This month, for the first time in decades, a payment I sent did not reach its recipient.

This rare mishap was a reminder that good old reliable snail mail is in its death throes after 234 years of creating a national community out of isolated places thousands of miles apart, making a daily visit to the mailbox an adventure that brought the world to us with words on paper, many of them in the handwriting of people we love.

The decline now is even faster than it was during the Great Depression as the Postal Service projects 10 billion fewer pieces of mail in each of the next two years, from a high of 213 billion in 2006 to an expected 170 billion next year. The price of stamps will rise, of course, and there will also be less frequent deliveries and more closings of small post offices as Americans e-mail, text-message and tweet one another instead of dropping envelopes through narrow slots.

It’s so much more convenient to pay bills online and have instant communication with friends and family that there will be few mourners for snail mail but, as with all progress, something will be lost.

Writing from the hand of a loved one on familiar stationery is becoming an anachronism (no beribboned bundles of e-mail will clutter future attics), but the thought and feeling that went into love letters will be gone, too, replaced by the product of racing fingers on keyboards and minds too pressured for careful choice of words.

Newspapers and magazines have migrated to the Web as well, trying to make sense of the world from minute to minute.

Read the rest of this entry.

ROBERT STEIN
Leave a replyComments (4)
  1. redbus July 26, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    There is no way to electronically send a package at Christmas. And have you ever received those impersonal e-birthday cards? No thank you. The post office will survive, but in a reduced form.

  2. your_momma July 27, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    The Reality check is not in your brain….First, the Post Office is not in its death throes, even if management is trying to make it so. Second is 170 “Billion” pieces are still being sent…Thank you very much!!!! Third what customers should be raising hell about is the (wasteful) Billions spent on equipment that they don’t need, IE flat sorters that will never pay for themselves…even though they will tell you otherwise!!!!

  3. rsiriuse July 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Management has for about two decades gone overboard with technology. It has helped get the mail “there” faster, but I doubt if they’ve ever gone into the black before they unwrap their bumdles of money and invest in newer technologies and bigger machines.

    In any business, this is just running yourself in the ground. And management has its eye on fewer workers, bigger bonuses, more investments.

    This place still runs on GAO quarterly accountability. If the money isn’t spent, it goes back.

    This office where I work needed a few lap top computers. These would do some electronic tallying they needed in various spots and random checking of the mails. Three pallets arrived. They were four feet high.

    I guess the upper management got something to take home. They didn’t need more than three for each tour.

    There was an “unloading” here. A large number of items were removed from the offices and put into storage. It included a good number of exercise machines, none which looked cheap.

    Management ought to take some blame.

  4. prmaleman July 29, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Hopefully, the next time they offer early retirement, there will be some real incentives for people to take ’em. Just like those bonuses that management gets when they, holding their ever important clipboards performing their all inclusive busy, fill work matrix routines while getting in the way of real workers, get all the credit for our job well done. Otherwise, it’s just another exercise in futility…yes folks, believe it or not, we are a dying breed. Less mail means less real workers and less real workers means less clipboard holding souls too! My advice to you is…take the money and run and disregard silly, nostalgic “used to be’s” ’cause “used to be’s” sound nice and heart warming, but certainly, “used to be’s” don’t pay the bills!