Neither snow nor rain nor …

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. – US Post Office Creed

On November 10-th, Anne mailed a package containing hand-knitted mittens and a headband for her niece, Ashlan, who is attending college in Vancouver, British Columbia.  When she mailed the package, she was told that it would take five-to-ten days for delivery.  On December 4-th the package finally arrived.  In the intervening twenty-four days, Anne had all but given up hope that the package would ever be delivered.  She was already contemplating what this setback would mean to her already crowded holiday knitting schedule.  On the morning of the 4-th she had walked up to the post office to inquire about the package.

Since Anne had only mailed the package parcel post, there was little or no tracking records available on it.  The postal worker that she spoke with could only tell her that on November 10-th, the day that she mailed it, the package had left the local post office and traveled across town to Saint Louis’ postal distribution center.  After that there were no more records about it.  It had fallen into the black-hole that is the US Postal Service and only miraculously reappeared twenty-four days later on Ashlan’s Vancouver doorstep.

One is left only to wonder what this package had been doing during the intervening weeks.  Checking the USPS website, a parcel post package is expected to be delivered anywhere in the continental United States in no more than nine days and usually in less than five.  The Canadian postal service says that it takes about a week to transit to the US, so the converse should also be true.  So, if I am doing the math correctly, nine days (Saint Louis to Seattle) plus seven days (Seattle to Vancouver) equals sixteen days and that is the worst case.  Even so, that still leaves eight days of travel time unaccounted for.  What was the package doing during that extra week?  Thinking a bit fancifully, I have come up with the following alternative itinerary:

  • St. Louis to St. Joseph, MO by riverboat (5 days)
  • St. Joseph to Sacramento by Pony Express (10 days)
  • Sacramento to San Francisco by stagecoach (2 days)
  • San Francisco to Vancouver by clipper ship (7 days)

This itinerary’s math seems to add up better than that derived from the two postal services’ websites.  I would also remind the reader that this package’s travels all occurred before the holiday season’s mailing crunch was upon us.  It is only going to take longer from now to the end of the year.

I am reusing my picture of Frederic Remington’s painting, The Right of the Road.  I saw this painting and photographed it a year ago at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, TX.  I love museums that permit photography.  I especially love the painting’s juxtaposition of the new West and the old West, the bicyclist passing and spooking the stagecoach.  Remington was not so enamored of this transition from old to new.  He thought that the West was becoming too civilized.  He once told a friend, “never come west again – It is all brick buildings – derby hats and blue overalls – it spoils my early illusions – and they are my capital.”  It is good to see the USPS rolling back the clock.

3 thoughts on “Neither snow nor rain nor …

  1. Yes, it is December again and the snow is falling again on RegenAxe. After Thanksgiving, I started to wonder, how did I turn that on last year? Never fear though, I never turned it off last year.

  2. That is why we drove Ashlan’s ballot up and back one election.
    That was the only reason for the trip (other than seeing Ashlan).
    Sometimes it is a bit quicker, but you just can’t trust the timing.

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