Friday, November 14, 2008
Use it or lose it
Change is coming to the Carlisle Post Office. Yes, we have a new Postmaster, Greg Lee, who has been on the job since April. He would like to interact with his customers, sometimes when working behind the counter and, when possible, answering questions about postal concerns.
Last week, on Saturday, postal delivery in Carlisle had to be reduced from six to five routes in order to cut costs. This change has fewer mail carriers traveling further distances with additional stops, and for some, possibly covering a different route in town. For many residents, this may mean a later delivery time, as well as a different mail carrier. However, with help from the postal clerks sorting mail into new slots, the carriers will be doing their best to put this new delivery plan smoothly in place.
Mail volume is down nationwide, with electronic devices making a serious dent in business for the U.S. Postal Service. At the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2008, the volume of mail for the year was down ten billion pieces. So what can we, as customers in Carlisle, do about all of this?
Postmaster Lee has assured us that there is no plan to close down the 01741 Post Office. Still one wonders what the future might bring. When was the last time you received a personal letter in the mail? Can you imagine Carlisle without a post office? Can you imagine having to go to a post office in a nearby town where postal workers are all business and no one knows your name?
So often residents of this town remark on how friendly and helpful Carlisle postal workers can be. Do you remember the time your child’s picture appeared in the Carlisle Mosquito and your mail carrier delivered three or four extra copies of the newspaper that Friday? With so few places in Carlisle where people can run into one another and especially now with the footpaths that enable customers to walk to the post office, what would we do without a post office right here on Bedford Road? Everyone knows that the post office is an important part of our town.
So what can we do about all of this, before something drastic happens? Here are a few suggestions: Mail letters and buy stamps in Carlisle. Send parcels also – the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t add “fuel costs.” Go online to get information offered by the post office (www.USPS.com). And, with the holiday season coming upon us, forget about sending email greetings; a Christmas card or holiday greeting sent by mail is something the recipient will treasure.
When Postmaster Lee was asked how residents could support the Carlisle Post Office, Lee replied, “Don’t worry . . . just mail a letter.” Hopefully Carlisle residents will follow his advice. ∆
I love to look at maps. At a glance, they provide a wealth of information: scale, shape, and contour, plus the tantalizing suggestion of detail that provides the illusion of deeper knowledge. If I look at a map of Maine, for example, I can easily imagine being on the craggy coastline as it meets the cold, dark water; there’s even a whiff of seaweed. So it comes as no surprise that I found the recent electoral maps rather fascinating. A few years ago, some network guru coined the phrase “red state/blue state” to describe overall voting patterns. In short order, this was translated into graphics that revealed the edges of the country to be primarily “blue” while the vast center was “red.” The electoral map actually looks a lot like the satellite images of the United States at night, with the blue correlating to light patterns in the heavily populated areas. Of course, this does not mean that all Democrats live in cities while all Republicans live on farms, though at first glance, this is what the images seem to suggest.
This got me to thinking about labels in general. According to Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the plants and animals, including naming rights. Labels are a shorthand way of conveying complex information. The more specific, the more accurate we assume them to be. For example, the nutritional labels on a can of soup or a candy bar tell us exactly how much sodium, how many grams of fat, and how many calories we’ll be consuming (how do they know, really?). On the other hand, clothing labels often obscure rather than reveal content. Firms like Brooks Brothers or Macy’s routinely outsource their manufacturing, so that the fabric, thread and buttons (and often, the styling) are exactly the same from one retailer to the next. All that’s different is the label that gets sewn in just before shipping. So what brand of shirt are we actually buying? The same is true of gasoline – whether it’s Shell, Exxon, or Mobil, it’s all basically the same stuff, with essentially no difference in price or performance.
When it comes to industrial goods, the picture gets even fuzzier. The production of automobile parts is widely outsourced. Many “American” cars are actually assembled in Canada. Toyota, a “foreign” brand, is manufactured in Kentucky. The Volkswagen Rabbit is thoroughly Brazilian (and Rolls Royce is now owned by Germans). I discovered a few years ago that all vodka is chemically identical – it doesn’t matter a bit whether it’s distilled in Russia, Poland or Sweden. However, this does not stop us from endowing certain products with “brand equity” – the presumption of attributes or value that may not have any basis in fact. It all depends on the label.
Knowing this, I don’t agonize too much when buying a bottle of wine. I just look at the label. If there’s a picture of a French chateau on the bottle, that’s good enough for me (even if it comes from New Jersey).
© 2008 The