By David Carroll
I recently mailed a book from Chattanooga to an address in Iowa.
I tracked the package during its journey, which was supposed to take three days. For some reason, my book decided to spend a week in Memphis. Maybe it was the barbecue? Ten days later, it finally surrendered its freedom and took up residence in Iowa.
A few days later, I mailed another book to Houston, Texas. This too, was a “three-day delivery.” I soon became envious of the route my book took to Texas. During the first seven days, it enjoyed the scenery of Chattanooga, Knoxville (hey, you’re going the wrong way!), Memphis, and eventually Salt Lake City, Utah.
Not being that familiar with the western United States, I assumed it’s just a skip and a hop from Utah to Texas. I figured my book would bum a ride on a dusty dirt road and find its way to Houston. Perhaps there would be a quick stop at an all-night diner, and upon arrival, it would then jump into the right mailbox.
It turns out, the distance from the Utah mail sorting center is about nine hundred miles from Houston. And the folks in Utah must have really enjoyed my book, because it stayed there long enough for them to read it, and even loan it to a friend. Two weeks after leaving Chattanooga, my book decided it had seen enough of America’s countryside, and leapt into the arms of its new owner in Houston.
Since last March, I have only put about 900 miles on my car. I really haven’t been anywhere. But if I slap about $10.95 postage on my forehead and ask my wife to poke a couple of eye holes in a box and address it to North Dakota, I’ll have a pretty good chance of seeing the Florida beaches.
In a few weeks, I will have a new book to peddle, and will again be dependent on the US Postal Service to deliver it to homes near and far. Frankly, I dread that.
I asked my friends if they too, had recent mail delivery horror stories. I may have well asked them if water is wet. The overwhelming answer (and I’m keeping it clean here) was, “Heck yes!”
Most folks have routine stories like mine. But there are some doozies. Here’s a sampling:
“I sent a letter to the University of Indiana requesting some information. I never received a reply, but my original letter was returned to me several months later. It was covered in postal stamps that marked its travels. One was from India!” Hey, who among us hasn’t mixed up Indiana and India, am I right?
And: “In November I mailed two packages. One to a friend in Sweden and the other to a friend in Alabama. My friend in Sweden got her package before Christmas, but the one to Alabama arrived in mid-January.” I should make more friends in foreign countries, so they will get my packages on time.
There were also stories of well-traveled Christmas cards that only needed to be transported a few houses down the street, or a mile away. Instead, they got to see the world, arriving around Valentine’s Day.
We have been encouraged to fill our prescriptions online, for lower prices. At one time that seemed like a good idea. Well, your neighborhood pharmacist might charge you a few bucks more, but at least the medication hasn’t expired by the time you get it.
Many people have switched to online bill paying, although not everyone has the access, the computer skills, or the desire to do so. They remember the days when a simple stamp and an envelope kept the wolves at bay. Now, if the post office lets your payment sit for a couple of months, the power company starts flicking your lights.
Various news agencies have reported that the problems began shortly after May 2020, when newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy decided to remove high-speed sorters, ban overtime, and remove mail receptacles. DeJoy’s performance, much like everything else, has become a political football. Many Republicans defend DeJoy (an appointee of President Trump), while most Democrats say he must be replaced.
US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) told me that DeJoy “should resign soon, and if he doesn’t, he will be fired.” Rep. Cooper went on to say the Postal Service “is too great an American institution to be treated this way.” In February, DeJoy told a House committee that he is trying to get the agency’s financial house in order, and “I intend to be around a long time. Get used to me.”
In the spirit of cooperation and goodwill, I will send both Rep. Cooper and Mr. DeJoy a Christmas card this year. I’m putting them in the mail this afternoon.
(David Carroll is a Chattanooga TV news anchor and radio host. You may follow him at ChattanoogaRadioTV.com, or contact him at email@example.com or at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405)