Imagine a World With No USPS
Here is an excerpt from an article from the February issue of Esquire on the USPS and how its simple and amazing:
The letter is mailed from Gold Hill, Oregon.
The eleven hundred residents of this lingering gold-rush town, mostly mechanics and carpenters and retail clerks in other places, wake with the sun and end their day with a walk to the aluminum mailbox bolted to a post at the edge of their yard. In between, Carrie Grabenhorst heads out of town on highway 99, follows the Rogue River, and turns right on Sardine Creek Road. She turns left at a large madrone tree and heads up a quarter mile of dirt road, takes the right fork, goes past the sagging red barn to a white clapboard house with green trim, where she takes a dog biscuit from her pocket and offers it to the large golden retriever. It’s a Monday, about 2:00 p.m. The dog stops barking. This is the usual peace, negotiated after thousands of visits over eighteen years.
Often Grabenhorst’s elderly customers are waiting at the door, or even by the mailbox, for her right-hand-drive Jeep to edge onto the shoulder. Many of them are alone all day. Their postal carrier is that one reliable human contact, six days a week. Some are older veterans. Quite a few have limited mobility, and it isn’t uncommon for her to lend a hand with an errand; she’s been known to pick up milk in town and bring it along with the mail. Grabenhorst drives seventy miles a day and makes 660 deliveries. On a typical day, that might include fifty packages of medicine.
Her route is one of 227,000 throughout America. On the South Side of Chicago, carriers walk cracked sidewalks, past empty lots and overfilled projects. In the suburbs of Phoenix, mail trucks deliver to banks of mailboxes outside gated communities. In Brooklyn, they pushed their carts up sidewalks and ducked into bodegas on September 11, as they always do. Residents say they were comforted to see their postal workers still making the rounds, the government still functioning. In rural Alaska, mail comes by snowmobile and seaplane. In chaps and a cowboy hat, Charlie Chamberlain leads a train of postal mules down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, where a tribe of Havasupai Indians lives. Wearing blue trunks and a ball cap, Mark Lipscomb delivers letters by speedboat up and down the Magnolia River in Alabama.
Want to send a letter to Talkeetna, Alaska, from New York? It will cost you fifty dollars by UPS. Grabenhorst or Lipscomb can do it for less than two quarters: the same as the cost of getting a letter from Gold Hill to Shady Cove, Oregon, twenty miles up the road. It’s how the postal service works: The many short-distance deliveries down the block or across the city pay for the longer ones across the country. From the moment Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general in 1775, the purpose of the post office has always been to bind the nation together. It was a way of unifying thirteen disparate colonies so that the abolitionist in Philadelphia had access to the same information and newspapers as the slaveholder in Augusta, Georgia
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