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Thursday, April 19, 2012

POST OFFICE

Capitol Hill Station, Denver, CO

As a zine person I'm someone who spends an inordinate amount of time in Post Offices.  I love the Post Office.  People complain about it, but the fact that I can send something around the world for a few bucks has always been amazing to me.

In case you're not aware of it, the US Post Office is under fire.  There are people in this country (Republicans and their Corporate Overlords) that hate the fact that some people value things more than money.  They would love to destroy the Post Office for that reason.

You hear in the news every year or so about how deep in debt the Post Office is, how the price of a first class stamp is going up again, how Saturday delivery might be suspended and on and on.  But do you know WHY this happening?

I suggest you watch this video of progressive talk show host Ed Schultz explaining in simple terms what's been going on.

As a person in the world of small press comics and zines, if the Post Office goes out of business, I go out of business.  And there are plenty of small businesses around the country that are in the same boat.  Not to mention the postal workers and their families that will be affected by the heartlessness of the Republican agenda.

Paris cartoonist Laurent Lolmede holds up the King-Cat I mailed to him from the South Beloit Post Office.

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Meanwhile, here's a brief trip down memory lane, about all the Post Office Boxes I've had:

PO Box 403, DeKalb, IL; 1992
After using my parents' house in Hoffman Estates as my de facto zine mailing address for years, I finally broke down and got my own PO Box in DeKalb.  I think there were only one or two issues of King-Cat that included this address in the indicia, because shortly after securing the box I decided to move to Denver.  Coincidentally, when one of my best friends, Al Stark, got a DeKalb PO Box about a decade later, he was also assigned #403.  So it's easy for me to remember his address when I send him a letter.

PO Box 18510, Denver, CO; 1992-1998
My original box at the funky and groovy Capitol Hill Post Office on Marion Street in Denver was a nearly daily stop for me in the six years I lived in Denver originally.  I'd load my backpack with outgoing orders and trade them for new mail when I got there.  I remember many sunny Denver afternoons walking slowly back down Marion Street to 8th Ave reading letters I'd received.

Seeing the same clerks every day, you get to know them a bit.  It becomes part of your day, part of your connection to the neighborhood, to the city.  When I was sick in 1997 I needed someone not related to me to witness my Do Not Resuscitate form, and it was counter clerk Tim at the Capitol Hill PO who signed it for me.

PO Box 95826, Hoffman Estates, IL; 1998
After my surgery in '97, Kera and I moved back to Chicagoland to be closer to our families.  My dad rented me this PO Box in anticipation of our arrival.  My memories of this PO are mostly stopping in at night, after the counter had closed, to pull mail from my box (I worked the late shift).  I remember the warm summer nights, the parking lot lights, the humidity in the air, and how good it felt to be back home.

PO Box 881, Elgin, IL; 1998-2002
After moving to Elgin in the summer of '98 I got this box at the downtown PO.  It became part of my crucial Saturday routine:  Walking down to the library to check out books, over to the PO to get my week's worth of mail and send same, and then over to the thrift store on South Grove to buy old New Yorkers for a dime.  I still remember the clerk who told me that Engelbert Humperdinck was the singer's real name.

PO Box 300637, Denver, CO; 2002-2003
This was the box I had for the one weird year I lived back in Denver in '02-'03.  I lived on Marion Street two blocks south of the PO and there were many afternoons of dragging my Rolly Cart through snow, slush or simply over Denver's raggedy sandstone sidewalks.  Always rushing to make it there before they locked the doors on Saturday at 12:30.

PO Box 170535, San Francisco, CA; 2003-2006
After a year in Denver we moved to San Francisco so Misun could finish acupuncture school.  My PO Box was at the Clayton Street Station, right off Haight Street.  Waiting in the enormous lines, sidestepping crusties and their pitbulls on my way there, seeing the same people in line everyday:  the guy who sold books over eBay, the Amoeba employees with their carts of mailorder...

PO Box 18888, Denver, CO; 2006-2010
And back to Denver.  I got another Capitol Hill PO Box, though we ended up living in the West Highlands our first year and a half back.  After that we lived at First and Broadway, so it was still a trek--  I'd drive my $600 1993 Subaru up there on Saturday mornings.  You'll notice the preponderance of "8"s in my PO Box numbers.  That's because ever since I was a kid I've had a hard time writing 8's.  The universe has made sure I've had plenty of practice, though I can't say I've gotten any better at it.

PO Box 142, South Beloit, IL; 2010-present
After my life imploded in 2010, I ended up in the sunny little burg of South Beloit, IL, the "Sand Capital of the World."  There are few anchors to my life here, but the friendly clerks at the Post Office are one of them.  I kind of feel bad on the rare day when I don't stop in.

