Magazine | June 03, 2019, Issue

Going Postal

Postal workers in Carlsbad, Calif., in 2013 (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Bernie Sanders tweeted a hot new idea: “Did you know that from 1911-1967, Americans could bank at their local post office?” Yes. So? Did you know that from 1912 to 1922, most toilet paper was one-ply, and that from 1205 to 1432 the most common horse name was “Horse”? What is he talking about?

Ah: “We must ensure all Americans can access basic financial services by allowing every post office to offer basic banking services again.”

We must, eh. Let me tell you a story. My daughter is in Brazil, and every few months I wire her money. I go to the bank, sit in a nice chair across from a pert young banker at a rosewood desk, read off some numbers, and with a few keystrokes money sluices its way into the coffers of a travel agency, or a kidnapping cartel. It’s unclear; I suspect the former, but if it’s the latter, she’s hardly in a position to talk.

A few months ago I had to ship something to Brazil, and the recipient, possessed by a mystical trust in the United States government, said it had to go USPS. Off to the post office, then.

It’s a humble, cluttered, dim room constructed during the Kennedy administration. Three counters; one is perpetually unstaffed, perhaps as a memorial to someone who retired in 1986 — the bureaucratic version of the broken-wing formation. The clientele is muted and resigned. There’s a tube TV up in the corner with a DVD player, and no one watches it; presumably it’s telling us about thing like “stamps” and “boxes.”

I filled out a form that required me to press hard, because I was making many copies. This is like ordering something on Amazon and being told to type as hard as possible. The boxes were tiny, and I made my numbers with great care; if you checked the video-surveillance footage, my tongue was probably lolling out as I concentrated on doing a good, neat job.

Off it went! Daughter never got it.

According to the USPS website, which no doubt depends on the latest Univac machinery, the box went to Brazil, where it spent one day, and then it went to South Korea for two months. Eventually it came home, but not to my mailbox. I got a yellow note that said it had returned and I should get in my car, drive to the post office, stand in line, and pick it up.

They could deliver the note, but not the box.

I can’t blame the USPS for the South Korea sojourn, exactly. I almost wish it had gone to North Korea, so I could imagine it sitting on a table in a room while interrogators yelled at it for 18 hours at a time.

But let’s just say that maybe I’d be less likely to transfer $1,192 to Brazil if they were my bank. “Well, the money got there,” they might say, “but then it was rejected because you wrote ‘For Travel’ in the little box that explained what it was for, I guess it looked like ‘Trovel,’ which is a town in Norway, so the money went there and sat on a counter for two weeks.”

If only I’d sent it by UPS or FedEx, I’d have gotten notifications on my phone:

Ping! Your package has left the warehouse.

Ping! Your package has been carefully placed on a plane.

Ping! The plane is in the air at 27,389 feet, and the drink cart is coming by.

Ping! The plane has landed on time and is taxiing.

Ping! Your package is being offloaded by Marvin Jackson (14 years’ experience, wife, two kids, hobbies football and target shooting).

Ping! Your package is out for delivery by Sharon Petermen, who is listening to the classic-country station on satellite radio; current tune is “If I Could’ve (I Probably Should’ve)” by Clint Beltbuckle.

Ping! Your package has been placed in the hands of the recipient.

For video of the delivery, click here.

As things stand now, the only thing my postal person does is make the dog panic. The mail comes around 6 p.m., an admission that nothing delivered matters much today, and the dog goes mad, racing from the front of the house to the side to yell at the lumbering interloper. He looks miserable. Can’t blame him. His entire visit is dedicated to delivering brochures from cruise lines I patronized seven years ago. I felt so bad about his pointless labors that I signed up for a mail-preview program the USPS offers, wherein I can preview my mail and opt not to get some stuff. But that requires going online and actually having to judge the junk, which is more trouble than walking the content of the mailbox directly to the recycling bin.

Let’s say the Post Office revives its banking tradition and I decide to get a USPS credit card because the rates are great and I can get points that I can use for exciting things like bubble wrap and brown adhesive tape. It’s not as if I can engage in banking with my postperson. My credit card’s due — here, take this wad of cash!

No. So the AOC-Bernie proposal would shanghai the one government operation that literally sends someone to your house every day but Sunday and make them unable to perform banking. 

Perhaps you’ll be able to pay off your Post Office Bank credit card with Forever stamps. Buy them now, and they’ll be worth more when rates go up! But that would be speculation, and old reds like Bernie hate the wreckers and hoarders. Can’t wait for someone to be denied a loan because they’re a kulak.

In This Issue

Against Socialism

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

The Week

The Week

Don’t tear up your tickets just yet: We hear the Kentucky Derby loser is appealing to the Ninth Circuit.
Athwart

Going Postal

Bernie Sanders tweeted a hot new idea: ‘Did you know that from 1911-1967, Americans could bank at their local post office?’

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