Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Original Post

For Lease, reads the sign in the window, in bold sans serif font above the large white phone number of some commercial real estate company.

But who would lease the post office, I wonder?

It was enough of a surprise when our post office downtown decided that it was going to subdivide, keeping only half of its current building, closing the other half and selling it.  They installed a door where a large pane window used to be on the front of the building, poured a concrete walkway that zigzagged unnecessarily across the lawn, and tacked up a laminated reminder on the old door that "patrons should please use the front entrance."  As if there were now any other.

But when the second post office down the street from where I work closed, too, making me wonder whether they'd preserve the mural I'd studied so often, standing in line, I felt a pang of anxiety.  What did it mean, the closing of the post office?

Turns out that post office is going to become a brewpub.  Though at least they're preserving the mural.

When I was much younger, I used to write letters.  I had (still have) a wax seal with my first initial, and wax that I'd melt letting the whole stick catch fire momentarily as it dropped across the seal.  I sent small packages with bracelets, coupons, all sorts of things.  I wrote away for free stuff, enclosing self-addressed stamped envelopes that would come back to be with pamphlets and maps and plastic. I loved, and still love, the inky, papery smell of the post office.  It's the same no matter where I go, no matter which town I'm in.

I guess Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram have replaced the post office.  I hope the brewpub gathers friends just as paper letters once connected us.  Maybe Jeff Bezos' drones will fulfill my need for mystery packages.  Somehow, though, I feel like I'm being robbed of something magical.
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  1. One of my first memories of the post office was during preschool. The teacher walked our whole class down to the post office in our small town, giving us a tour. What stuck, though, was the interior of the building with it's murals and images of various stamps. That and the fact that a stamp cost $0.25.

    Email and instant messaging have allowed for faster communication. But I miss letters. The stationary and the art of handwriting. Even though it hurts for me to write, I loved keeping letters and tying them together with string.

    Maybe one day there will be a renaissance for the art of handwriting and crafting letters. Hopefully that day will come before the extinction of the Postal Service.

  2. I'll join you in the nostalgia. We took a family vacation once to Mount Rushmore. I was in 6th grade, maybe? I remember going through some town in South Dakota that was billed as a corn palace, and I got lost (figuratively) in the stationery section. I ended up choosing an orange set that had my name on each page, spelled correctly. I loved sending my various penpals my lovely orange personalized stationery from that corn place. I used to have a seal, too. I wonder what happened to that...

    Our kids will never know the sweet anticipation of waiting for an actual letter.

  3. In Canada, they are doing away with home delivery within the next few years (phasing it in). Of course, some people never had home delivery to begin with; there have always been post offices with boxes in small towns. And all new subdivisions built over the past 30 years or so have not had home delivery; they have neighbourhood "supermailboxes." Our neighbourhood was one of the last ones in the area built that got home delivery. I will miss watching & waiting for the postman in anticipation. Of course, these days, most of what we get is junk mail anyway...! :p ;)

  4. I remember penpals we signed up for when I was in high school. I had 2, one in France and one in Australia. Funnily enough, I was kinda disappointed when I received the Australian one as it was a country I wasn't interested in - but is now home! Also strangely I understood the letters from my French penpal, but the Australian's letters included foreign words such as 'budgie' that I had to look up. I had a seal too and ceiling wax.

    I remember when I first left the US how letters were the only way to keep in touch with the life I’d left behind – but people weren’t great at writing letters. We were all busy with writing our futures. I still remember the number of my mailbox at my university in Paris – 584. Usually it was just notes from professors or friends at the university, but it was always exciting to get an actual letter. Mostly I remember others finding letters and their joy as they headed to the cafĂ© to read it with a closed smile. I remember being chastised by a friend for not writing enough for her when I used to send her pages and pages but would only received the briefest chastisement in return. In the UK we had 2 postal deliveries; twice the disappointment.

    In Australia the post office often isn't just a post office. It is a shop, it has a community notice board, and it is often run by franchise holders, so is actually a small local business.

    With mail being used less and less, AusPost has to rationalise things. They're considering only doing mail delivery on alternate days, or only delivering to post boxes, or a whole slew of other suggestions. It's not just getting an actual letter I miss as I never actually received many, but our physical community shops and, potentially, delivery to my house.


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