For most of David Brodie’s life, the mail has been a central fact. It came six days a week, in envelopes, and was largely written by hand.
As a boy, he was told weekly that he must write his grandparents. At boarding school, the mail brought messages from his distant parents. Ever since, it has been his link to the world and the people in it.
“I rely on the mail service. I don’t use any other systems,” said Brodie, a San Luis Obispo resident. “This is my life, the mail.”
But soon, the surety of six days of letter delivery will be no longer. Last week, the U.S. Postal Service announced it plans to stop delivering mail on Saturday except for packages.
Reactions to the announcement varied outside the post office in downtown San Luis Obispo on Saturday. Some customers didn’t care, while others lamented what they saw as the inevitable, and still others saw it as a potential threat to the written word and the dark side of technological progress.
Cal Poly student Emily Lomeli said things will probably not change much. But she did decry what it could portent for mail service in general and the written word in an increasingly digital world.
“When I get letters I love it,” Lomeli said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Saturdays have been part of the postal rhythm since citywide, house-to-house mail delivery began in 1863, according to Nancy Pope, historian at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. At that time, Saturday was just another weekday.
For Diane Duenow of San Luis Obispo, the cessation of mail delivery on Saturdays, which is set to take effect in August, is a bad idea because it undermines the Postal Service. She thinks the service is an important institution, one of few whose sole purpose is not profit. Increasingly, she said, mail delivery is being privatized, as are many other essential services, and that privatization is bad for everyone but shareholders.
She also has a soft spot for letters. “I’ve saved a love letter from every romance and I put it in a little box, and I would hate to see the written word disappear.”
Others were more ambivalent.
Anna Reithofer of Nipomo, who was gripping 116 letters she wanted to send Saturday, said the change would probably impact businesses more than anyone else. In general, she didn’t see how it would affect most people.
That is not the case for Brodie, who sees the shifts at the Postal Service as part of dehumanizing impacts that technological change has on modern life.
“Progress is making people less human,” he said. “I think the whole world is being automated.”
As an example, he referenced letter writing. There is little personality in the uniform type most people use to communicate when they write on computers and the like, he said. But the character of a person comes through in their handwriting. For instance, friends of his who tend to be lazy write badly, while others who take care can write well.