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By the time you read this, we may already be paying 25¢ to mail a first class letter.
Not that it matters much. A real letter these days is an event in our house, and no wonder. It costs us as little as 16¢ a minute to talk on the phone to California or New York. Why spend 25¢ when you have to go through all the hassle of getting out paper and envelopes and stamps and then try to remember how to spell “occasion.” A letter probably costs an hour's time and 40¢ and then you have to mail it and wait for an answer. For a couple of dollars you can have a very satisfying dialogue with just about anyone without all that.
I have noticed all this because I substituted for Ivan Steinke delivering the mail a few years back, and about the only first class mail I carried was bills, and payments and letters from (and sometimes to) congressmen and senators. There were a few postcards from people on vacations and from overseas, and that's about it. The rest of it was what we impolitely call junk mail and the Post Office politely calls Bulk Business Mail.
Maybe you've noticed that your junk mail has been increasing? Who hasn't?
During the winter, our Postmaster, Otto Walter, is very nice and keeps my bulk mail and forwards the first class when I'm out of town, and he does that for a very large number of people. Just about everybody in town, at one time or another, I expect. When I get back and collect my mail, I get a whole new perspective on Bulk Business Mail, I'll tell you. You've probably had the same experience.
So what's happening is that I'm still getting catalogues from places I haven't done business with for five years and I can't afford to send a letter to my mother!
No, that's not true. What really happens is that I send my mother a present out of one of the catalogues and then she calls and thanks me and we have a nice chat.
Then I get another ton of Bulk Business Mail and the first class rates go up.
Let's face it, we've pretty much stopped writing letters; it's a chore to R.S.V.P. an invitation. Good thing they sent a SASE or they'd never find out if I was coming.
In the days before we had phones up here, the arrival of the mail was something we looked forward to every day. It was our contact with The Outside World, along with a trip to the store every day for the newspaper. It was sort of odd; we came up here to get away from things and the first thing we did was try to find out what was happening at home.
Today, with satellite dishes and phones (which work most of the time), keeping in touch with letters seems hopelessly old fashioned.
In those distant days, too, the arrival of a telegram meant really important news, usually bad. Now, when someone goes to the trouble of avoiding the phone and sending a letter, it often means the same thing. Seems to me most of the bad news I've had in the last few years has come by letter, sometimes registered. When it's registered, you can be pretty sure it's bad news.
There hasn't been much of a fuss kicked up over the rise in price. Maybe that's because we send so few letters anymore.
But I send one to the Wind almost every month -- I think I have $3.96 invested in sending first class letters to the Wind. If the price goes up any more I may have to rethink my commitment to volunteer journalism.
Come to think of it, maybe I'll write a letter to my senator. On second thought maybe I'll just call his office -- it's cheaper.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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