The United States Postal Service, aka the post office

April 17, 2022

Eventually, if not regularly, many of us visit the building or shack known as the post office. Be assured that there shall be no criticisms of the wonderful employees who are on payroll in these places. We are examining here the institution and concept of getting what we call mail from one place (our home, the point of origin) to some other place (wherever that may be). Mail, as we know it, is usually something written on some grade of paper, placed in what is called an envelope, and intended for some other person in some other place. This type of communication can take various forms and sizes and weights and worth, hence the need for the United States Postal Service. We take these precious pieces of mail to the post office for the purpose of safely and efficiently getting them to an intended destination via this so-called service. What appears at first to be a relatively uncomplicated process often becomes similar to assembling a piece of furniture from our favorite Scandinavian retailer.

Before moving on, let us acknowledge the fact that there are competing companies with capital letters as their logo which also move parcels. However, those large-lettered outfits do not move greeting cards, for example, from son to mother. Also, they are not as easily accessible as our nearby friendly post office. Here in the Cape Region, we are blessed with three – Rehoboth Beach (on the Avenue), Lewes (Front Street), and our favorite, Nassau (Coastal Highway or Route 1 east side, or Savannah Road). The majority of you have no idea where the Nassau Post Office is, and just as well. Oh, forgive me, I failed to mention the ever-so-lovely Milton postal facility on the Milton-Ellendale Highway (aka Route 16). Just wanted to give equal time to all our postal structures to avoid jealousy or bias. It does not matter which facility is visited; the drill is the same.

For purposes of this column, let us use the Nassau facility as the base and focal point. The customers (as in the other postal buildings, too) are present for a myriad of reasons, but half of us really have no idea how it all works. Even merely buying postage stamps can be a challenge, in that not only are they sold in more than one configuration, but there are also at least 25 choices among the Forever variety. Then there are customers who desire to send a package using the postal service. That is one bleeping ordeal! The customer must answer a series of questions tantamount to a COVID screening with respect to the contents of the package, and then another series with respect to the manner in which they want their package to go through the mail system – Regular, Express, Priority, First Class, and who knows how many others. As with a cab ride in a major American city, the meter is running with respect to the customer’s choice. Eventually the clerk and the customer reach an agreement with respect to the method of mailing as the next customer waits ever so patiently for the negotiations to conclude. Shall we add what occurs if the customer must choose a particular size or type of mailing box? OK, we shall spare everyone that grief. The boxes all look pretty much the same, but Dorothy’s yellow brick road had fewer surprises than these postal boxes.

Suppose we only had a letter to mail. That would be easy, right? Maybe! Again, it depends on what is in the envelope, and of course, the size thereof. Certainly, folks, there are other options which can help us avoid being in one of those buildings in the first place. We can use our home computers and scales to create mailing and postage labels, thereby eliminating interaction with anyone in the post office, regardless of which side of the counter s/he may be.

Interestingly enough, though, the postal system is the most efficient and even fastest method of getting something from here to there. Grandma really cannot drive those cookies to her beautiful progeny in Minnesota, nor can Dad get that special mechanical part to his darling daughter in New Mexico for anywhere near the price of our United States Postal Service. Yes, it is a pain at times to deal with our postal system, or even to think about dealing with the post office, whatever the branch location, but overall, it is not a bad deal.


  • Peter E. Carter is a former public school administrator who has served communities in three states as a principal, and district and county superintendent, for 35-plus years. He is a board member for Delaware Botanic Gardens and Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation, and the author of a dual autobiography, “A Black First…the Blackness Continues.”

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