Thursday, January 12, 2012

Something reliable

Yes, I realize I didn't write a single blog entry in December, and this is my first in January. Just haven't been able to work up the necessary momentum. It has become harder and harder to make myself do anything I don't have to do -- possibly as the result of depression -- on top of which my feelings about my blog have always been nebulous at best. Is keeping it up a total waste of time? Is anybody out there reading it? Admittedly, I do have statistics that show people are reading it, but I get virtually no feedback these days, to any of my posts, which makes me wonder if people show up once, take a look, are not particularly impressed, and never come back. And I sometimes feel I am just part of the current national obsession with exhibitionism. I have always tried to make my blog postings more than what-I-ate-today, or this-is-my-opinion-about-that, but basically they are about what I do/observe/think/feel. And, well, who cares?

However, something just happened that has inspired me to write. The postman showed up. No big deal, right? Only we're in the midst of a major snow storm, 6-10 inches predicted, probably three inches on the ground now, and the roads, especially the back streets, still minimally plowed. Nearly everything closed for the day, including my little library (director's discretion), but here comes the mail truck. As I laughingly said to the fellow when I went to the door to relieve him of my mail, before he stuck it in the box: "Neither rain, nor snow, nor..." "That's right," he laughed, "nor anything else the world decides to throw at us."

And isn't that great?! Isn't it wonderful that this tradition lives on? My power could go out any minute -- no more computer access -- people have trouble with their telephones all the time -- but the mail, that old-fashioned mode of communication, always goes through.

But the poor old post office is in dire financial straits, as it has been for years, they're closing rural and big-city branch offices right and left -- some of them, as has been pointed out, the hub of their small communities -- they're talking about eliminating Saturday service altogether...

And yes, it's a shame. A shame that such a truly noble institution seems to have outlived its usefulness, as more and more people turn to doing business online, rather than through the mail, communicating on a personal level via email or text-messaging rather than with letters, as services like FedEx and UPS usurp the package-delivery end of things (they, too, make a point of getting their packages through, and as quickly as possible). But for now, anyway, I can be appreciative of my local letter carrier, since "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

I was surprised to learn, by the way, that this famous "motto" is not the official motto of the Post Office -- which doesn't have one -- although it is inscribed on the James Farley Post Office in New York City (a huge, great P.O. building). It's derived from a quote from Herodotus' Histories (Book 8, Ch. 98), referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire, (which shows you that, yes, there's nothing new under the sun):

It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.

And by the way, The Farley Post Office once held the distinction of being the only Post Office in New York City open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Now that's service. But in 2009, due to the economic downturn, its windows began to close at 10:00 p.m.