From My Window
First Class Stamp
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
I write traditional letters to two of my elderly aunts in Wisconsin, neither of whom has joined the computer age. And that's fine with me, as I still find enjoyment in getting meaningful mail, mixed in with the commercial solicitations, fund-raising appeals and highly irritating political campaign trash.
Today, I was thinking about what a bargain first class mail really is. For less than two quarters, the postal service will pick up my letter at my home mailbox, and in less than a week deliver it to my aunt's doorstep. "From my pen to her hand." This is really quite a miracle, because the last census, in 2014, showed that there are 319 million people in the United States. So, the postal service will "hand deliver" my mail to any one of millions of residential addresses six days a week, and that doesn't even include the millions of commercial addresses I may need to send something to.
With a stamp, I can put a smile on someone's face, and they know that just a few days ago, I was thinking about them, and put that thought into the action of writing a personal note. That note now made their trip to the mailbox a bit more rewarding.
You can call on the phone too, of course, but as I found with both my Dad and my mother-in-law their last few years, communicating on the phone with them had challenges, because their hearing declined. And if you called at the wrong time, they were napping, or busy doing something that was difficult to interrupt. But print off a picture of our family dog doing something cute, and adding a personal note, always brought a smile to Dad's face when he got that mail. Knowing that, my 47 cent stamp seemed like a real bargain - in fact, I'd be willing to pay more. You can't even get a pack of gum for that now!
Among my Dad's papers when he died were many, many letters. He was a sentimental man, but just looking through the envelopes themselves was a history lesson. There were a few thin, red, white and blue envelopes - the sign of "air mail," a letter that was destined to be loaded onto an early airplane for the long trip across the ocean. Every ounce of weight on the small planes counted, so the letter needed to be as light-weight as possible. Airmail was a huge upgrade over the other option, delivery across the ocean by steamship. That might take a month, door to door. Imagine getting a letter from a distance relative that had been written a month ago!
There were telegraphs, the "nearly instantaneous" way of sending a brief message. It had to be critically important and time sensitive to justify the cost. The message would be tapped out in Morse code, printed off at the other end of the "wire" at a telegraph station, pasted onto a sheet of paper, and hand, "special" delivered to the destination by foot, bicycle or early car messengers. The "special delivery" term itself meant there was no normal delivery service, a messenger boy would be summoned to make the delivery when it was necessary to do so. Among Dad's papers was the telegram his father received from the Army during World War II, announcing that his son was "missing in action."
Looking backward tells me we have to expect more changes in the future. We may see less frequent delivery days, or the end of residential delivery, with a system using central "post boxes" clustered together for neighborhoods, much like are used for apartment buildings. The adjustments will be necessary due to lower volume and higher costs.
In the meantime, for those not in the computer age, or those who just like being able to communicate in a slower, more measured manner, for less than the cost of a soda at the convenience store, my mailman will help me reach out and touch someone in a very personal way.
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