I have a love affair with the United States Postal Service. It began when I first immigrated to the US in 1996. I was fascinated by the efficiency: it doesn’t matter where you are in the country, 45 cents and the mail arrives anywhere else in America within three days!
I don’t have a thing for people in uniforms in general, but I have fantasies about every single person that works at the post office near my house, and anywhere really. There’s something about those navy shorts, jackets, light blue button-up shirts. Regardless of gender. Rain or shine. Deliciousness.
Lucky for me, I live next to a large post office and part of my job is picking up the mail. Rawrrrrrrrrr (animal sexy growl).
But aside from my x-rated fantasies, I love the postal service because it is the last form of communication, aside from sitting in the corner face to face and chatting, that is actually private. It is a federal offense to open someone else’s mail (yeah, a felony, like murdering someone or saying you’re going to kidnap the President). Computers get hacked into, IP addresses and phone calls can be traced, and emails read without permission. But not your mail.
Letters are fragile pieces of paper that you write, entrust your thoughts onto, seal, and mail, so they can be received at the other end intact secured protected. No other courier service, analog or digital, promises the privacy of your mail.
My postal obsession got the best of me, so I did a little research:
Did you know that the United States Postal Service operates the largest vehicle fleet in the world? Did you know it’s the country’s second largest civilian employer? Did you know that last year USPS delivered 168 billion pieces of mail, yup bbbillion, through 31,000 post offices and 142+ delivery points.
The service was constitutionally authorized in 1775, in the days when homesteading symbolized the American dream. Really it still does to many: you work hard, you buy a house with property around it, put up a fence, and call it a day. The postal service at the time made certain that everyone could receive mail regardless of the far-flung places they made their homes.
The USPS mission remains the same to this day: universal postal service at affordable prices.
This, as insignificant as it may seem, is important. The postal service is an equalizer; no matter who you are, no matter where you live (even if you’re homeless), you can send and receive mail, and you can do so at same price as everyone else. No other mail delivery service in the world guarantees that. In comparison, my friend Ted is currently on the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand and I cannot send him mail; delivery is difficult even though there is a new post office that was finished in 2010. In Jordan you have to have a post office box to receive mail and, although the fees are minimal, that hinders many from getting any mail delivery.
Sadly, USPS is in the midst of 5 years of cuts that include discontinuing Saturday delivery and Overnight Express Mail services, and closing offices in rural areas. A portion of those services will be moved to grocery stores and banks in those areas, which is less than ideal, since the people who work at these businesses are not bound by the same rules of conduct and mail handling as postal service workers.
Here in Washington, because we vote by mail exclusively, the postal service decided not to close any branches before the end of the 2012 Presidential Elections to ensure that all registered voters can mail in their ballots securely.
But after that, four post offices in Seattle are scheduled to close down completely: Columbia Center (5th and Columbia), Federal (1st and Marion), Seafirst (4th and Madison), Skyway (Renton Ave S and S 126th St.). This might not seem like a big deal, but in addition to the closure, many postal workers will lose their jobs. USPS is laying off 20% of their employees nation wide over the coming three years, a process that began two years ago.
Lorna is a postal service worker at my local branch. She’s had the job for the past 35 years. She recalls the postal worker delivering the mail twice a day when she was growing up in northern Washington.
“We have heard rumors that this office [23rd and Union] will be affected by the closure, but we do not know how yet. I have worked in many different positions in the post office, first when I was in a processing center, which when they closed I moved to a downtown Seattle office, now I am here,” she explains. “But I am not sure what will happen now. This job has been very good to me and my family. I have enjoyed it. We just do not know what will happen next.”
It is easy to relate to her sense of shock and confusion. Since the birth of our nation, the USPS has been a consistent symbol of unity, perseverance and greatness of the United States government. Why can’t we cut the $1.4 trillion military budget but a small fraction and keep the postal service? Maybe if we all write more letters, and send packages to our loved ones, maybe that would save the USPS. Or maybe if I start writing daily love letters to all my post office crushes…