Friday, February 16, 2007


I have a great job, but it requires that I commute to work about 150 miles each way, Charlotte to Charleston and back. I have a dozen ways to get to Charleston so you will often find me in my Lexus SUV screaming down I-77 and I-26 on most days but on others I'll take the more enjoyable Highway 601 with different side trips and short cuts.

Mailboxes are everywhere.... big, small, new, and beat to hell.... I watch the miles go by and the rural mailbox has become my mile post.... weathered and rusted, their faded red metal flags are bent, broken, and often missing. The doors seem to fall victim as well.... rusting off, or just worn out by too many bills.

I see the kudzu overtake them during the humid summer afternoons and the frost cover them in the early dawn of winter. A new mailbox this week will meet a high school prankster the next. Beer bottles or baseball bat rural mailboxes live in the danger zone. Logging trucks and drunks in pickup trucks take their toll as well.

Years ago, when I was a young boy, I spent a lot of time at my grandmother's house in the country. There in the land of farm and ranch a walk down the gravel drive to the mailbox was the high point of every day, except Sunday. Maybe that's why I don't like Sundays there’s no mail!

I don't think I sent my grandmother many cards or letters. I know she sent 100's to me over the years. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, my Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas not to mention countless congratulations for event big and insignificant. I’d usually reply with a phone call or wait just to visit in person. 

Now many years later she is of course gone. I would guess in her 98 years she made the trip to the mailbox 29 thousand seven hundred and fifty-five times. (98 years minus say 3 (old enough to make the walk on her own) times 365 less 52 for those Sundays and well 29,755) Sadly I think she might have found a card or letter from me 10 or maybe 20 of those 29,000 plus trips to the mailbox.

My parents are text and email smart and although they live just a few miles from my home I find it as easy just to text my mom as call. We text message or email dinner plans, trip info and such. But still they send cards, birthdays, Easter, v-day, you name it my mom sends a card. Her sister my Aunt is all about eCards, they are fun but it's not the same as a real card or letter. 

Real letters are a dying art. My bills are mostly paperless. What the letter carrier brings to my rural mail box approved by the postmaster general as if he or she personally stopped by to make sure it was up to spec can hardly be considered mail as it normally consists of five or six parts junk to one mildly important insurance statement or notice. 

Occasionally I might get a real letter, but most are just notes attached to some item or card that needed to be sent. I have letters that my great grandfather wrote back in the 1930's now those were the days when a letter was something to read, ponder and respond to thoughtfully.

I suspect that letters will go the way of the black and white TV, and the telegraph, western union sent its last telegraph back in January of 2007. I have kept some letters, a few from woman I’ve know, those from my grandfather and his father, and many that my grandmother sent.

I wish that I had sent her more letters for many years later I now understand how much they meant to her. That daily trip to the mailbox was her walk of hope and the path to her dreams.

I watch the miles go by and the seasons change and I count the mail boxes.



Unknown said...

There are many Letter Carriers out here who hope you are wrong about letter writing and card sending becoming a lost art. We make our living delivering these cards and letters as well as the "junk" you describe. Just remember that one persons junk is anothers treasure.

I am proud to have been able to bring some joy, hope and happiness to the patrons along my mail route over the years. I hope we never forget to stay in touch with one another even if it is by cold electronic means. I still receive birthday, Christmas, as well as thank you cards. I truely hope folks never stop sending those.

Thanks for taking the time to share your memories and thoughts with the rest of us.

Ross said...

I also believe in hand written thank yous, birthdays, etc. but the Post Offic is gone broke. Anytime government cronies run anything, they run it into the ground. Over a year ago I wrote the Post Master General and suggested that cutting out Saturday mail delivery would save millions of dollars in fuel and mileage reimbursment to rural carriers who use their own cars. Plus those carriers have to pay for their own car maintenance and can you imaging how many miles they drive each day? Not to mention eliminating Saturday would make personnel scheduling much simpler. No more Sundays and Thursday's as days off!! I quickly got a response from one of his minions, the director of rural delivery, telling me that deleting one day of mail delivery would NOT SAVE ANY MONEY - because they are are 24/7 operation (which has nothing at all to do with mail delivery). Now they barely make the payroll. Admittedly, some part-time rural carriers MAY lose their jobs but I doubt it. They'll just get another USPS job and the millions will still be saved. I spoke with my delivery person today (who is the best, you can almost set your watch on her delivry time) and the USPS has determined that it is more economical to issue each carrier a USPS truck than reimburse the mileage. DUH, how large was that committee? But it's a first step toward saving millions of $ plus less "carbon footprint" if you believe in such things. I also think it's time to close post offices on Saturday except during the xmas shipping times. More millions!! But the cost of a stamp will go up!! It always does!

Thanks, Joe