Why We Must Support the US Postal Service

When my father was stationed at the American Embassy in Rome, our family mail came to us via the Army Post Office (APO), which routes US Postal Office mail to military bases and diplomatic missions around the globe. [A note here: the Defense Department says that the APO mail service is available to only US Postal Service mail. You’ll understand why I say this in a minute.]

So, back to Rome. The Italian postal system was unreliable, so people living in Rome during my parent’s time at the Embassy (early ‘60s and, again, mid-‘70s) put their mail in post boxes in Vatican City, which has run its own postal system for the past century. I just ran across this informal 2017 poll that shows that Italy continues to be ranked poorly on its handling of the mail, with some 80 percent of the respondents to an informal poll rating it as “poor” or “fair”.

Source: postcrossing.com

the US mail ranks 7th in the world

Look at the bar graph again. In this list of 35 countries, Japan leads in high points for its mail system, followed by South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Austria, and the USA. 7th in a list of 35 countries, a good system.

Americans depend on the US mail

Americans have long relied on our government delivery of the mail to keep in touch with family, order supplies, transport livestock, and even transport children, as my friend Karen Coody Cooper writes in this piece that recently ran in our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post.

My dad grew up on a South Dakota farm, where the mail linked his mother to family and friends who had found a warmer, easier life out in California. My father’s memoir, From the Hidewood, includes a story about his mother writing her family and making a friend of Dad’s one-room schoolhouse teacher through conversations at the mailbox.

… by the time she’d put the letter and its three pennies inside the roadside mailbox and raised the flag, the familiar slender figure with the book bag in hand had almost arrived.

Robert Amerson, From the Hidewood

Current attempts to hamper service

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Palm Beach Post was an article about the Trump Administration efforts to hamper the US Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail, — in order to ensure its demise and resurrection as a for-profit enterprise — resulting in the death of chicks in transit to poultry farmers who’ve relied on the mail for their inventory. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has taken the issue to Washington. Look at her. I would do what she asks. She is one of us persistent, nasty women who wants answers. I don’t think she’s going to be okay with converting the US Postal Service into a private corporation. And, Americans serving our country abroad rely on the USPS to get their mail to the Army Post Office.

Private sector Mail failed me

This week, I had my own postal experience that sheds some light on the issue for me. After a decade of holding onto the written records of my mother’s family — a collection of letters, poetry, and other paper in annotated binders which she created and curated — I decided to finally get them to their proper home, the historical society in her hometown of Winona, Minnesota. Although I felt badly about not having done more with the materials while I had them, I knew that I was doing the right thing in putting these treasures closer to family. The Winona County Historical Society assured me that they’d accept the materials, redirecting any that might better belong in another historical collection — Mankato, in Blue Mound County, was where her mother’s Kelly family was from; other family came from Fountain City, across the Mississippi in Wisconsin.

I packed the binders into two sturdy boxes culled from Amazon deliveries. Given the delicacy of the task, and trying to limit my exposure to people — the Coronavirus has not been tamed here — I chose FedEx to deliver the two boxes to their permanent home.

Here is what happened one week later.

One box was delivered to the Winona County Historical Society. The other box was dumped at my front door, soaking wet, falling apart, and somehow still containing its precious cargo. The FedEx address label with the Minnesota address was gone, and the box made it back via my husband’s name and our home address on a new FedEx label. How this happened is a mystery. When I tracked the box, it shows that it is still enroute to the original destination, with a current address of Countryside, IL. The automated response line would not put a real person on the telephone. Because the box is still in transit. And the FedEx shipping center down the road, which I visited yesterday with the box and cargo in hand, will not issue me a refund and/or re-ship the cargo. I’ll try again today to reach a human being.

So much for the private sector.

The USPS will get my box this time. I’ve been out in the world enough to appreciate that social distancing precautions are in place to protect me, and 95 percent of the people we’ve seen are wearing masks. The Coronavirus numbers are in decline.

Of course, Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran are demanding that Florida schools re-open in-person. I’m betting we see those COVID-19 numbers shoot back up.

Water Keeps Saving My Life

I took a water exercise class today, the first since the one I taught in Boynton Beach some nine months ago. I came out of the pool 4,000 steps richer, with two rings closed on my Apple watch, a new friend, AND a connection to a potential new vascular surgeon when I’m discharged from Shands.

That’s the power of water.

When I my arterial aneurysm ruptured in Amsterdam on May 5, I’d been teaching water fitness for a decade. I made it out of the OLVG Hospital ICU due in large measure to my strength going in. Although ICU-Induced Weakness sapped that strength along with and more than a quarter of my weight by the time I graduated from the ICU to the Gastroenterology Unit, my muscle memory and years of exercise routine were on my side. It was a slow slog nonetheless — ain’t nothin’ easy about physical therapy — but my amazing nurses and physiotherapists had me standing and even walking by the time we flew home.

There was no pool at OLVG, and I longed to be supported by water. I visualized floating as I endeavored to relax in my hospital bed, finding the trigger that is challenging to land on when you’ve been lying there forever. Water worked.

When we returned home in August, I was using a walker and a cane. My therapy at FYZICAL focussed on my lower half, and I made progress. By the end of August, I began working on my core and arms and legs — and floating for real — in our community pool. As my upper body strength returned, I started swimming, eventually lifting my arms out of the water in a pretty good freestyle. My goal was to sail up Victoria’s three flights of stairs when I had my update at Shands on November 8.

Which I did. No walker. No cane. Just me.

In the water, I could walk, then jog, then run. I could shovel heaps of waves. I could box. I knew that every movement I did caused me to burn 150% of the calories the same movement would take on land, due to water’s resistance, but that I’d be supported by bouyancy. Water is win, win.

About a month ago, my husband and I joined a gym. It was a home-coming of sorts — we met at the New York Health and Racquet Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side 40+ years ago and we have been gym members for most of our married life. We got out of that habit when I taught classes in Boynton Beach most days.

Another silver lining — my illness and recuperation has reconnected both of us to getting healthy. We’re now LA Fitness members.

I decided that Christmas Eve was a perfect time to return to a water exercise class. I knew there was one at 9 on Tuesdays, though there was no music and teacher didn’t thrill me; I’d swum a few times during class (there is a free lane) and felt no pull to return to teaching or to be bossy about how the teacher was doing her job. Good.

So, surprise surprise when today’s class was taught by a sub with music and the same training and teaching approach that I received through the Aquatic Exercise Association. Great class. Oh, and her husband is a vascular surgeon, so she knows how unusual — miraculous, really — it is for me to have recovered as I have.

So, on this eve of a miracle birth, I am once again reminded to be grateful. To have, as my writer colleague Karen Coody Cooper wrote in today’s Palm Beach Post, not an excess of food or drink or debt but an abundance of friendships and love and kindness and contemplation.

To experience Christmas as a holy day. And water as a holy sacrament.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone.