NEPM Header Banner
PBS. NPR. Local Perspective.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

We've Got Mail: Thanks, U.S. Postal Service

Deep in the Grand Canyon, six days a week, the U.S. mail arrives. Letters, junk mail, milk, vegetables, and packages from Amazon — all are delivered — to Supai Village, Arizona — by mule. Now that’s service.

Every country has mail, but our mail is a Constitutional mandate. The Constitution empowers Congress “to establish Post Offices and Post Roads.”

And since 1775, when Ben Franklin inaugurated the service, 200 laws have protected the mail. FedEx, UPS, and Amazon deliver packages, but their carriers can’t touch your mailbox. It’s federal property.  

We love to bash government: that damn Congress, that stupid VA. Yet this March, the Postal Service earned an approval rating of 91%.

That’s because mail hits you where you live. Across America, from tiny towns far from anywhere to major cities everywhere, there's a post office. And if there isn't one near you, Rural Free Delivery will bring mail to your door.

For 55 cents, you can mail a letter from any of 30,000 post offices to any other PO. Most arrive within three days. Isn't it time to thank this service?

A U.S. Post Office in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Credit cmh2315fl / Creative Commons /
Creative Commons /
A U.S. Post Office in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

You may not know your friendly mail carrier — mine in Montague is Scott — but the post office has employed some well-known Americans. Among local postmasters were Harry Truman, William Faulkner and Abraham Lincoln. Former carriers include Bing Crosby, Steve Carrell, John Prine and Charles Lindbergh, who flew air mail before flying the Atlantic.

But since the 1990s, the USPS has battled funding shortages, corporate competitors, and the rise of email.  Struggling to make "the swift completion of its appointed rounds," the USPS butts heads with our damn Congress.

In 2011, when many rural offices were slated for closing, Congress intervened. Two years later, a proposal to cut Saturday delivery to packages and Priority Mail drew another flat “no.” We want our mail.

And now there’s another brouhaha. Claiming the USPS can't handle a surge of mail ballots this November, the Trump administration set off an outcry that rang from the northernmost ZIP code to the southernmost. The uproar also rattled D.C., where "cost-cutting" measures were rescinded — for now.

All this week, in sizzling heat, the mail will arrive deep in the Grand Canyon. But it will come less by mule than by sheer will.

And mail will keep arriving across America, because as AOL knew, we all perk up at the news, “You’ve got mail.”

Bruce Watson lives in Montague, Massachusetts. His online magazine is "The Attic – True Stories for a Kinder, Cooler America."

Related Content