Post office faster, cheaper in days of yore

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

We are told that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder,” and by the same token we might say that progress is in the same place because it surely isn’t seen the same by many people.
Although I came along after the Pony Express, I have seen many changes in the U.S. Postal System and would not call many of those changes progress.

I well remember when we could mail a letter to El Paso for three cents and feel reasonably sure it would arrive the next day. Actually, we could depend on the next day’s arrival in most areas of our state unless the roads were bad or the trains were late. As postage rates have gone up and more people have been hired, we really can’t count on a letter mailed to someone in town arriving the next day and certainly can’t rely on its getting anywhere else within such a short time.

Even after I moved home, I could send a letter to Las Cruces and feel reasonably sure it would arrive the next day, but all of that has changed in recent years. If it arrives within a week, we are almost ready to celebrate although I have been told of late that it “could” arrive within two days. For a while, we could get a letter those 300 miles in three days, but that is now history as a letter mailed here on Wednesday might accidentally arrive on Saturday but more usually it will arrive on Tuesday. Now, we are told that the main problem lies in Albuquerque or in the Las Cruces post offices.

During some weeks, we can still mail a letter to Amarillo and have it arrive the next day, but that isn’t always the case. When I asked about that little problem, I was told that most of the mail picked up from our curbside mailboxes is no longer sorted here but goes to Albuquerque for that project. However, if we really want the letter to arrive the next day, we can drive to the post office and hand it to a person inside.

A new record was set this week when I received a letter from Amarillo in exactly two weeks. Nothing showed that it had been missent, but it surely must have lolled around in some post office or have traveled from coast to coast in that time. We know it could have arrived in Alaska in three days, but it simply couldn’t get from Amarillo to Tucumcari in a timely manner.

Wouldn’t such mail handlers as Grace Smith or John McKinnon have a field day were they still around? They had to sort mail by hand and tend to the business at the windows and somehow managed to get everything done rapidly even when we were a fairly large town. Three or four people could get all the work done without benefit of any of the technical conveniences of today and could still have time to chat with each customer; much as two or three people could get all the billing and collecting done at city hall without benefit of computers, etc. during our crowded past.

Now, we are looking forward to paying more for our stamps while we look backward to the days during which we could rely on sending a letter in town and having it delivered the next day and doing the same to almost any place in our state. Those of us who are still old-fashioned enough to enjoy sending and receiving real letters might as well find more patience or give in to the “virtual reality mail” sent and received on computers.

Change and expense don’t necessarily mean we are beholding progress.