By now, we've all heard the news: Saturday mail could soon be a thing of the past. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) just submitted its official proposal to cut delivery back to 5 days a week. USPS officials estimate the move could save $3 billion a year.
The possibility of losing Saturday delivery has stirred up emotions on a number of fronts. The American Postal Workers Union opposes the proposal, since it would likely mean cuts of up to 40,000 full-time jobs. Some elderly groups are also fighting the change, claiming older folks will suffer if their mail-order medications aren't delivered on time. Others say for those who live in rural areas, the mail is their main connection to the world at large, and cutting them off from it for two entire days is not acceptable.
The thought of losing a day of mail delivery got me thinking about how much less reliant I am on paper these days. Five years ago, I would have been annoyed at the thought of missing out on a day of mail. Now? Not such a big deal. Almost all my bills are electronic. I pay using automatic withdrawal and never have to worry about late fees or checks getting lost in the mail. Correspondence? Sure, I still send and receive handwritten thank you notes, but for the most part, I rely on email and texts (and the occasional phone call) to keep in touch. Even invitations and catalogs are electronic. That doesn't leave much for the mailbox, at least at my house. And I'm not alone. The overall trend of switching to electronic alternatives means bad news for the USPS. In 2009, mail volume dropped by more than 12 percent.
But while the switch to electronic correspondence has certainly made my life easier, when I stop to think about it, it's also a little bittersweet. I still have a box of old letters from years ago – some my mom wrote to me when I was away one summer, others my grandmother wrote to me when I started college. I love re-reading them, since they bring back a flood of memories. Email is great, but it can't help me remember my grandmother's handwriting, or the little pictures my mom drew in the margins of her letters. I'd hate for my kids not to have those keepsakes that I have – hard copies of memories. And I do think a handwritten note has a certain appeal that email doesn't – it shows that you've made that extra effort. There's something more personal and permanent about it, and I like that.
Perhaps it's time for us to bring back the lost art of letter writing. Just don't expect to be able to mail that letter out on a Saturday.
Contributed by Amy Erickson. Follow her @amyerickson