Opinion & Editorial

Mail carriers deliver life support for small businesses and seniors

Noel Nash

With all this talk of the United States Postal Service on the verge of extinction, I can’t help but recall the Seinfeld episode where Jerry agrees to deliver mail for his neighbor, Newman, a postal carrier. Jerry takes on the task like a 10-year-old who gets to put on a uniform and pretend to be an astronaut or firefighter.

He joyfully and gleefully delivered the mail with punctuality and efficiency. Newman was “found out” when his bosses became suspicious following an outpouring of compliments regarding the sudden change in service level.

It’s funny because it’s an exaggerated stereotype, presented with clever writing and acting on a TV sitcom. I can chuckle at it because I know the truth about postal workers.

To be clear, the USPS is no joke. Its employees who live and work among us face all of the same challenges in their jobs that all of us do. The potential dismantling of the post office should be of great concern to all of us. 

My industry also serves as an easy punchline, sometimes deservedly so.

My experience tells me that each of us, in our own trades and jobs, understand there is a spectrum of people with whom we work and engage on a daily basis. Most are goodhearted and well-meaning.

And there are those folks – living at either end of the spectrum – who embody the stereotypes that stain our professions.

I know the post office is not perfect, and what industry is? I’ve read the well-sourced stories and credible reporting on the new head of the USPS deliberately slowing down mail. And it worries me.

Once or twice a week, I deliver a copy of the paper to someone who didn’t receive it for some reason. Monday, I literally handed the paper to someone at their front door when the carrier walked up with a handful of letters … and The Chronicle. It was supposed to be there the previous Thursday, maybe Friday at the latest. 

The subscribers I meet are quick to say how much they rely on USPS for medicine, checks, and other essential mail. They all express a reserved concern about its potential closing, or diminished services. It’s as if they can’t bring themselves to really believe “it could close.”

After chatting with the homeowner, I caught up with the mailman a few doors down. 

He said there have been new directives at his branch in the past few weeks, where delivery of Amazon and FedEx packages, and government checks, are prioritized over all other mail – cards, personal letters, the newspaper, etc. And, he said, there is no overtime allowed.

“We’ve been told that when it’s 5 p.m., we come back and just deliver it the next day,” he said. “But the next day we only have time to deliver all of the Amazon and FedEx packages. The backlog is incredible.”

He said that “if I finish my route early, my priority is to help another carrier get the Amazon packages delivered.”

The post office is truly one of the daily miracles. The logistics are mind-boggling. And the United States perfected it. By foot. By horseback. By trains, planes and automobiles. Over hundreds of years. Through rain, sleet and snow.

Many home-bound seniors rely on their postal carriers to deliver life-sustaining medicine, and checks that pay for basic needs. I’m actually relieved to know that national mail-order purchases – where many people purchase vital medicine – is at the top of the priority list.

Still, the delays and backlogs that approach causes are contributing to the death of small businesses.

My business, like many small businesses in rural towns across America, is in real trouble. Revenue streams are drying up, in-person clientele is limited, pandemic guidelines are pinning us down and pandemic culture has us aging in dog years.

So we scramble. Like every other shop owner and chef, we’re trying to figure out how to serve and survive. The Chronicle has been nimble, and adjusted. Yet we rely on others. 

Two of our most important partners are our printer and USPS. If we lose either of them, it effectively ends the weekly paper.

Nothing funny about that.

Hey, did you hear the one about a reporter, editor and photographer who walk into a bar …  

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.



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