One winter day decades ago, I walked east on slushy sidewalks from my freezing New York apartment, and ended up at the Morgan Library. I had never been there before, hadn't planned on going there, and yet, there I was. I spent the next several hours in a sort of trance, gazing at original manuscripts of books I'd read. For the first time, I could see the handwriting of authors who had held me though a sometimes-rough childhood and on into my adult life. Austen. Dickens. Mark Twain. Thoreau. Beatrix Potter, with drawings! I had loved the books, but seeing the hands – as in "she writes a fine hand" – moved me to tears.
This evening, I found a wonderful site, Archives of American Art that reminds me of the Morgan. This collection from the Smithsonian features letters and postcards from American artists, and it's worth looking at, especially if, like me, you still approach your mailbox every day in the hope that someone will have written something by hand, and sent it to you, as two of my friends still do. So, the future of the United States Postal Service matters a lot to me. I know there are huge money problems. I hear talk of closing branches, and limiting delivery days. But both those ideas seem problematic to me, and not enough anyway.
I wonder if any of these ideas might be more helpful.
1. Repeal the 2006 law requiring the postal service to pay roughly $5.5 billion a year into a retiree health benefit fund. Did I say pay? I meant pre-pay. This is to protect retirees who have not even entered the work force yet, for heaven's sake. Is there any other corporation that has to do this? Or governmental agency?
2. Take away congressional franking privileges. The same people who voted the above-mentioned law into existence don't pay postage on their promo. They don't call it promo, but it is. People who don't pay for postage shouldn't be deciding whether or not to pass a law so dramatically affecting the post office, a law that they would never pass if it applied to their own (or their donors') corporations. Buy your own stamps, congressfolks.
3. Write letters, put stamps on them and drop them in the mailbox. Too slow? Perhaps. Yet, how much of what we
have to say really has to be read right now? Have you ever finished a steamed (or steamy) email and hit "send" and only then realized what a very bad idea that was? That same note in an as-yet-unmailed envelope still sitting on your desk would have been such a relief. Believe me. I know.