The studies and arguments pro and con for switching from home delivery to neighbourhood superboxes for our daily mail are never-ending. During the election campaign Justin Trudeau promised to retain home delivery but as we know, election promises are as reliable as wrinkle cream guarantees. Lots of hype and flashy packaging but ultimately useless.
Boomers have generally earned enough life experience miles over the years to have seen a variety of strategies for delivering mail. Growing up in a small Ontario town of only thirty-five hundred people, we never had the convenience of home delivery, except the farmers who had boxes at the end of their laneways.
Going to the post office every day to pick up mail was a ritual that came with a variety of benefits. Most townspeople collected their mail from a private box inside the post office while others could simply walk up to the General Delivery wicket and ask for their mail by name. Either way, it was an important part of the town’s social scene. Fifty years later, I can still remember our mailbox number, 386. You generally ran into people you knew which afforded a chance to catch up on who was going to the church supper on the weekend, who had a baby or just to exchange pleasantries. There was always a formal printed card from the local funeral parlour on the high desk along the wall advising who had passed away and was “resting” at the funeral home along with details about the time of the funeral. Very helpful and good to know.
Even for a teenage girl like myself, the post office was part of my daily routine. When I burst out the doors of the school at 3:40 p.m. every day, I joined my girlfriend for our walk downtown to Long’s Restaurant and our daily fountain Coke fix. Buzzed on sugar and caffeine, we would then window shop our way along Front Street to the post office where we would collect our family’s mail, then walk home in opposite directions. All along the way we would meet people we knew.
The post-master’s wife Irene worked with my father and once, when my mother was in the hospital for my birthday, Irene baked me a birthday cake, dark chocolate with some kind of fluffy baked white merengue icing that I remember to this day. In fact, that year I enjoyed four birthday cakes—one from the post-master’s wife, two from thoughtful neighbours and a rather sad, lop-sided one I’d baked myself just to be on the safe side.
When I visited England and Europe as a twenty-year old in Canada’s centennial year, 1967, I was surprised to see that the aunt I stayed with in England received two mail deliveries a day. I doubt that’s still the case today. Although, in the United States, mail is currently delivered to homes on Saturday as well but indications point to a cut in their service too.
For a few years, we lived in Horseshoe Valley north of Barrie and that required a daily one-mile walk or drive in the car (depending on the weather) to a super mailbox. We usually picked the mail up when we were driving by the mailbox, but as often as possible I would take the dog and use the opportunity to walk to the mailbox so we could both get some fresh air and exercise.
Now that I live in the city again, I’m enjoying the convenience of home delivery and I must say I like it. But the reality is it’s no longer economically viable to continue the service. Because of technology, mail has dropped off considerably with the exception of parcels ordered from on-line retailers.
There’s the ongoing argument that it’s a problem for many seniors to access super mailboxes located a block or more away from their homes. My answer to that is, much as I sympathize, it’s as simple as the way it was handled in the small town where I grew up. Get a trusted neighbour or family member to collect the mail once or twice a week. Again, it affords the opportunity for socializing and being “neighbourly”. Most city-dwellers don’t realize home delivery is a privilege enjoyed by large cities and has never been offered in smaller communities.
Although many people may not agree, I do have a problem with home delivery for rural areas. If high-density populated cities don’t qualify for home delivery, how can we justify the cost per capita for rural home delivery. Farmers today are rarely restricted to making the once-a-week trip to town for groceries and are far more mobile than they were a few decades ago. Super mailboxes on strategic concession roads could be used just as easily as urban ones.
It’s hard to imagine the post-mistress at the Shoppers Drug Mart where I now conduct my postal business baking me a birthday cake, but I certainly see no reason why I can’t walk a block or so to collect my daily mail. It would do me good. My dog and I could both use the exercise and I might get to know my neighbours a little better. Much as I love my home delivery service and the little chats I have with Rick, my mail carrier, I really don’t see a problem with super mailboxes. We’re just spoiled, that’s all.