From my desk on the top floor of the Tooele Transcript Bulletin building in beautiful downtown Tooele City, I have a view of Main Street and the steps that lead to the doors of the U.S. Post Office.
Occasionally while I am thinking about the strategy for a story or pondering the perfect word to use, I look out the window searching for inspiration. When I look out that window, I observe people coming and going from the post office.
People of all types visit the post office. There are people dressed in suits and ties and occasionally the person wearing very little at all.
Tall people and short people, old people and young people, all visit the post office.
Post office patrons include mothers with young children in tow. There are people who walk fast and people who walk slow.
Some people carry packages in and some carry packages out of the post office. And there’s some people who come and go empty handed both ways.
I have watched as people greet each other with a hug and kiss on the steps of the post office.
There’s a man who takes the steps carefully, holding a cane in his right hand and grasping the rail with his left hand.
I once saw a person use the ramp instead of the stairs.
There are many people who go to the post office that I have never met, but some that I would recognize anywhere from their daily trips to the post office.
Occasionally, I see somebody I know out my window at the post office and I resist the urge to text them a message, “Hey, pick up a few stamps for me while you’re there.”
I don’t think anybody knows they are being watched as they come and go from the post office.
One morning I counted a total of 12 people who came and went from the post office in a 10-minute period. While certainly not a statistically valid survey, 12 people per 10-minutes works out to 72 people per hour or 648 people each weekday. That number may be low, because from observation the post office comings and goings increase around lunchtime and during the evening rush hour.
That’s a lot of people using our local post office.
I read somewhere that our U.S. Postal Service is dead, a victim of email, social media, and private parcel carriers.
I should have known that was an exaggeration. I have heard the same rumor about libraries and print newspapers, but this town still has one of each. And they are both very much still alive.
But I don’t think we still use mail like we used to.
Last week a box arrived on my doorstep from UPS not USPS.
My brother had finished cleaning out my stepmother’s home after she passed away. He sent me a few family memories.
Underneath a stack of my father’s old extra-wide and bright ties from the 1970s, I found a box full of family history stuff my father had kept that belonged to my grandmother.
I found a large manila envelope stuffed full of old letters my grandmother wrote to her mother. There was even a letter my grandmother wrote to her grandmother.
I browsed through the letters, and the experience, like a MasterCard commercial would say, was “priceless.”
There was a letter my grandmother wrote while she was in college, thanking her mother for sending her some of her clothes she left at home, but in regards to the gray scarf she wrote, “I don’t know why you sent it, I was getting along just fine without it.”
There was a letter she excitedly wrote home about the first house she and my grandfather bought in 1926.
“We paid $50 down and $25 a month until $1,750 is paid off.”
She described the house as having four large rooms.
I Googled the address. The house, built in 1903, still stands today with 695 square feet.
Then there was the letter hastily handwritten by my grandfather to his mother-in-law announcing the birth of my father. He was born in that house.
I know it was hastily written, because my grandfather said so. He closed the letter with “In Haste” written below his name.
Modern electronic media has changed the way we communicate.
The connections of texting, email, and Facebook have replaced much of what used to be mailed back and forth between friends and family. Even cell phones, with their free, long-distance thrown into the monthly bill, have pushed old-fashioned paper and pen letters into endangered species status.
But people don’t tend to print off emails and Facebook posts and stuff them into old envelopes where a family member can discover them 90 years later.
I suppose I could save a few on a USB drive and hide it away and hope 90 years from now my grandchildren can find a compatible computer that will read what it contains, if they are even interested in “that old stuff.”
At least the USB drive will take up less room, be less expensive to mail, and not need to be packed in a box full of my old ugly ties.