How did the post become something to fear?

At a tender 33 years of age, like I’m sure most of the people reading this, I can remember a time when getting a letter in the post was something to look forward to. Friends, and family from far away sending messages to you. Just a little note to let you know that they were happy, healthy, and safe. Perhaps at worst you would receive a message to let you know that someone had died. But if they were someone truly close to you a phonecall would have been made, so sad but not horrifically so. Yes of course you would get your bills in the post. But with a little planning you would be prepared for all but the those bills which were unpredictably expensive. But usually a letter was something to look forward to.

I know I did.

Now though a good day begins with the postman not putting anything in my letter box. It begins with him just keeping on walking past my home. I don’t want him to bring me anything, because it seems to almost always be bad news he brings. Another bill, another interrogatory missive from one government department, or another. The news that a hospital appointment I’ve waited months for has been canceled. In short unexpected mail tends to feel like it’s something to be feared.

The title of this article asks a question I already know the answer to. It became something to fear when the internet became our primary means of interpersonal communication. It became something to dread when email took over in our personal lives. I can’t remember the last letter I received. People just don’t send letters anymore because it’s simply so much easier to drop a line, online. After all you can type it quickly, there by ensuring that the intended recipient will actually be able to read it. You can then edit it before you click send, thereby avoiding having to rewrite the entire thing when you realise that you accidentally insulted their mother with a misplaced comma. You can even easily add photos, pieces of music, a short video greeting. And best of all you won’t have to buy a stamp, that’s right it’s free. In the face of all that utility how can the regular mail compete?

So now, Christmas cards and those increasingly rare postcards aside, the standard ground mail seems to have become the sole territory of the things we all fear. That dreaded letter from the taxman. The “Overdue” notice from the electricity company, the gas company, the oil company. And a good day starts when the postman walks on by.

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