Dear, Dear Post Office:
My earliest memories of you are not of letters sent by Uncles and Aunts, but of pen pals from far, far away. I would race home from school, shout, “Daddy. Did I get any mail?” and then listen for my father’s adorably predictable response. “Yes,” he always said. “You got a letter from Hong Kong.”
Sometimes there really was a letter. Usually not. Part of the fun was in the way he pronounced Hong Kong, as if the syllables were gloomy gongs struck off a giant bell. The rest of the fun was in the childish inky handwriting on the front of the occasional envelope, the exotic stamps, and messages exchanged between my pen pal and me, detailing events in our truly tediously lives.
And you, Dear Post Office … you made it possible.
There were also thrillingly addressed letters sent to friends at summer camp:
Miss. Diana Amberson
Wilderness Iroquois Indian Camp, Danson, Illinois, United States of America
Northern Hemisphere, Earth, Solar System, Milky Way Galaxy, Universe
Before we mailed them, we would kiss the envelopes with lipstick-smeared lips, and in big clumsy letters write SWAK (Sealed With A Kiss). And you delivered them, Dear Post Office, proving not only that you were competent, but that you had a sense of humor as well.
My great passion for you, though, did not begin until I moved to the City to become a writer. I lived in a six-flight walkup without a telephone, a television, or even a typewriter. But I did have big dreams, and I had a family in Illinois who loved me. Because of you, we kept in touch.
I will never forget with what gratitude I received letters from Mom and Dad. I would dash downstairs and feel my heart thump if I saw a thick envelope crammed into my narrow mailbox in the lobby. I’d devour the pages on my way back upstairs, and become so engrossed that I would continue past the sixth floor, and not stop until I walked smack dab into the door to the roof.
I remember how wonderful it was to anticipate … to wait … to receive. And I remember the delicious joy of not having instant gratification.
Mostly though, Dear Post Office. I remember how easy it all was.
I could pack a carton with birthday presents, books, records or clothes and stuff it into the big blue mailbox on my corner. To send a letter, all I had to do was address an envelope and lick a stamp. And calculating postage was as easy as opening a drawer. I’d just multiply the number of ounces by the price per ounce, and slap on a few stamps. First Class went by train or boat. Airmail cost a little more. And Book Rate was so cheap, rejection letters from publishers were almost easy to bear.
Back then, Dear Post Office, you were wonderful. You were open weekdays from 8 to 5, and on Saturdays until 1 p.m. You lived in town, you were sensible, and you talked in a language that everyone could understand.
Then you ruined everything. And thanks to your ridiculous changes, I can now no longer:
Find a post office.
Figure out when it is open.
Figure out how many stamps to put on a letter.
Use a mailbox.
Mail a package.
Whose brilliant idea was it, Dear Post Office, to move to the ass end of nowhere so that, in order to find you, we must drive blocks, miles, and universes away from the center of town?
Whose brilliant idea was it to close your counters in the middle of the day, so that working people can’t buy stamps, get passports, or mail packages during their breaks for lunch?..