When I was 8 or 9-years-old, I looked forward to checking our mailbox. I would get off the school bus and, before heading inside our house, I’d walk to the mailbox, reach up to see what the mailman had brought, and carry the mail inside with me.
Most days, the mailman delivered my parents bills and junk mail. I didn’t care much about either of them. I loved Tuesdays though. On Tuesdays, my brother’s Sports Illustrated came in the mail. For a little kid, trying to build his reading skills, SI was out of this world. Instead of reading about Dick and Jane or a slew of other books that I cared little about, I got to read about my favorite baseball or football players. For the first time, these major leaguers who had lives nothing like my own, jumped off the boxscore in the newspaper and onto my page. The magazine made reading fun.
When a new issue came, I soaked in the smell of the print and then read the issue from cover-to-cover, making sure not to bend or fold the pages lest I earn the wrath of my brother. I was hooked and I couldn’t wait for the next issue to come and the process to start all over again.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night
Times have certainly changed. Sports Illustrated has had a number of recent layoffs and by some estimates is hanging on by a thread. In addition, as we’ve come face-to-face with COVID-19, I’ve been reading in recent weeks about the U.S. Postal Service and its dismal finances. Despite the postman’s creed, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” the USPS has faced dire financial straits for a number of years.
The USPS has not had a profit since 2006, according to one report on the agency’s finances. Another report stated that between then and March 2020, the USPS has experienced more than $83 billion in losses.
Move over FedEx
I get the dismal picture, but I can’t stop thinking about how important the mail was to a simple family in rural America. The mail and a few select magazine subscriptions kept me alive when I needed it the most.
Yes, times have changed. In my own case, like most people, I pay most of my bills online now, but I can’t imagine life without the mail. Oh, social media, texting, and even old fashioned email have changed the world for good. The speed is incredible, but the US mail service still has a place in the world.
How so? I can send my mother a letter or card and she’ll get it a few days from now all for 55 cents. Think about that, what else can you buy for under a dollar? Or better yet, I can send my son three thousand miles away a small package packed to gills for under $25. Yes, I know other options exist, but they’re certainly costlier. With FedEx or UPS or DHL Shipping to name a few, that same letter or even the package would cost ten to twenty times more.
What’s right is right
I hear the arguments about privatizing. I hear the need to modernize, expand retail hours, and even increase costs. Those are certainly important, but we can never forget about who benefits the most from the mail system: regular people.
The USPS is too important to let die.