(My mail commentary appeared in the Roanoke Times last month.)
Mardi Gras revelers trek to New Orleans, cliff swallows return to San Juan Capistrano and my mail goes to Greensboro. By way of Roanoke. From my post office in Floyd (Virginia). That’s two cities and two states to send a letter within one town of 450 people that’s less than a square mile in area.
This doesn’t pose a significant problem, but it does make me grin. My mail might travel farther than some of those wintering birds, for all I know. I could probably deliver it myself, on foot, in 15 minutes.
I think about this as the holiday season commences and my local post office on East Main Street faces that annual avalanche of cards, letters and packages. There’s Wanda and Jack at the counter and the rest of the dependable personnel who provide mail service to my town and county. They’re helpful and steady. They don’t crack under seasonal pressure.
When I send a Christmas card to a friend in town, it will be put on a truck to Roanoke, and then put on what I expect is a bigger truck to Greensboro. The card will come back the same way, a round trip of about 270 miles. And then it will be delivered to a mail box less than a mile from where it started.
This isn’t new. The mail headed to Greensboro beginning in 2015 when the Rutherford Avenue processing center in Roanoke was consolidated with operations in North Carolina’s third-largest city. At that time, the Roanoke facility was one of 82 mail-processing centers in 37 states targeted for consolidation.
The Greensboro plan was designed to save money. The U.S. Postal Service saw a 25 percent decrease in mail volume since 2007. Annual revenue had dropped by $10 billion. Drastic measures were needed.
What makes smart business sense is odd for the customer, though. I’m still not used to seeing that Greensboro postmark on my mail.
This A to B via C and D routing would not work well for other things. For example, if a friend asked me to give him a ride in town, he would not appreciate a side trip to Roanoke, Greensboro, Roanoke and then to his destination in Floyd. That would be far too lengthy and flat out ridiculous.
The truth is, as long as I’ve lived here, my mail has gone to Roanoke. Yet I never gave it much thought. Shoot, I go to Roanoke. A lot of people in Floyd go to Roanoke, for one reason or another. It can be a regular trip.
But Greensboro? Not only is it two hours away, it’s in another state.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Greensboro. It’s a hospitable city. I’ve eaten good barbecue there. Obviously, my mail spends time there. I also want to stress that I appreciate the USPS. I value its long history and am amused by its personality and delivery quirks. I still depend on the mail.
So, during these holidays, with good cheer, I’ll bid farewell to cards mailed to folks in my little town. “Have a nice trip to the big cities. Hurry back! We’ll be waiting for you right here, in Floyd.”