I am saddened by what appears to be the imminent implosion of the United States Postal Service. All that rain and snow and dark of night, and the kill shot comes courtesy of the Internet and an underfunded retiree trust.
Imagine life without the U.S. Mail. No more kitchen tables blanketed daily with seventeen credit card offers that each must be opened and shredded at intervals lest the shredder seize up. No more catalogues from the previous homeowners to geriatric medical supply companies. No more pleas from alma maters for money on top of the money they are already owed.
What will we do with those extra hours not spent waiting on line at the post office, while one customer devours everyone’s lunch break by reviewing every type of stamp offered to mail a postcard? I’m going to miss gazing through the glass windows with wanton desperation at the postal workers strolling in the background.
Wedding invitations will have to be by email or text. The grandparents and Luddites who insist on living life without computers will have to miss the party. At least they won’t need to be sent a thank you note.
Another casualty will be the handwritten letter. I last received one in 1992 at a sleep-away gulag in the Berkshire mountains. It was from my best friend, and in the letter he described all the cast-away junk he had been smashing and setting on fire in my absence. In the margins he had drawn caricatures of teachers he disliked, set in violent and lewd situations. At night, when I was homesick for a good meal and a bathroom with a closing door, I would re-read the letter by light of my calculator watch. I’d still have the letter today if an ogre in Umbro shorts hadn’t used it to wrap his trout.
Such a personal letter could not be transmitted over email or Facebook today. The most we can hope for are emoticons, “xoxoxo,” and advertisements for Netflix. Perhaps someday technology will allow people to fill electronic messages with stylized handwriting and doodles. Curlicues, flourishes, and hearts over lowercase ‘i’s will return to written communication. Perhaps some genius will figure out a way to transmit the scent of perfume over the Internet. And we think the pop-ups are annoying now.
The only thing missing then will be the stroke-inducing wait at the post office. Someone will have to create a website for that, where your avatar brings a heavy package, and then waits on line during its lunch break with billions of other avatars on their lunch breaks. There will be button-commands for a cross of the arms, an exasperated sigh, and a glare at the unhurried postal workers. And logging in will cost only $0.44.