Monday, June 29, 2009

Odd Places I Love to Go

With the recent news that the US Post Office may be closing over 3,200 offices across the country, I'm inspired to write a brief essay about some of the places that I love to go that may be considered somewhat, hmmm, shall we say "unique".

First off, the Post Office. Maybe I'm too easily impressed with this, but it never fails to amaze me that you can write three simple lines of information on an envelope, put a small sticky square in the upper right corner, and stick it in a blue box and have it arrive at it's intended destination about 99.9% of the time, usually in less than a week. The technology, systems, and man power behind getting a piece of mail to it's recipient just boggles my mind. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I love the whole idea.

Think about how the system must have worked at the onset of the United States. Most mail was delivered by friends, merchants, or other itinerants, sometimes taking months to be delivered. No centralized system was available until 1691, and that system was designed mainly to serve New York and Boston and mail coming from over the pond.

Benjamin Franklin planned and implemented has operated systems for improving mail processing, reducing delivery times by half. Carrying mail at night, mile-markers on the roads, and more efficient routes for mail carrying were all designed by Franklin in his earlier role as Colonial Postmaster General for the Crown and later as the first appointed Postmaster General for the newly formed United States. His legacy is a system that will deliver an estimated 175 Billion pieces of mail in 2009.

I could go on (but won't). Suffice it to say, I love standing in line at the post office, waiting to buy my postage, and marveling at the ability for the 3rd largest employer in the country (behind only the Dept of Defense and Wal-mart) to get the coupons my grandma clipped for me from Centralia, Washington to Longmont, Colorado in about three days.

I truly miss snail mail as I write this. Every year I resolve to write more actual letters instead of emails or twitters or Facebook posts. Now that I have brought myself to my emotional knees talking about mail, I hope I will be inspired to take pen in hand and write letters to the people I truly care about.

Another place I absolutely love going that I get a lot of grief about when I try to explain to people is the dump. Or, more the more politically correct term, the landfill. There is something about going to
the dump that is exciting to me. I think it stems from my love for the Boxcar Children series. This, along with The Happy Hollisters were the first chapter books I remember reading once I had mastered the Cowboy Sam books.

The idea that yo
u could create a full and functional life living in an abandoned boxcar with castoffs from other people and the money that brother Henry earned doing odd jobs was so romantic to me. The Boxcar Children, first published in 1942, were truly the (likely) unintended leaders of the Green Revolution.

The other part of the going to the dump that I love is the shedding of things I don't need anymore. I get the same thrill donating items to a thrift store. As I unload the discards from my car, I feel the lightening of a burden I didn't know I carried, like a reptile shedding it's skin. When I return home from these trips, I go the area I emptied out and admire the emptiness and light that results from removing the objects that once filled the space.

These are two odd places I love. I think I'm likely part of a minority that feels that way, but the feelings that result from visiting the Post Office and the dump are worth the strange looks I get when I mention how excited I am to go unload my car of envelopes, old clothes, and unwanted items.

Where do you love to go?

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