Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Writing IN SPITE of the US Postal Service

Well, good grief. It's late November already. Thanksgiving is over, and it's time to drag the Christmas decorations out. How did this happen, when only yesterday, it seems, I was making potato salad for our big July 4th shindig?

It's also time to address and stamp Christmas cards. (Yes, I said Christmas cards. My Jewish or Athiest pals know that I respect their religious beliefs--or lack thereof--so they don't have a problem with my choice, either.)

But I digress. My beef today is with the US Postal Service. It bugs me no end to pay nearly fifty cents of every hard-earned dollar to mail cards that, in all likelihood, won't end up where they're supposed to, thanks in no small part to the US Postal Service. (Seriously, there's so little 'service' attached to that once-grand institution that using the word is akin to false advertising.)

If I listed every complaint, why, I'd run out of blog pace. And if I listed the complaints of my neighbors, friends, and relatives? Cyberspace ain't that big, m'friends!

Example: Went to get my mail the other day, and found my across-the-street neighbor's stuff in the box. I opened theirs, thinking mine in there by mistake...and found mail belonging to the people two doors up. And in their box? Mail intended for people who live two streets over, and in theirs, the mail for someone who lives in another zip code!!!

Example: My 85-year old uncle makes one-of-a-kind fishing rods for a living, and sent one to my husband, overnight via the US Postal Service. Two weeks later, he called to see why his ungrateful niece hadn't acknowledged receipt of the gift. He put a tracer on the package that showed up two months a different box.

Example: My royalties check was due May, '07. June rolled around...still no check. Super-suspicious of the post office, I called the publisher's bookkeeping department, and learned they'd mailed the money on May 1, 2007. While they were busy cancelling the check, I filled out direct-deposit forms. And wrote my congressman, the Postmaster General, the Better Business Bureau, and just about any other agency I could think of. Again. Wasting not only my time, but postage, as well, because nothing was done to improve the situation.

Example: This one was 'big news' in Baltimore a few years ago.... A substitute mail carrier dumped every bag, sack, and package in a Columbia park, where she sat munching Fritos and sipping Coke instead of delivering the mail. Rumor had it she opened every envelope that resembled a greeting card, and kept the cash and gift certificates. And what didn't blow away was ruined by the driving rain. When caught, she received some sissified wrist-slap as a punishment. My idea of 'reap what you sow'? "No more mail delivery for you, m'dear, ever!"

The settlers of the Old West received better service from Pony Express riders, who had to contend with robbers, wild animals, and angry Indians! Whatever happened to the duty-bound postmen of our childhood, who lived by their "Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night will keep me from my appointed rounds" motto?

Everybody I talk to, here in Maryland and across the country, has experienced numerous problems with the US Postal SERVICE. Complaining accomplishes nothing. Writing letters gets us nowhere. So what are we to do?

We stop leaving Christmas gifts for our letter carriers, that's what. We quit standing in those long lines, waiting our turn to be treated with disrespect and impatience by the so-called professionals behind the counter. We pay a dollar or two more, and send all our packages through UPS, FedEx, Parcel Plus, MailBoxes, Etc. We tell our publishers to direct-deposit advance and royalties checks into our savings accounts. And when the US Postal Service ceases to exist because other companies are doing their job--and doing it better--we'll applaud!

So next time you're wondering why you haven't received a paycheck, or an envelope full of reader mail, don't blame your publisher's bookkeeping department. Don't blame your agent. Blame the high muckety-mucks who run the US Postal "Service". And don't be shy when listing your grievances with them, because at nearly half a buck for each stamp we stick to the upper right corner of every envelope, we have a right to experience the SERVICE promised by the post office.

Merry Christmas, y'all.