Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: A letter to the post office

Feb. 09, 2013 @ 08:37 PM

Come August, it looks like on Saturdays we’ll be skipping that moment of discovery we enjoy most other days – getting the mail. Mondays, which are delightful for very few people, will at least have the highlight of bringing a larger load of mail. Well, a highlight for those of us getting mail. Postal carriers will have a heavier load to bear. Thank you, mail carriers. Thank you for coming to deliver the mail in the wind and the rain and the snow. And the heat, too, and the threat of being chased by dogs or stepping in what they leave in the yard. Thank you, mail carriers, for bringing news of births and birthday parties, of Christmas wishes and thank you notes. That’s what’s happening with the mail and its billion-dollar losses. People are using the mail just for the good stuff, choosing to pay bills online. So on our end, the mail in the box has gotten better, if emptier.
Dear post office, please know that we still like you, we really do. The same way that say, newspaper readers like the newspaper, even though they’ll take the cheaper route to news if they can get it. Post office, you and I, the newspaper, we go back a long time. We are where America meets. Reading the news and talking about it together. Going to get the mail and talking in person to your neighbors, either at the post office or the end of the driveway.
I get my mail at a cluster of mailboxes on my street, and open the metal rectangle with a key. I can picture every mailbox I’ve ever opened, but I’ve never taken a picture. Maybe I should. “Ode to Mailbox” I’ll call it, documenting the places where written information is exchanged and daily life is lived.
I covered the opening of a new post office in the Southwestern Virginia community of Elliston about a decade ago. It was a big deal for the area, not just because of the woman who led the charge, but because post offices are gathering places that forge community. Real community bonds just aren’t forged via the Internet. We’re usually nicer to each other in public, too. The first time I went inside the downtown Durham post office was an exciting day. It’s an awesome building, constructed with attention to detail. I like the Durham post office on Shannon Road, too, for what’s inside – friendly people.
Mail isn’t going anywhere, the same way newspapers aren’t going anywhere. The business model, the medium and method of delivery is changing, but we will always consume both. There are some things worth keeping around, albeit a different version. You can update something without eliminating it. So if to save mail home delivery, the U.S. Postal Service needs to make it weekdays only, so be it. I’m still thankful for all the hard work of our mail carriers. And we’ll still get packages on Saturdays, anyway.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at: dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.