“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” That the United States Postal Service would have such a motto, just added to the romance and excitement of emigrating to America.
I grew up in South Africa, and emigrated to the United States when I was a married woman of about thirty-five. All those years in South Africa and I have absolutely no recollection of how our mail was delivered, no recollection of any particular mailmen or postmen as we would have called them, no picture in my mind even of what a South African mailbox looked like.
So in our house north of NY city we were very excited by our mailbox and the fact that we could put letters into the box and raise the little flag and the mailman would pick up our letters and deposit our new mail. We came to know and love our mailman -- he was with us for the eleven years we lived in that house. I remember him coming to the front door once with a letter one of my children had written, and telling me that the post office wouldn’t mail it. The stamp had been licked so thoroughly that the glue had all gone, and cellotape fixed the stamp to the envelope. He waited while I put on a fresh stamp.
After some years back in South Africa we moved to downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. Once again a friendly and obliging mailman was our friend for six years and when we moved out into the county, he passed the word to the mailman he knew would be serving us at our new address.
We were now living on a large bit of land and knew none of our neighbours – in fact they did not know that the farm had changed hands. So guess who passed the word? Our new mailman. Without him I wonder how long it would have taken for us to meet our neighbours. I called him a community builder – he admitted that perhaps he became too involved in matters of the community, but his heart was in the right place.
Now, sadly, the postal service is struggling and has to cut back. So much mail and parcel delivery is now being done through Fedex or UPS, so many bills are paid on line. I still receive bills in my mailbox and make payment in the old way, but most of my mail is junk and goes straight into recycling. Fewer and fewer people send actual letters or Christmas cards –email is easier.
Saddest of all, many of the older career mail delivery people have been ‘encouraged’ to take early retirement, so our mailman has gone. I no longer know who puts the mail in my mailbox and certainly they never bring a parcel to the door, perhaps just as an excuse to have a quick chat. Or bring some note or present that has been dropped in my box just to check and see that it’s not something weird. Or to suggest that leaving mail overnight in my box is not a wise idea.
It does seem rather sad that as society advances, and becomes more efficient and cost saving, so the little personal civil contacts and services that make life pleasanter, tend to disappear.
--Val Matthews lives in Albemarle County
- ▼ April (5)