Several years ago a professor of mine expressed his fascination with the postal service. His point was simple, and correct. In decades of sending letters, he had never had a single one that did not arrive at its destination. Until two weeks ago, I too had never had a letter that did not arrive at its destination.
And the situation two weeks situation is understandable. A birth announcement my wife sent to a good friend serving in Afghanistan never made it to him; it came back to our house a year later. Really, the fact that I was able to put a stamp on a letter and even expect it to reach someone serving in the field in a war zone is itself remarkable.
Regular readers (reader?) of this blog know that I have a positive view of government. The history of the United State Postal Service (USPS) is a great example of why. The logistics of getting a piece of paper from my mailbox to just about anywhere in the country are mind-boggling. It’s nothing short of a triumph of that a bureaucracy is able to do this effectively and efficiently. Even more remarkable is that it costs me less than fifty cents.
Ok, I know that like all enterprises public and private the USPS has its problems (see this discussion for a good synopsis of them). But yesterday’s news that the postal service is ending Saturday delivery, though no not surprising, is still kind of sad. The move is designed to save money, and hopefully will make the USPS stronger in the future. But, like the decline of the newspaper, I worry that this is step one to a broader decline in service. Maybe it is inevitable in our digital age, but I am nonetheless nostalgic for the simple joy of receiving a letter, and hope that joy will be a foreign concept to my sons.
So as I hunker down in my house today, I am cognizant of the fact that there is a reason the roads will be cleared, my power will likely stay on, my faucets will run, and yes, my mail will be delivered. Government is a popular whipping boy, but on days like this I realize just how remarkably effective it can be.