As she ran out the door, I hoped she would yell, “Wait a minute, Mr. Postman.”
She has seen the postman throughout her life. She has waited patiently (and not-so-patiently) for packages and parcels he’s delivered through the years.
But she didn’t yell or sing, “Wait a minute, Mr. Postman,” because she does not know that song.
The ordeal leading up to the non-chase of the postman demonstrated that she also does not know much about postal basics.
“She” is one of my daughters, and I am honoring her request to remain unnamed.
When I realized just how little she knew about mailing a letter, I was stunned.
“Do I put one stamp or two?” she asked.
“You put one stamp,” I replied.
“Why doesn’t it need two?” she asked. “It’s going to another state. Shouldn’t I put two?”
And with that series of questions, I began to understand just how deep the problems lie for the U.S. Postal Service. Granted, there have got to be kids out there who know the ins and outs of mailing letters. My daughter, for whom I have tried so hard to provide a well-rounded education and exposure to the finer and most basic points of life, is not one of them.
“I did mail a letter in the first grade,” she said in response to my incredulousness.
For her and the others out there in her shoes, here are the basics of what happens: You can write a letter on a piece of paper, on a baseball, on a coconut, on a Frisbee or a flip-flop—but mostly people mail letters.
That’s not true.
These days, people mostly mail bill payments.
But, should you be so inclined, you could mail a letter or an envelopeless flip-flop or a postcard—which is a lot more fun than mailing a bill.
Back to the basics—if you’re mailing a letter in an envelope to someone in the United States, all you have to do is add the proper address—name, street address or post office box number (that’s another detail that threw my daughter off), city, state and zip code and proper postage. If it’s a regular size envelope, it requires one letter stamp, which costs 44 cents these days. Mailing a postcard only costs 29 cents. If you’re mailing the letter internationally, it requires a little more postage.
Many an adult who just read that explanation is thinking, “Why did she just use a paragraph to explain what everyone knows?”
Well, the answer is: For the most part, the generation under the age of 17 knows diddly squat about how the postal service works. My informal research and survey show that a surprising number of 20-somethings still use the postal service regularly to make their bill payments or send in their Netflix. The vast majority of my 20-something I know use the postal service much more than I expected—mainly for their bill payments, but even still their usage tells me that there is still a need for the postal service. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the hippest, most tech savvy 20-somethings I know, pay their bills through the mail. That tells me that it’s highly likely when the 17 and under crowd have to pay their bills, they may do the same thing.
For now, though, part of the explanation in my daughter’s generation’s lack of postal understanding is that much of the excitement of going to the mailbox is gone. Going to the mailbox used to have an air of anticipation to it. Who could have written a letter today? What news will we get? Now that we don’t even get Netflix in the mail anymore and with the rare exceptions of invitations and an occasional card or note, junk mail, bills and magazines are the only thing in the mailbox these days—there’s little allure in that.
But still, I like that the post office delivers and would like for my daughters to have a full appreciation for the amazing service. Clearly, we need a lesson on the finer points of mailing things. I see the laborious task of managing the addressing of a flip-flop in my near future. In doing so, we’ll support the post office in their time of need.
In the meantime, I’ll teach them the song that goes with it.
Oh yes, wait a minute, Mr. Postman.
Jan Risher’s column appears on Sundays. If you’d like to send her electronic mail, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d prefer to send her a message the old-fashioned way, send it to Jan Risher, c/o The Daily Advertiser at P.O. Box 5310, Lafayette, LA 70502.