* * *

If you frequent the Post Office, please be sure to let the employees know how much you value their work.  And write your congressperson and let them know the US Post Office is there for a reason:  because in a civilized society government should play a role in making its citizens' lives better.  It's the American Way.

16 comments:

  1. I love post offices, too!! Even here in Mozambique! The U.S. Postal Service was one of the most awesome things I experienced, and helped me get cheaper delivery prices on online shopping.
    And the stamps! I always try to send mail with colorful stamps, too.
    http://viagensdairis.blogspot.com/2010/01/two-pictures-i-forgot-to-post.html
    http://viagensdairis.blogspot.com/2010/06/another-post-office-in-maputo.html

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  2. I don't know. Does it really improve our lives to pay into a failing system while other agencies can provide those same services at a much lower cost?
    The USPS seems like a vestigial organ. It made sense when we were expanding through the West, but is there an essential reason why the state should have a mail service today?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A. You're not paying in (unless you're purchasing their services of course). The USPS is fiscally independent and isn't funded by tax dollars. Not to mention that the recent budget shortfall is largely due to PAEA which requires healthcare costs to be funded for 75 years in the future.
      B. If you know of a company that can deliver a 1oz letter for less than $0.45 then let me know. I've never ever seen UPS or FedEx offer lower rates than the USPS on anything.

      Great post John! (pun intended)

      Delete
  3. I'm with you John! Thanks for this great post. I am going to share this with my readers as well.

    ReplyDelete
  4. post offices, at least little local ones, in Britain are great. half shop, half community centre, the one near me sells statues of elvis, mear cats and 'signed' pictures of major celebs. i love it.

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  5. ULAND: Come on, you really think UPS is cheaper than the Post Office?

    The purpose of the Post Office is to help connect American citizens with themselves and the world, and to encourage business, thus growing the economy.

    The purpose of corporations is to squeeze out every last bit of profit for their shareholders, consequences (for others) be damned.

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  6. Also, the Post Office is not failing, it only appears to be because of onerous and unprecedented congressional (read: Republican) demands. I thought Repubs wanted government hands off business? Oh, not if the business is not corporate based, and highly unionized I guess.

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    Replies
    1. Actually, John, it's not a Republican issue. The Democrats are in charge, and before that the Republicans. Neither have fixed it. It benefits neither side, that's why it's still broken. It's not a left issue, it's not a right issue, it's an American issue

      Delete
    2. Yes, but I believe it was the Republican led congress in 2006 that pushed it through, right? And as much as I am disappointed in the Democrats in Congress, surely the obstructionism of the current Republicans has a hand in this "problem" perpetuating itself. That said I would think both parties would find some political public-relations benefit to saving a hundred thousand All-American jobs with the tap of a gavel. Thanks for writing, David. I do agree with you, it's an American issue.

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  7. For both personal and business stuff, I MUCH PREFER USPS to private vendors (UPS/FedEx/DHL). USPS pricing is significantly less expensive for the service I get. I never understand why people say that the private vendor shipping system is better and less expensive. Neither is true in my experience. Long live the USPS!

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  8. The point of the Republican legislation is this: If you're going to guarantee benefits & salary to your employees, you need to make sure you can pay for it, because if you continue to operate at a loss, we're going to be on the hook for it; if you can't do this, it's an unsound model. And because this very simple service can be provided by lots of other competitors , and there's no essential reason why this service should be provided by the state, you should go if you can't do this.
    I mean, by your logic, why not just have state monopolies on all services? Why not every other communication system ( Internet, phone, etc)?

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    Replies
    1. Bullshit! The point of the GOP legislation is that if the USPS fails then big business can step in and make the super rich even richer.

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  9. One last thing: the USPS already operates as a corporation, just one who's risk is placed upon the taxpayers back ( profits are theirs).
    They've survived on junk mail for decades. As that kind of crap eases up , they have to adapt or die.
    And really, do we care whether we get a package from UPS v USPS? What's the difference?
    If you're committed to the idea of the State offering services , you have to make sure it's stuff people need. It's just greed, otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No other company/agency in the world has to generate in advance 75 years worth of benefits funding. And as discussed in the video, they already have enough in the fund so that, with interest, it's enough to cover even the 75 year amount.

      As mentioned by Kyle Nolan above, the PO is funded solely by revenue, there's no tax-support.

      I don't care whether I get a package from UPS or USPS, I have nothing against FedEx/UPS etc, they all serve roles in the shipping business, and I use them when needed. But as a business-person, I can guarantee you I can't get better service per dollar on most transactions than with USPS.

      Finally, you don't think people need affordable mail service? You think wanting to have affordable mail service is greedy? I guess we just have to agree to disagree.

      Delete
  10. Capitalism is a shitty religion

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