I just noticed that the blue mailbox that had been a fixture for years on our street is gone; gone not just for a new paint job, but gone forever – the victim of new ways of communicating.
The luxury of walking a few steps and dropping my mail in the box is ending because the Postal Service is in deep financial distress, not just the same distress that comes around every few years causing an increase in postage rates. This time the Postal Service is facing a financial crisis that will force it to totally revamp the way services are delivered.
Already thousands of postal workers have been encouraged to take early retirement, post offices that have little activity will be closed and it looks like Saturday delivery will be a thing of the past. Americans, who rarely appreciated that the Postal Service was one of the more reliable government enterprises, do not seem particularly upset by the cutbacks and changes, for this is the age of the Internet, not the postage stamp.
Email has replaced snail mail, bill paying is now online, texting and twittering are the modes of communication of the Millennial Generation, and the idea of leaving one’s house to go to the Post Office just seems so inefficient and ancient. Why leave the bunker, when you are just a key stroke away from sending a message. Certainly the recession has caused a cutback in traditional mail use, but when the good times return, the Postal Service will remain on life support, or more precisely government support.
It is safe to say that there will always be a postal service, for people will continue to send birthday and Christmas cards and there aren’t enough UPS and FedEx offices to ship those bulky packages and boxes. Unfortunately, there will still be all that junk mail and clothes catalogs to deliver, even though they go right into the circular file.
But the glory days of the Postal Service are over. It was a pretty good run with unforgettable images of the postman trudging through the snow and ice or dodging a mangy dog in order to deliver the mail. I sure will miss that blue mailbox at the end of the street.