Rain and slush are everywhere tonight, and social media (Facebook and Twitter especially) are overloaded with Super Bowl talk. Unsolicited updates from The New York Times and The Huffington Post about the game are flooding my Gmail box, so I take this as a sign I should be blogging.
The “14 readers out there in the dark” (with apologies to Fritz the Nite Owl) who follow this blog know that I am proud of my former job at the main post office in Cincinnati. Because of that, I usually have zero tolerance for jokes or snide comments about the United States Postal Service. (I have made plenty of nasty comments about the USPS since I left my job there in 1995, but, as a former employee, I can do this. This is similar to Jackie Mason ridiculing Jews in a way that would kill the career of a Gentile comedian.)
Having said this, the USPS has been a godsend and a source of worry for me during January. The source of worry was personal; the godsend was professional.
When I was in Florida for Christmas with Susie, one of our projects was making sure that she mailed her application for the AFSCME Family Scholarship in time to be considered. The application had to be postmarked no later than December 31, so Steph, Susie, and I spent Christmas night putting the finishing touches on the application. The next morning, the 26th, Susie and I went to the Office Depot in Merritt Island and sent it on its way via Priority Mail, complete with a tracking number. I set up the function to have the USPS send me text messages on every step of the envelope’s journey from Brevard County to AFSCME headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The lack of any information began to worry me several days into the new year. I went to http://www.usps.com and checked the tracking. Nothing beyond the initial message that Office Depot had generated a label.
I wrote a letter to Lee Saunders, who is the president of AFSCME, asking if he could check on whether Susie’s application had made it to Washington. (I knew that he knew little about the scholarships directly, but my thought was that it’s better to direct the inquiry to the highest level possible, and then it’ll eventually wend its way down to the proper department.)
Several days later (I wrote to Saunders and sent the letter by snail mail–considering the situation, a true act of faith on my part), there was an email from the union. I could “rest assured” they had received Susie’s application.
So the fault was with the USPS. For whatever reason, they had neglected to track the envelope. The worry had me close to an ulcer, but I expelled a huge sigh of relief once I knew that her paperwork (including recommendations from her teachers and guidance counselors) made it.
The whole worry had me second-guessing myself. I checked the Office Depot receipt to make sure I had addressed the envelope properly (I had). I thought of a Dave Berg cartoon in Mad from his feature, “The Lighter Side of Mail.” A woman is scolding her husband, saying that a letter he is about to send won’t be accepted because there is no zip code. He scoffs, saying, “What more do they need than the person’s building and city?” Sure enough, the letter comes back. The address: The President, c/o The White House, Washington, D.C.)
Technical difficulties made the USPS necessary at the office last week. I had finished typing six reports from one of our doctors, a semi-retired physician who lives in New Albany. He was impatient to receive them, so he could correct them, sign them, and collect his fee. The trouble was that none of his faxes would go through. At first, the problem was on his end.
Then, I noticed that no reports were going through. Other doctors in Columbus weren’t getting their faxes, and neither were our doctors in Dayton. So, while our fax machine went under the knife (other machines on the 10th floor were having the same problem), it was the USPS to the rescue. I guessed that the reports would get there sooner that way than by fax.