Saturday, April 4, 2009

Save the Mail!

Last weekend, I was in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, for the National Postmasters’ Association of the United States (NAPUS) conference. I myself am not a postmaster unless you count my email inbox, which is always at zero unread messages by the end of the day. But my aunty happens to be a postmaster on the Big Island—20 years of service this July!—and since my Hawaii relatives rarely make it the 6000 miles to see me in New York, I took the NAPUS conference as an opportunity to brush up on the gossip from the islands and get a few hundred miles south, where it’s actually spring.
This post is about the post. Did you know that the United States Postal System, the USPS, currently loses $20 million every day? That’s twenty million smackers every twenty-four hours, according to sources within NASPU.
It’s not inconceivable that Americans could wake up one morning in the near future to discover that the USPS no longer exists. If any other nation-wide company was operating at a $140 million a week deficit, they’d have to be suckling on that fat bailout teat like A.I.G and the auto companies. In fact, why isn’t the USPS begging for money? Why isn’t anyone in the news talking about the imminent demise of the postal system? It’s the freaking mail! It's so much a part of the fabric of our lives that it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without it. Can you imagine having to pay all of your bills online or over the phone? Or using email for all of your correspondence? How about reading all of your favorite magazines in website form?
Maybe the collapse of the postal system won’t be such a shock after all.
Between the environmentalists screeching about the all of the slaughtered trees to make your credit card statements, and the collapse of the financial wizards who inundated us with credit card offers during the bubble; between fax machines, email, networking sites, and the slow death of the publishing industry; between the merge of FedEx and Kinkos; and the rise of private mail service providers like UPS and Mailboxes. Etc., who really uses analog mail anymore?
Not to lay the blame solely on the consumer. One thing I noticed hanging around America’s postmasters is that these are people living in the past. They all hopped on the federal payroll gravy train, got their paid vacations and sick leave and pensions and other great benefits, and are now in complete denial that their industry is under threat.
I’m not a postmaster and I wasn’t allowed into the conference rooms, instead spending my days looking for used bookstores and Ethiopian food. So how do I know that the USPS is in denial over the fast approaching obsolescence of their own industry? Because last weekend was the first I heard that the USPS was losing twenty. Million. Dollars. A day. The mainstream media has kept up a constant flood of bad news from this financial meltdown, giving us the gory details of stories as big as the A.I.G bonuses to insignificant little scuffles between Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart over who's the biggest believer of his own respective bullshit. But not once did I read an article, watch a news story, or even catch a Tweet about the woeful condition of our postal system.
Did I mention they're losing $20 million a day? Whoever does PR for the USPS should be fired.
Should we care? Do we really need the USPS, now that we write letters over email, stay in touch over Facebook and Twitter, and ship our Christmas presents through UPS?
Try this one: Imagine going to FedEx to mail your mother a birthday card. Maybe it's time to say "fuck the trees" and send your student loan company a check next month instead.

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