I once again managed to get out the door (the truly difficult part) and do 20 minutes of brisk walking. It is boring walking around for 20 minutes with nothing else to do and my mind wanders.

Today’s wanderings took me to mail boxes. I live in a horrible place with an HOA. These strangleholds on individuality are in place to “protect property values” but are really just horrific examples of power corrupting those who have no idea what to do with it.

We are all supposed to have the same mailboxes because that somehow increases property values. They put in these horribly cheap wooden things painted green with a bronze top on them. The neighborhood is getting close to ten years old and the mailboxes look like crap. The paint is peeling, the bronze tops are no longer bronze, and everybody who weedwhacks around the base has chewed the heck out of the post. A few individuals put cute little covers on the box itself and some brave souls have gotten black metal mailboxes. I have no idea if that takes approval by the HOA or if they are living dangerously and hoping no one notices. I noticed.

But that isn’t my point. It is just an observation of where I live.

Mail "service" we managed to elude

When we moved to Syracuse Court in the early 1990s, they were talking about giving us a little stanchion with all our mailboxes in one place and we would have to go to whatever corner it was on to collect our mail. Somehow, that miraculously didn’t happen.

Ten years later, when we moved here, it was also a possibility, but again we were permitted to have our mailboxes in our own yards.

Growing up, we had a mailbox attached right on the house and the mailmen (and back then they were all mailmen and weren’t yet letter carriers) brought the mail right to the door. Even in the rain, you just reached a hand out and had your mail. How convenient is that?

I’m told, but I don’t remember this, years ago the mail was delivered twice a day. And before airmail, the mail was delivered within so many miles much faster than it arrives today. I don’t know why. The “standards” for mail delivery keeps falling and may be reduced even more. There is talk of only five days a week, dropping Saturday deliveries. There is a definite rate increase coming in January.

My niece has had to deal with the one local mail pickup for years now. When she was first faced with this “convenience” she found out the post office has no obligation to actually pick up mail. That is an extra service. Her drop box location had no box for outgoing mail. If you actually wanted to mail something, you had to drive to a corner mailbox or the post office. Or more likely, you took your mail to work and put it there with the outgoing mail.

Since all of this was more inconvenient than the “convenience” of walking in the rain to retrieve mail that was mostly junk mail anyway, more and more people began using other systems. They may have done this anyway, but surely the inconvenience of getting your power bill to the mail made online bill pay much more desirable.

Very few people write letters any more. We e-mail or text, or even communicate via social networking sites. We can also Skype and see each other as well as talk in real time. And, of course, everyone is in constant communication with their cell phones, iPhones, Blackberries, etc.

Sending cards electronically is easy, too. And they are pretty and can have more punch than a printed Shoebox or Hallmark card. So many people don’t even use the post for birthday cards or other special occasions.

And the post office is whining because they are losing money. The people who use the mail are those who send out junk mail. And that is delivered for a just a fraction of the cost of first class mail. So the post office isn’t making any money on it. And they need to raise rates once again.

To recap – the postal “service” doesn’t pick up mail from the now ubiquitous neighborhood PO Box setup making it more difficult to use the mail. They raise their prices repeatedly. And they are probably going to cut back on delivery. But they will still happily deliver all the junk mail (which doesn’t actually cover the cost of the delivery) because that’s the stuff we really, really like in our mailboxes.

I don’t think this is a sound business strategy. They have succeeded in making us not want to use their service and now are complaining we don’t use their service. I think it has to do with the actual definition of “service” and how it is perceived by the end user. They have convinced us we don’t really need them.