Neither Rain Nor Sleet Nor Hail
Nor Dark of Night…
I mailed a letter to my aunt the other day. She is 86 years old and the last contact between the members of her far-flung family.
Post offices having gone out of vogue I mail my letters at a nearby corner store run by a man and his son. The father had the personality of a store-keeper, smiling and affable. The son was not cut out for retail, however. He would fit in better with a demolition crew.
This day the son was at the stamp counter, his father having taken the day off. He looked suspiciously at my bulky envelope.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It’s a letter," I replied.
"A letter?" he said, as if he had never expected to see such a thing at a stamp counter.
"Yes," I said. Then I realized that he might never have heard of a letter before and explained. "A few pages of handwriting, a newspaper clipping or two and a couple of photos." It had been a while since my last letter. I was hoping that adding volume might cause my Aunt to overlook my neglect.
"Why not use e-mail?" the lad inquired.
My aunt is not a Luddite by any means, but her determination to keep up with technology ended when she retired, about thirty years ago. Her children had purchased a computer and tried to interest her in it, but she found the technology too baffling, starting with the "ON" button. I found this too cumbersome to explain and decided to take the offensive.
"I prefer to write letters, and my aunt prefers to receive letters," I said a little acidly. "What’s wrong with that?"
The boy gave the letter a hard scrutiny, flipping it front to back to be sure he had taken it all in.
"Big envelope like that," he said. "You just never know what’s in it, you know. It could be a bomb or something."
"Why would I send a bomb to my aunt?" I said indignantly.
"You never know," he said, his voice low and ominous. "With all the terrorists communicating a bulky envelope like this just might attract suspicion. Homeland security might decide to investigate a person who sends a bulky envelope like that."
I did my best to hang on to my indignation as I paid for the stamp and walked out of the store. It was ridiculous, of course, but what if the brute was right. What if CSIS decided that my letter should be looked at more closely? I have never had a yen to travel to Syria.
It took me some time to realize that the boy was merely promoting a plot by the post office. By terrifying people into not writing personal letters and sending items through the post that people would want to receive the post office would be delivering bills, advertising flyers and sales pitches, none of which people wanted to receive. Thus people would not notice that their service has dropped to zero.
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