You (might not get) mail
Y’all, shift gears from COVID for just a moment to worrying about something that for sure will affect all of us: The War on the United States Postal Service.
Without getting too deep into it, there are some people in the United States governments who believe the USPS is a) unsustainable, b) inefficient, and so c) should be eliminated in favor of private corporations. And to those people I say: how does the view look from your ivory tower, with UPS, FedEx, DSL, and bike messengers on every block beneath you?
Sometimes when people in the government speak, I seriously wonder if they have ever lived or visited any place that isn’t an urban metropolis. Because if they think any place in West Virginia can operate without a post office, they are seriously delusional. “But Ceason,” you say, “in this day and age, who really uses the post office? You can pay all your bills online, and if you need to ship something, that’s what UPS and the like are for.”
I tell you who’s using the post office: me, just about every day. It’s a rarity that a week doesn’t go buy that I don’t slap a Forever Stamp on an envelope and drop it in the office mail pick up. And every few months, my mom and I send a pretty large package out to my niece because if we can’t see her in person, by God she’s going to at least know us as the relatives who send good gifts.
The USPS is one of the great equalizing institutions in this country, because it costs the same to send a letter in Ripley as it does in Reno. And 55 cents is a freaking bargain. Every year, I send out a Christmas card to Rachel in Guam, and you know how much it costs me? 55 cents. 55 cents, to Guam! I can’t text Rachel for 55 cents. I recognize that some of you will use this as an example of a terrible way the USPS does business, but if anything, keeping prices at 55 cents makes it so much easier to keep in touch. I promise you, if it cost more than a $1 to send each of my Christmas cards, y’all would be getting Facebook messages of me and the dogs in Santa hats, and that is it.
As a matter of fact, I not only don’t think we need to eliminate the post office, I think we need to expand it. It has been a long-cherished wish of mine for the Fairplain post office to come back. In fact, I think we bring back the Fairplain post office and add a drive-thru window, because sometimes I want to do my post officing in my pajamas, but that only works if I don’t have to get out of the car. A drive-thru window would allow me to get stamps without having to answer the question of “Why does Ceason look like she just got back from a college party?”
Really, I don’t think some of y’all realize how hard our mail carriers work. Sure it seems like fun, driving around all day, breeze in your hair, radio on. In fact, back when the only mail-order options were the Sears and JC Penny catalogs, being a mail deliverer would have probably been a great way to live: good benefits, nice salary. But now that we’re all Amazon Prime members, our mail carriers are working three times as hard, because God forbid y’all don’t get your shipments of craft supplies and leggings in exactly two days. We have become a “I want it NOW!” society, and who bears the brunt of that? For my route, it’s Miss Rosa, but it’s all our mail carriers, all around.
And let’s be honest with ourselves, Mountaineers: being mail carriers in West Virginia would be like being the Navy Seals of mail carriers. Have you seen our roads? Even the paved ones are questionable, and a good majority of us don’t live on paved roads: we live on gravely, pot-holed, low-water, curvy, up and down roads. I have friends that won’t come visit me if they’ve washed their cars, because they know my road is a guaranteed dirt-thrower. But six days a week, here comes the mail carrier, skimming over some truly impressive pot holes to bring me my “Martha Stewart Living” magazine and whatever new Etsy decoration I couldn’t live without.
If the roads weren’t bad enough, they also have to contend with our West Virginia weather. The summer floods that make bridges impassable? That doesn’t stop our mail carriers. Icy, snowy roads that will freeze in December and then won’t unfreeze until April because they’re so far back in the holler, they don’t see direct sunlight? You bet the houses on that road get mail every day. We ask our mail carriers to service parts of West Virginia so remote that going to town is an actual journey, and without the mail carriers and relatively close local post offices, living rural in West Virginia would be so much harder than it already is, because the postal service is an inexpensive way, and often only way, for them to accomplish what they need to be a productive citizen of this country.
And that’s that thing: the things we love the most about West Virginia, the wild, wonderfulness of it, are things we can enjoy because we have services like the USPS in communities. Our seniors aren’t driving to Charleston to post a letter, and they’re getting social interaction in the post office lobby (read: gossip). Our business can ship products efficiently because they aren’t waiting until they can get to a commercial shipping place (I know we have drop boxes, but y’all know that’s not the same. Also, on behalf of people that use the drop boxes a lot: quit abusing the drop boxes! If the box doesn’t fit, stop trying to stuff it in there making it impossible for everyone else to drop stuff in.).
Without local post offices, life would be that much harder for our rural community, especially since things that might be accomplished on the internet, like bill paying, doesn’t jive with our area’s inconsistent internet service. You take away our post office, and you don’t provide us with better internet, and you tell people they have to pay commercial postage rates to send their bills to pay AEP? Well you’re about to see a lot of people rig up homemade solar panels out of tin cans and fishing line, just to avoid the trouble of paying the electric bill. Because West Virginians can get real creative to avoid being inconvenienced, and paying expensive postage in Charleston or Parkersburg is the definition of inconvenient.
Look, I love the UPS and FedEx carriers in our area; we couldn’t function without them either. But I can’t imagine how we as a community could ever function without our local USPSes. Who else is going to deliver mail to my house addressed to “Ceason, The Compound, Ripley” (an honest-to-God address on a letter from one of my college friends), because that’s how well they know their route? Who else is going to call me on Christmas Eve to let me know I have a package in the sorting room, so a gift gets under the tree in time? Who else is going to pick up the stamped letters in rural boxes, so a senior or invalid who can’t drive can still get letters out? And who else is going to make sure that six days a week, if we have nothing else to look forward to, we can look forward to checking the mail?
So whatever you can do to support your local USPS, do it. Don’t let some person who doesn’t know what it’s like to live in West Virginia tell us what we can and can’t live without, because no one knows us like we do. And for sure no one knows us better than the people that make sure we always got mail.