Saturday mail: What will it mean to reduce to five delivery days?

We have in our society a system of communications between friends, family and business that connects us all.

This could describe Facebook — or a more venerable network, the U.S. Postal Service.

This week brought the sobering news, all but official, that our national mail system will cut first class delivery on Saturdays, starting in August.

“An American Icon” is how a Michigan retiree termed our tradition of postal delivery, in a Feb. 7 Wall Street Journal article.

Closer to home, last year’s going-away party for retiring postmaster John Smith in Odell served as a measure of how personal the postal system is to many people. There was a potluck in the lobby, and hugs and tears among neighbors.

But the beauty of the American postal system is about more than the neighborhoods it serves. Consider that it is not merely an American institution; our mail system connects the people of this country to citizens throughout the world.

Reducing mail delivery one day a week won’t stop people from sending postcards from Australia or keeping in touch via letter with Tia Maria in Mexico, but losing one day of service reminds us of how vital these links are.

The postal service’s immediacy and versatility is often compared to electronic and social media.

“Snail mail,” is the less-than-kind phrase often used. Out of respect for the people who work hard to process and deliver it, we suggest “conventional mail” as an alternative.

True, email is immediate, and Facebook provides a unique platform for photos and video.

But as our society faces one of the biggest changes in the history of the postal system, it’s good to keep in mind that what sets it apart from other systems is its egalitarian nature.

Yes, the sender must buy a stamp, but there is no charge to the recipient. On the other hand, free computer use at libraries aside, cyber and electronic transmissions involve some cost to the recipient. Further, the free postal service is extended to people in far rural places, who need that connection and might not enjoy the electronic opportunities found in other places.

It looks like no letters on Saturday will be the new reality. As this historic change happens, it should be seen as a watershed moment where we as a society take stock of the great value that the postal delivery system means to the individual and to our culture as a whole.

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With that in mind, the Hood River News will, in coming months, look into the impact of no Saturday mail.

For our future coverage, we ask that you tell us in a few paragraphs what it means to your household, group, or business.

Emails are welcome at:

kneumann-rea@hoodrivernews.com.

Or, drop a letter or postcard to Kirby Neumann-Rea, editor, at the address at the top of this page.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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