Going Postal: A Few Random Thoughts At The End of Term

December 1, 2011, 10:52 pm

I was at the Zenith post office today, mailing a large box of books to a former advisee now in his first year of graduate school.  As usual, I had to wait in line.  Students, who have little access to ordinary household supplies, have a tendency to purchase a box at the post office for whatever they are sending and then pack the box right at the counter.  This means that when a personal appearance at the PO is called for, and you don’t feel like driving downtown, it is usually a good idea to bring something to read:  each customer ahead of you can take a while to finish up.  When I got to the front of the line, the Mistress of Post rang up my shipment at the Media Mail rate, and I held out my debit card.

No dice. Unlike all other postal facilities, they do not take debit or credit cards at the Zenith PO which is, I believe, a new policy.

Upon being notified of this I said politely, “Unfortunately, I do not carry cash.” I think I haven’t had real money in my wallet since the Farmer’s Market before Thanksgiving. I saw that there was a card reader on the register and pointed this out:  no, apparently it only registers the fake money students carry on their Zenith ID’s.

“We take a check,” the Mistress of Post replied helpfully.  I said I thought this was odd, since it was likely that many of those checks bounced, whereas a debit or credit card would not and would be a great deal less trouble in the end.

“I know,” she said. We stared thoughtfully at each other for a while, wondering how this would work itself out. In fact, I don’t have checks either, and haven’t carried a checkbook regularly since the mid-1990s. ”So how about,” I said, hefting my box of books onto the counter, “if I go to the ATM down the hall and get cash?”  She allowed as how that was an excellent solution.

So I did.  And when I returned, and was waiting to jump the line (which is allowed at the Zenith PO if your business has been interrupted through no fault of your own) I saw this:

Which, if you can’t tell, is a sample envelope demonstrating to our students how to address an envelope and where to put the stamp, probably because most of them have communicated 99% of the time via email, text or phone. Final thought? This helpful aide, undoubtedly invented by our Zenith postal clerks in response to incoherently addressed envelopes, has truly convinced me that the US Postal Service will die.  It has been generationally lapped by the digital world and it may, in fact, simply disappear as an institution in my lifetime.

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