After the news of Dec. 5, the future of the U.S. Postal Service seems nothing to write home about.
With bankruptcy looming (and Congress dragging its feet about providing the agency more flexibility for dealing with financial woes), the Postal Service announced plans to close nearly half of its processing plants –– eliminating 28,000 jobs, and essentially giving up on the chance of next-day delivery of first-class mail.
This follows rumblings about the desire to close 3,700 local post offices, settle for five-day-a-week delivery and raise rates even faster. Not to mention, unsubstantiated reports that the vaunted Forever Stamps will be renamed the "I'm Just Going Down To The Corner Store For A Pack of Cigarettes, Baby" stamps.
One wonders what Benjamin Franklin, the first postmaster general, would think of this retrenchment. ("Early to bed and early to rise ... is all you can do when you can't depend on timely delivery of your thrice-cursed Netflix DVD!")
The plan will certainly provide short-term relief to the USPS, but will probably prove counterproductive long-term, driving even more business online. (Traditional first-class volume was already predicted to drop in half by 2020.) Maybe the Powers That Be will acknowledge this by issuing a series of Vietnam War commemorative stamps, culminating with one that announces "In order to save the village, we had to hand-cancel it."
I've been researching what OTHER tactics the USPS has for ticking off its remaining customers. For one thing, there are contingency plans for eliminating the 9-digit ZIP Code and instead making you solve a Sudoku puzzle when addressing each piece of mail. And animal rights activists are sure to appreciate the Pony Express commemorative stamps using glue made from ... well ... you know ...
So far, most of the concern has been about first-class mail (letters, bill payments, mail-order prescription drugs), newspapers and magazines — but there could be a real crisis if this snowballs and slows down our so-called "junk mail." We need a dependable supply of advertising circulars, L.L. Bean catalogs and the like. It may take so long to receive your Victoria's Secret catalog that Victoria's only secret is that she's wearing fishnet Depends.
It's hard to single out the Postal Service in the "facing harsh economic realities" area. It's like everything in America peaked at some point and we're going downhill. TV networks cram more and more commercials into each hour. Airlines charge extra for almost everything. Snacks once prepared with top-quality milk, chocolate and sugar are now made with the cheapest substitutes within grabbing distance.
Many commentators have been wholly unsympathetic to the Postal Service and its employees. But the alleged "dinosaur" is so entwined with our culture — in song ("The Letter Edged In Black" "Please, Mr. Postman"), in phrases ("The check is in the mail," "plain brown wrapper," "Dear John"), in the comics (Dagwood Bumstead crashing into Mr. Beasley the mail carrier) and in facilitating the melting pot that brings together Americans from far-flung geographic locations.
Challenge Congress to see that the Postal Service not only survives, but thrives.
Don't let SWAK (Sealed With A Kiss) be replaced with SWAVO (Sealed With A Vital Organ).
Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades." Danny's weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate.