Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Return to Sender" - Elvis Presley

I have a lot of "favorite" songs, but high on the list is Elvis's classic "Return to Sender," from the movie Girls, Girls, Girls. It's got an irresistible swing rhythm, clever lyrics, and you can tell how old you are by whether or not you understand the line, "no such person, no such zone" (for those of you much younger than Mike, Gilahi, and I, "zones" were what we had before Zip Codes...I grew up in "Pittsburgh 37, PA," which is now just "15237," and doesn't have quite the same ring to it).

Okay, I told you all that to introduce this news story from a few days back: "Lighter Volume Leading to Changes in Postal Routes." It seems that the US Postal Service, as a result of the drop in mail volume during the recession, is reviewing all its city routes nationwide and changing some of them to cut costs. A USPS spokesman said the economic downtown has caused businesses to reduce mailing to cut expenses, and that at the national level, mail volume fell by 9.5 billion pieces, or 4.5 percent, during the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2008.

This is sad, but not unexpected. After all, the Postal Service is a business, too, and needs to make money to stay in operation. Most of its income derives from the bulk mail sent out by businesses (bills, statements, credit card come-ons, mortgage refinance offers, sale ads from local stores, etc), particularly since first-class mail - the letters that we used to send each other regularly - have fallen off drastically in comparison to earlier years. I think that the letters Amanda, Andrea, John, Fiona, and I have exchanged (and the one I sent to Mike) in the past year were probably a large percentage of last year's "real" first-class mail.

We don't have any connection to the people who deliver the mail any more, either. Mr Moseley, our mailman (oh, excuse me - letter carrier in these more gender-neutral times) when I was growing up back in Pittsburgh, used to stop and chat occasionally, and even sent us postcards when he went on vacation; and each Christmas Mom made sure to leave him a loaf of freshly-baked banana nut bread in the mailbox. Mailmen (sorry - letter carriers) don't walk through the neighborhood distributing mail from their big leather bags any more...they pull up to the mailbox in a truck, deposit your mail, and drive away instead of stopping to talk for a moment about the weather, your family, or whatever. If they do stop, it's to leave a pissy note in your mailbox complaining that something was blocking it so that they actually had to get out of the truck to deliver the mail.

Of course, Benjamin Franklin (who created the mail system around 1775) would no longer recognize his creation, which is represented not just by the speedy little red-white-and-blue trucks, but by such shining examples of friendly and cheerful service as the post office in the Pentagon, which is staffed in large part by winners of the "slow and surly" competitions at other post offices.

Okay, I'm wandering here. I'm feeling nostalgic again for real mail, not just endless junk mail and bills. I guess it's time to clean off a space on my desk large enough for the pad of paper and the inkwell (yes, I have three - count 'em - three inkwells and a whole slew of dip pens, which I don't use too often because they're not as convenient as ballpoints, if more fun). I still owe a letter to my daughter, I still need to work on keeping my granddaughter Marcy writing (to help with her spelling), and I just enjoy finding real, chatty letters in the cobwebby old mailbox every once in a while. I guess I need to get started. And who knows? - maybe this will be the year Mike actually writes back! Although I suspect he'd probably subcontract it to Claudia.

But we can always hope.

Want a personal, chatty, hand-written letter of your very own? Send your snail-mail address to bilbo_the_blogger(at symbol)yahoo(dot)com and I'll oblige. Same deal as before - you have to promise to write e-mail replies accepted. Let's save the Postal Service, one letter at a time.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

"Return to Sender" is one of Aaron's favorites too and its been really useful in helping me to teach aaron about the postman (or letter carrier as you have now taught me), letters and what happens to them. I even got him to "write" and send postcards to his father when we were in Australia.

My desk was cleared a couple of days ago so why don't I send you another chatty letter instead. Might take awhile though, Chinese New Year is coming up :)

KKTSews said...

When we first moved to Columbus Ohio, the warm welcome we felt came in part from our Mailman, "Larry-boy" (Grace was just out of the Veggietales series). Like us, he was a retired AF vet, and he even tried to connect Mark to a new job prospect by introducing him to a neighbor on the next street. He was they took him off our route a couple years later and we've had the proverbial revolving door of letter carriers ever since. Sometimes we get mass mailings that are weeks late now, which never happened with Larry-boy. I sure miss him.
Maybe I'll break out my fountain pen and write you a letter soon. It will take you all year to decipher it, since my handwriting is horrid now that I type nearly everything except the shopping list.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

I love that Elvis song. Besides your letter this year...I've had no real mail :(

Wanderlust said...

Our mail deliverer (can't really call him a carrier as he drives that little white truck) happens to live down the street, so we do know our mail person.
I would hate to see the USPS not survive, but they're competing with the big boys now, particularly for parcels, so they need to keep up with them. Two gifts for my family, sent via the USPS by two different people, still haven't arrived and are presumed to be lost (or wound up under some other family's Christmas trees - am I cynical or just being realistic?)

Hale McKay said...

I can't think of many Elvis Presley songs that I haven't called my favorite, depending on the subject matter of discussions at various times.

Return To Sender is certainly a good one.

It is a shame that the personal touch of writing letters has just about become an archaic ritual practiced in only ever-shrinking circles.

Ah, fountain pens and inkwells ...

I came across my old calligraphy set the other day - it has been a long time since it succumbed to the dust and cobwebs on the back of that top shelf in a little used closet.

A nice post that has resurrected some nostalgic memories.

Mike said...

"no such zone"
I had forgotten about those. It's been TOO long ago.

"mail from their big leather bags"
My daughter lives in a neighborhood that still has the walking mailman.

"subcontract it to Claudia"
I tried that already. She would bite. I have more plans in the works.

Leslie David said...

I'm just as happy to send my mail electronically. I only write letters to one friend from college who still refuses to get and use a computer, so while I mail my letters to her, they're still typed on the computer, which means that while my typing speed has improved from days I took the typing test on the Selectric while temping, my handwriting has gone to hell in a handbasket. Even my 85 year old mom does e-mail, although she prefers to call and they originally spent the big bucks for their Gateway system so she could write "the letter" for "the Christmas cards" so as she put it,"people won't think that we're dead."

Sorry about Friday night--it was just an off day.