A recent visit to the post office gave credence to the term “snail mail.” I was there for the fairly straight-forward task of purchasing air mail postage for a letter going overseas. I was fourth in a steadily growing line of customers while a couple in front of me attempted to mail four huge packages to four different locations at the only open station. Other than the single postal service employee, the place had a depressing emptiness.
The U.S. Postal Service is becoming something of an anachronism in this electronic age. Although our household still gets its fair share of bills, catalogs, and advertisements, I can see a day in the not too distant future when all of these communications will be online. Think about it. When was the last time you actually received a letter in the mail? Even greeting cards may go by the wayside as people succumb to the convenience of sending Evites and e-cards to friends and family.
In its heyday, the USPS provided a vital link for people to other parts of the country. Especially in rural areas, the ability to receive letters, magazines, and the like was an important way to bridge the isolation. Nowadays, though, the world is at our fingertips online. And post offices definitely seem to be feeling the change.
Walk into any USPS facility, and the situation is the same: crowded spaces in serious need of updating, a scant supply of employees, and a feeling that automation might make the whole endeavor easier and more pleasant. Factor in the competition from other shipping services such as UPS and Fedex, and it’s easy to imagine that this government institution may become obsolete in our lifetimes.
Part of me would regret the loss of the postal service. I enjoy greeting my neighborhood postman as he makes his rounds. I like the satisfying clunk of the mail being deposited into my mailbox. And I enjoy leafing through colorful catalogs or finding the occasional greeting card from a friend. But the part of me that was standing in line the other day with several other hapless customers juggling packages thinks it’s time for the U.S. Postal Service to adapt or die.