When I was a preteenager, the mail carrier’s footsteps were like music to my ears.
Back then, in a world before iTunes, I belonged to a music CD club, and every month I looked forward to getting my latest shipment (at that time it was Janet Jackson, Anita Baker or, I’m embarrassed to admit, Bobby Brown).
The occasional letters I received from pen pals, birthday cards from my aunts who always stuffed a $10 or $20 bill inside and party invitations on beautifully decorated stationery were always a treat.
I would often agree to make the two-block walk to the mailbox for my parents, despite my neighbors’ Dobermans, who threatened to jump the fence whenever anyone passed by.
There was a sort of elegance about the mail in those days, but somewhere along the way, it seems to have lost its luster with the American public. We can blame it on the ever increasing advertising mailers clogging our mailboxes. After all, how many coupon books, Pottery Barn and Piper Lime catalogs does one woman need?
Of course, technology is an even bigger culprit. Who needs to spend time writing a check and pasting a stamp on an envelope when you can pay bills online? And isn’t it so much faster to rattle off an e-mail, or send an Evite or Ecard?
While all of these advances have made life easier for us, they spell bad news for the U.S. Postal Service, which announced last week its proposal to eliminate Saturday delivery in an effort to cut costs. The volume of mail is expected to fall to 150 billion in 2020 from 177 billion last year. Revenue contributed by first-class mail will drop to about 35 percent in the next decade from 51 percent today, according to the Postal Service. Another price increase is also in the offing next year.
The situation for the Postal Service is dire, especially given the recession, which has been devastating for many business owners who can no longer afford to use the mail to market their products.
For its part, the Postal Service acknowledges that lifestyles have changed, and that it needs to adapt to the times. To that end, it plans to improve its customer access to products and services.
San Luis Obispo Postmaster Tony Rivera said the Postal Service’s financial hardship is a reality that employees have gotten used to, and they will adapt as they always have. As for the elimination of Saturday delivery, Rivera said it’s not a given that Congress will even agree to it.
“They may look at this and decide they don’t want the American people to go without a day of delivery,” he said.
Sure, there are many people, business owners in particular, for whom the elimination of Saturday delivery and a rate increase will cause significant pain.
With so many of us turning to other sources of communication and correspondence, it’s become apparent that we have already made our choice known.
But as much as I appreciate the convenience of technology and grimace at the thought of too much “junk mail,” I shudder to think that at some point in the future there may be no more trips to the mailbox on Saturday or any day; no more Valentine’s Day card from my sisters or clipped news articles from my mom waiting, on paper, to be read.