Could technology take over?

By Josh Albrecht

Millions of Americans rely on the United States Postal Service to keep in touch with loved ones, businesses and other institutions every year.

The mail is a part of all our lives, and maybe without always realizing it, the mail provides a little structure to our day. After all, who doesn’t look forward to going to the mail box and checking to see what came that day? In fact, I will say that I love to receive letters in the mail.

Sure, sometimes it is a stack of credit card applications promising that low 1.9 percent introductory rate which will last for three weeks, or catalogues for novelty items like whoopie cushions and fake cigarettes, but mixed in with the “junk mail” are the packages from friends and magazines you subscribe to.

The mail is a valuable service. It’s one that I have grown very accustomed to and enjoy using. That is why I am mildly worried about the state of the post office.

A recent article in the April 4 addition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch brought to light for me how the post office as a whole has been struggling financially as of late.

The cause for the post offices decrease in revenue is directly related to the Internet (which is also something that many of us have grown accustomed to and use every day).

Because of the increased use of e-mail and the ability to do other things like file taxes online, the post office has seen a dramatic drop in use during the past few years.

To combat the loss in revenue, the post office has raised the price of the standard first class stamp over the years, with it finally coming to a rest — for now — at 34 cents.

And now, the post office is preparing to take a more drastic step than raising the price of stamps a few cents.

It is poised to stop Saturday deliveries.

While this could help the post office recover from its recent setbacks, I am more worried that something which is a great part of our past (after all, the post office started in 1775 with Benjamin Franklin taking the reins) will become a memory.

I don’t want that to happen.

You may say that I am overreacting, but let’s break this down a bit.

The Internet has been in full swing for about eight years, and already it has caused the post office to potentially stop Saturday deliveries. If things continue on the same rate, the post office could be no more come 2040.

But the other side of the coin says that is a ludicrous idea and that there is no way the post office could be replaced. However, the fact of the matter is that in our ever-changing world, or so says Paul McCartney, things tend to give in and go by the wayside.

A prime example of this, which relates directly to the post office, is the Pony Express.

Now, the Pony Express, according to, began as a separate entity to the post office in 1860 and then was under contract with the post office from July 1, 1861, to Oct. 24, 1861.

The Pony Express became the fastest means of transporting mail to the west coast, as the mail was shipped previously down to Panama, taken by train across Panama and then shipped to California.

The Pony Express was started by William Russell, who placed his advertisement in newspapers in an effort to recruit workers stating: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily.”

The advertisement paid off, and soon it only took 10 1/2 days for mail to reach California as young men road on horseback.

However, once there was a faster way to get information to the west coast, the Pony Express died. The culprit was the transcontinental telegraph. Now, the Pony Express is but a part of history and a legend — and a topic for Hollywood to immortalize.

Presently, the post office faces the same threat that the transcontinental telegraph posed to the Pony Express. The Internet makes the exchange of information faster and is more efficient than the good old “snail mail.”

Sure, the Internet can’t deliver a new pair of shoes, but there is always FedEx, and that could mean that the post office might turn to the same type of delivery methods as FedEx.

The worst part of all, however, is that the art of letter-writing will have gone by the wayside. Yes, we can send e-mail after e-mail, but they are always crudely crafted and void of punctuation other than the occasional period or comma that is in the wrong place.

Plus, there is just something about reading a handwritten letter that is special. E-mails can be written in a few seconds, but a good letter takes time to sound just right.

I just hope the post office is able to survive in the future and won’t become a memory like the Pony Express.

And maybe the art of letter-writing will see a resurgence.

Then again, with the Internet becoming even more popular, I think the post office as a whole continues to risk death daily.