By Teddy Allen
Gus and Jezebel live next door, and sometimes Molly from a house over is there and sometimes even Duke from down the street. These are labs and herding dogs and mixes of athletic breeds, serious animals, and when the mailman or mailwoman come by each day, it is Armageddon, the Olympics of Barking.
And all these dogs are gold medal contenders.
No problem. Our mail carriers have more than once smiled at me and said, above the insane barking, “They love me.”
Maybe you don’t need a sense of humor to carry the mail, but I have to believe it helps. That, and spray repellant.
All this came to mind after a letter arrived alerting us that this is the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Postal System. The actual date that President George Washington created the modern-day post office is Feb. 20, 1792, so the letter was three weeks late but, hey, who’s counting?
I’m not, and here’s why:
The post office is a dart board for complaints. Stamps are too high. Service is slow. “Y’all make my dogs bark.”
But allow me to argue for my brothers and sisters at the USPS.
First of all, a “sort of” mail delivery had been in place since 1775, and Benjamin Franklin, you’ll remember from history class, was our first postmaster general. His salary was $1,000 annually. That’s a lot back then but … it would not have bought nearly as many stamps then as today.
Back then, a dollar equaled about 30 bucks in today’s dough. So a 12-cents stamp, the most fancy stamp you could get, one that would get a letter as far as you needed it to go—to one of the new states like, say, from Philly to Kentucky—would have cost between three and four bucks, if you’ll kindly do the math (because I can’t).
I just don’t understand why anyone would complain today that, for 50 cents, I can mail a check from my house to the insurance or electricity people instead of having to go to the actual address and hand it to the insurance or electricity people. It’s a bargain—and a lot better bargain than it was in 1792, when the “new” post office, in addition to other improvements, guaranteed lower mailing rates for newspapers, greatly advancing the idea of a free press.
Also back then the penalty for robbing a mail delivery person or stealing mail from the post office was death (see Sect. 17 of the Official Act). That’s right: The Big D. And you think 50 cents is a high price to pay.
Today the fine for such misguided tomfoolery is “only” five years in prison, which is no walk in the park but it beats having your mail and earthly address discontinued permanently.
So shut your pie hole!, you USPS bashers.
Finally, how do the mail sorters know how to do that? How can all this paperwork, all these envelopes of different sizes, come into One Building and people in there are fast enough, basically overnight, to get it into The Appropriate Piles?
And how do different carriers get My Mail to My House? Now and then I’ll get Jezebel or even Molly’s mail and will have to walk next door and trade, but still, even getting a letter from Fort Worth to within two doors of my house for half a dollar is cause for celebration, in my way of thinking.
Nobody’s perfect, but in a dog-eat-dog world, the USPS is carrying its weight and then some. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night—nor barking dog—stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Hat tippage.
I should mail them a thank-you note. (Think they’ll get it?)
Contact Teddy at email@example.com