“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” —Often attributed to the Postal Service although the USPS has no official slogan.
Amidst delivery frustration a few weeks ago at The Monitor up in Naples, Editor and Publisher Morris Craig and I chuckled recalling one piece of mail delivered to the newspaper when I worked my first journalism gig there some 45 years ago.
The U.S. Postal Service, like many government agencies struggling with the sheer impossibility of a bureaucracy its size, is often criticized or made light of when something does not go as planned. But the truth is that below the staggering layers of bureaucracy, many dedicated people are working diligently at your local post office to make sure that the mail arrives on time.
Newspaper publishers understand, perhaps better than some, about the complexities of the post office. Publications depend on the post office and discounted rates for affordable delivery. Even with an understanding that running the postal service is like the old Gene Pitney tune, “True Love Never Runs Smooth,” we all love the humor in life when something goes awry.
And humorous it was that morning years ago when the day’s mail included an anticipated package from the photo lab. Reaching to open it, I noticed the box flaps were pushed up by the contents forming a ridge along the taped seam. Perhaps a larger box was nixed in a rush to get the shipment out, but it was the post office stamp that really caught my attention.
The box had been rubber-stamped in red to declare the package “First Class.” Also, apparently in a rush, the stamp’s ink hit one box flap but missed the other on the uneven surface just right failing to print a couple of letters and inadvertently misclassifying the shipment.
The word “First” was legible enough, but where the letters spelling “Class” hit the uneven flaps, the “C” and “L” failed to imprint. With one misapplied rubber stamp, the package had been reclassified from First Class to a service assumed to have been, even back then, not used in decades.
“Craig,” I called out, “Look at this. The post office is reverting to pony express again. But, by golly it made it.”
An extra delivery effort was apparent again last week when a piece of mail arrived at my house repackaged with an apology from the postmaster that the “document was inadvertently damaged in handling.” It was torn, bent and smudged. Goodness knows what happened to the mail between California and Center. I’m just sorry it wasn’t my Publisher’s Clearing House prize check. But, by golly it made it.
The first time I received a damaged piece of mail repackaged like that was also in August—34 years ago. It arrived in Center at the Light and Champion office tattered, torn and badly burned. I carefully opened what was left of it and read the letter. While I don’t remember who it was from, I remember only that it was mailed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Trying to imagine what could have happened to it between the Sunshine State and Center, Texas, I left it lying on the corner of my desk. When I picked it up later that day still puzzled, suddenly the answer occurred to me.
Just a few days before, on August 2, 1985, Delta Air Lines Flight 191 service from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Los Angeles with a stop at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport encountered a weather microburst on approach to landing. The aircraft struck the ground more than a mile short of the runway, hit a car, and then collided with two water tanks in a fireball killing 137 people and injuring 28.
Comprehending the tragedy that piece of mail went through reaching Center was sobering. But it made it.
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