The post office has been in the news lately.
A lot in the news.
It's never a good sign when something we take so much for granted suddenly blips onto the radar. Built into the granted-taking is ubiquity. And seamlessness. Only when the fabric begins to show some wear do we begin to pay attention. Let's hope in this case it's not too late for salvage.
I worked for the Postal Service for 26 years, so I've been paying attention for quite some time. I've never been an apologist for the organization. Like any large entity, it has its problems, its functionality bogged beneath the weight of itself. And the USPS's quasi-semi-pseudo-governmental status hasn't contributed to its ability to thrive in a rapidly evolving communications market.
I'm not especially interested in discussing the whys or hows or the details of the decline of the Postal Service. These have been examined at length in the media and, as importantly I think, in Town Hall meetings and around the country's supper tables. Also under discussion have been the Service's many successes. Or so it would seem, judging by the public's resistance to allowing the stamp of the Postal Service to be cancelled into oblivion.
The one conversation that really fires me up is one that I don't see much written about. The Postal Service is, despite its official status, at its core a government agency. And I don't know of any such agency whose continued existence requires that it be entirely self-supporting. Sure, some agencies are able to assess user-specific fees which offset some administrative costs, but it's never assumed that the agency will generate the revenue necessary to completely pay its own way. That the Postal Service has accomplished just this for over for forty years is to its credit, but the Service should not be handcuffed to an arrangement that is no longer tenable.
Sure, we need to talk about the viability of this or that mail service or discuss improved transportation networks. We should debate the number of service days in a week. We can argue appropriate staffing levels due to changing shipping volumes. And weigh the relative value of a small post office in a rural community or the necessity of one particular processing plant or other. Every organization should always be working toward its better, smarter self. But a government's mission is not a corporation's mission. A government's mission is to serve its people.
The Postal Service's own website sums this up best:
The history of the United States Postal Service is rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service.
It would be nice for us all to write our Congresspersons. But failing that, we could always email them a link.
Which gets me thinking about mosaics and Halloween:
Which gets me thinking about witches and food:
Which gets me thinking about television and good food:
Which gets me thinking about France and French cooking:
THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY HOUSE:
LOTS OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS TALL ENOUGH FOR A GIRAFFE COOL RAILINGS
PARAMECIUM-SHAPED SPOT ON TILE ROOM FOR ALL MY JUNK WEIRDLY REFLECTIVE DOORBELL
But what I love best about my house is that
KOBI LOVES IT, TOO!
And if you feel as if you need a little Pollyanna in your life today, check out these videos:
I don't watch "Mad Men." (I couldn't even make it through the first episode. I thought it was boring, not to mention that all the cigarette smoke gave my phantosmia fits.)
Elisabeth Donnelly does watch "Mad Men." And she wrote about it on the back page of The New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago. Donnelly couldn't understand why her mother, who had experienced the early 1960s first-hand, found the show "painful."
Flash forward to Adam Gopnik, writing in The New Yorker last week. Gopnik talked about something he named the "Golden Forty-Year Rule," which suggests that the prime site for nostalgia is the forty-to-fifty-year period prior to the present time. During the 1940s, the aughts were the bee's knees. The 70s were in love with the 30s. Following that pattern, it comes as no surprise that culturally we're smitten with the 1960s.
Gopnik has a interesting theory on the reasons behind his rule, mostly having to do with who it is that actually controls the creation of pop culture. And then he leaps forward to four decades hence and considers how the 2010s will look when viewed through the lens of the forty-year future.
For the 1960s, Donnelly is that future. But confronted with a TV show and the first-person reflections of her own mother, Donnelly tips toward the media view. She's a reluctant believer in the realities of that era as expressed by someone who lived through the time.
All this leaping forward and looking back had me thinking this week: No one owns the final word on what a decade was really like. Even the past five minutes can be questioned: ask anyone who's witnessed a traffic accident what it was that actually happened. The future will collect the bits and pieces we leave behind and create the narrative as it will. All we can do is toss and scatter the best of ourselves, then settle back with our remotes and hope we'll be able to enjoy the show.
Nancy Carol Moody
I'm a poet and a letter-writer. Yup, that kind. The kind who uses pens and paper and actual stamps. The kind who will leave the house with nothing on the agenda but to get to the mailbox before the scheduled pick-up time. The kind who understands that technology is a wondrous thing, but nothing quite beats finding a real letter with a real stamp on it amid the credit card solicitations, pizza coupons and seminar catalogs.