I recently bit the bullet and began making my way through letters that have been piling up. I used to be not so bad, but actually this pile-up has been around since…InCoWriMo in …February. The irony is not lost on me (not writing back during the official correspondence writing month…).
However, this brings me to the topic at hand, which is Canada Post. I just read an article in the Globe and Mail about their expected losses and recent years of losses and the “relentless decline of lettermail” and eventual end of door-to-door mail delivery and the increase in the cost of stamps. All basically bad news.
While I am in no position to comment on what’s going on with Canada Post fiscally (I was not even organized enough to purchase permanent stamps before the price increase), I will say there is something nostalgic about the whole institution of Canada Post.
I use the word nostalgic carefully, because I am not in the band of troops that believes Canada Post is archaic or going the way of the milkman. I actually believe that hand in hand with the nostalgia and delight of receiving a letter is the very institution that’s doing the delivering and that unlike the development of refrigeration and pasteurization, letter writing is something very human that cannot be replaced entirely with technology.
Just like we support brick and mortar shops and our local businesses because there is something very humanizing about dealing with something concrete and tangible, the same thing can be said of purchasing stamps, and going to the mailbox, and receiving letters.
I am not a stamp collector, but I love that Canada Post has created and creates stamps with Superman or the Tragically Hip on them. Perhaps these themes in particular are to encourage a new generation of writers and citizens to take up the pen? But this is something they’ve always done, created new stamps that come out every couple of months or year. I think the USPS has even more, including vintage circus poster stamps and stamps with lighthouses on them.
The act of finding some nice stationery, not just your everyday copy paper, and digging around in your desk drawer for the stamps in those little waxed envelopes, all to write a letter to someone is part life, part art. There’s some thought to it, some intention and deliberation.
One of the reasons Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and all the famous letter writers out there have these tangible letters written that are so powerful today is that there was no instant messaging – when you wrote a letter, you took your time and made it meaningful because it would take days or weeks for the post to deliver it. A lot had to be said in every few pages because you couldn’t just send another e-mail if you forgot to something.
We use Canada Post to deliver our packages when you order from us, and I know that they are sometimes wonderful and sometimes testing-our-patience-to-the-very-limits, but the whohe act of letter writing hinges on the history and system of postal workers of Canada Post -and all the other posts around the world. As much as an occasional letter or package gets lost (and usually re-sorted and then sent to the right place), this huge, at times bumbling, unionized system of postal workers is moving and sorting all of our written words about the country and that is something nice to think about.