Peter works at the Biddeford Post Office. He’s a tall, older gentleman who wears spectacles. He has the sort of face that makes it just as easy to imagine him packing letters into saddlebags for the Pony Express in the 1860s, or walking mailbox-to-mailbox in the 1960s, as it is to see him scanning packages now. He just sort of has a mailman look about him.

I’ve spent plenty of time mailing packages with the help of Cindy and Parul and Marc and Jean, but Peter’s the chattiest, so I always try to get into his line. He’s got a granddaughter who is the apple of his eye; she made him a bracelet out of embroidery floss and plastic beads that he wore for months and months until it fell off.

When I was growing up, my parents had us write a letter to our grandparents once a month, every month. I learned how to address, stamp and seal an envelope pretty early on. My grandmother saved them all.

Other than what I get for this column (which, despite the glamour, is not lucrative) the only income I have right now is from selling stuff on eBay. We don’t need my dad’s silk ties from his lawyer days or his six shelves of military history; we don’t need my uncle’s collection of model airplanes (although if quarantine goes on much longer, we just might). If the post office were a private service, I would never be able to make the margins work. Shipping via FedEx or UPS would just be way too expensive.

I’ve been thinking of the post office lately because it, like pretty much everyone and everything else, is in financial trouble because of the coronavirus pandemic. We all have plenty to worry about, and I worry that while the country is busy fighting a virus and dealing with economic collapse, the Postal Service might go under and be – God forbid – privatized.

A huge reason for its financial troubles is a law Congress passed in 2006 that mandates that the USPS pre-pay health benefits for retirees, including employees who have not retired yet. No other federal agency or private business has to do that. I think that’s a bad law and when Congress gets back to legislating, it should be repealed. We can’t take our eye off the ball and let our Postal Service deteriorate. It’s a testament to the best parts of our government that I can send a letter from Maine to Hawaii for two quarters and a nickel. That’s a service we can’t lose, especially now.

The Postal Service delivers to every address in America. Everywhere. Even the ones really, really far out in the woods. Can you imagine a for-profit delivery company doing that? If you need a pick-me-up some afternoon, try Googling “mailman saves” or “mail carrier rescues” – you’ll get an absolute bonanza of news stories involving USPS employees doing heroic deeds in the course of a regular workday.

I love the Postal Service so much that when the fashion company Forever 21 did a line of USPS-branded clothing – yes, this is a thing that actually happened – I bought a pair of bike shorts with the “Priority Mail” logo on the side, and I almost never buy clothing full price. I love the Postal Service so much that in college, when I was homesick, I wrote a really bad comic (because I can’t draw) called “Chip Norris: Aroostook County Mailman.”

The premise of the comic was that Chip Norris was Chuck Norris’ little brother, with all the associated butt-kicking karate powers, but instead of being a Texas Ranger, he delivered mail, and if any villain threatened the swift delivery of the post, he went into a berserker-rage mode. Look, I told you it was bad. But you have to admit, the unofficial USPS motto of “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” sounds like something straight out of a superhero movie.

The Postal Service is so important that it is in the Constitution. Article I, Section 8. It deserves a little more respect. At this point in coronavirus lockdown, getting the mail has been the highlight of the day, every day. (For me, not the dog. My dog considers the mailman her mortal enemy. I’m working on it.) Usually it’s bills. But it’s still the highlight of the day.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @mainemillennial

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.