The Mail Must Go Through

The Old Post Office, Downtown Saint Louis

Last week, Anne mailed out some of her DIY masks to the family. The ones sent first were to her father and sister in Michigan. She also sent masks to the boys, in Boston and NYC, and to her nephew, in Nashville, and niece, who is also in NYC. She has been tracking them online daily since they were sent out and according to the USPS website they have all been delivered. Well except for Dave’s, which was delivered to his apartment, but not to where he is sheltering in place. He texted us today about their arrival and plans on picking them up.

They all took longer to arrive, except the Nashville one, than expected. In light of the Coronavirus epidemic, this is not all that surprising. New York, Detroit and Boston have all been hit hard by the disease. There were some of the usual vagaries with mail delivery, one of the NYC packages arrived days before the other one, even though they were mailed at the same time. The package to Michigan, the one with the longest delivery delay, seemed to ping-pong back-and-forth between Detroit and Pontiac. For some unknown reason, this went on for a few days, but as of writing they have all been delivered and hopefully in time to still do some good.

Yesterday, I got an inkling of what is going on within the postal service. Anne and I were out on our daily walk, when we encountered a conversation between two men. One of them was a handyman, out doing his job and the other was a postal worker, making his daily deliveries. They were speaking to each other from across the street, when we walked in-between them. The postman was complaining that he had not had a day off in two weeks. He claimed 20 hours of overtime last week. A grey-beard himself, he told the other man that it was the young people who were not coming into work. This surprised the handyman, who was also older and who asked the postman, what are they living on? Since by this time, we had already physically interjected ourselves into the middle of this conversation, I decided to go one step further and verbally intrude. Always the wag, I said, “They’re waiting for their stimulus checks.” This got a laugh.

In addition to the USPS, we are also relying on delivery men and women. We get our food delivered through Instacart and we receive most everything else from Amazon, who also relies heavily on the postal service. Where I can, I tip well, but I cannot thank these people enough for their service and I cannot but feel concern for them, as they daily risk their lives.

When this pandemic has passed, we need to make some significant structural changes in how workers are treated. In particular with gig workers. Universal healthcare, also-know-as Medicare-for-all, would be a good place to start. The US is the only first-world country not to offer this. If all of our peers can do it, then we can afford it too. It is not a matter of means, but simply a matter of will. We need to do the right thing now.

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