Postquester.

News flash, Postal Service patrons in the District: the mandatory furlough of several federal offices today also means that one of the central branches of the United States Postal Service in our nation’s capitol is completely inaccessible today, as it is located in the same building complex as the EPA.  Not knowing of the furlough, I was completely befuddled this morning when I attempted to access my usual on-the-way-to-work Post Office and found the building locked and bolted at every entrance.  It took me ages to figure out what was going on.  Call me crazy, but it just seems nuts to shutter any branch of a federal agency that needs money as much as the dear old U.S. Mail—one of many government services upon which I daily rely.

What I had to do instead was call up the Post Office in the USDA building, verify they were indeed open, make my way across the Mall, go through security, sign in, get approval to access the P.O., get directions from several employees along the way (who were all very helpful and kind), and eventually make my way through the rabbit warren that is the Agriculture building to the little one-woman Post Office in the sub-basement, where I was finally able to post two important packages before the holiday weekend.

Of course, this speaks to a larger D.C. problem: the dearth of actual Post Offices conveniently located in the downtown. Millions of CVSes and Wells Fargos where you can buy stamps (which, irritatingly, the USPS web site brings up in its search for you), and like five actual full-service counters where you can do complicated things like purchase unusual stamp denominations and combinations, and speak with a human postal employee who is willing to help you. Between my apartment and the Metro, there is both a UPS Store and a FedEx outlet, but no Post Office (it’s in the opposite direction—though it is close, it is not on the way to anywhere). What is wrong with this picture?

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3 thoughts on “Postquester.

  1. Seems to me you’ve put your finger on it: the last USPO you mentioned is “in the wrong direction” from which most people are likely travelling, which we know because FedEx and CVS, who run all kinds of studies before they locate one of their own outposts, are in the opposite direction that the PO…which appears to be “on the way to nowhere” if it keeps on allowing itself to go down, down, down only to disapppear from the consciousness of the citizens and their wallets upon which the USPS depends … not suspends as if on the last thread of a fraying rope. ¶ Whenever I consider this issue, I think of Benj. Franklin and the energies he usefully expended to ensure the sure communications flow that took messages by courier from NE to Philly and then the more southern states and back; and then expended to ensure that the newly birthed nation would have a true postal service. I once read that a great civilization in the modern age needs one of two known reliable systems in order to hold itself together and lend cohesion to the whole: coommunications OR transportation. Franklin used those in forms that were then available to him: quill pens, rough paper, and bad roads, difficult stage routes. The modern USA has both in abundance: most sueful communications forms that nearly baffle some modern people, and forms of transportation that can meet every need, individual, group, or ‘en masse.’ ¶ The USPS could learn from what you have written, and the time is now — before everyone loses confidence in them as they have seemed to have lost confidence in us. § Remember what I’ve told you about the downgrading and near failure of rail transportation for people, and how that happened? The USPS was responsible for that, and may now be responsible for pulling itself apart.

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