York daughter said, “I don’t know. It could be here in this pile of mail I haven’t had time to look at.” Our Los Angeles daughter said, “No, we didn’t get it and I wondered why.”

So now I’ll spend the entire holiday season waiting for a giant stack of letters to come back to us, maybe in February. Thanks a lot, postal service.

5 comments on “USPS, You’re Losing Me

  1. Dorothy Woodson says:

    Dear Pat, I received your, as always, informative and lovely Xmas letter, but did wonder why it came so early. I have not even begun to think about cards. It’s been busy and I must give you a call to catch up. I shall attempt to do so this week, before a ton of people descend upon me.

    I am relieved that Ed has tolerated his treatment so well and I wish you guys the very best new year.

    Xoxoxo, Dorothy

    Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2014 20:55:43 +0000 To:

    • patnieder says:

      So now you know. Never been so early and found myself wondering what to do with the rest of December (kidding). This whole thing with the post office is so bizarre. Our next-door neighbor did not receive hers, but people around the corner did. Some cards coming to us reference the letter and some do not. Ah well, the best laid plans…

  2. Roger Keyser says:

    Pat, we also received ours, nice and early. What a shame that the one year that you spent extra effort to be sure the letters arrived on time, instead you uncovered a technology snag in the USPS automation.

    I have been avoiding Snail Mail for years, especially since the majority of what arrives in our mailbox is junk which we put straight to the recycle bin or the shredder. However, I have been impressed lately that when we do send something via USPS, it sometimes makes it across the country in a day or two.

    I am also surprised, but pleased, to see some packages we order from Amazon being delivered on Sunday by USPS (although not our regular carrier person). It is encouraging to see a semi-governmental organization wake up to the profit motives of private enterprise. Who would have guessed? Maybe they will survive, after all.

    I wish their clever automation technology, which reads the address and sends the letters through the system without human assistance, had included logic to only send to the address on the same side as the stamps. That’s a big “oops”, but unlikely to get fixed anytime soon. Meanwhile, any envelopes with the return address on the back, no matter how pretty, need to go to the recycle bin. Too bad. Caveat emptor.

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