News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 12, 2011

MS. TAKES: Keeping the post office in business

Liz Ciancone
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — I think I may be in the running for pin-up girl for the U.S. Postal Service.

I trust this does not mean that I will be wanted in 48 contiguous states — as well as Alaska and Hawaii — but rather that I am being lauded for my continuing contribution to keeping mail service a bit less deep in red ink.

I know I am smiled upon by postal clerks when I buy lots and lots of stamps. I write a lot of letters and am convinced that there is nothing to compare with a personal letter — sent with 44 cents postage. It stands alone in the face of e-mail, Facebook, texting, Twitter or blogs. If this means I’m guilty of something criminal, I don’t think I could outrun the feds.

I do write letters, snail mail if you prefer, and my correspondents respond via snail mail. I figure that as a group we are good for about eight letters a week, or something like $3.52 a week in profit for the post office. This doesn’t count another half-dozen occasional correspondence. Of course delivery charges must be figured in, but I have to believe that the steady income must be appreciated.

I figure it doesn’t cost less to mail and deliver all of the appeals for donations received by the dozens every week — most of which are sent for less than 44 cents. A couple a week or so ago were mailed to me at 8 cents each. Of course, the appeal enclosed an envelope so I would find it convenient to return a check, but they did not use the 8-cent stamp so it would cost me 44 cents to send a pittance. I didn’t bother.

And don’t get me started on catalogs! I cannot imagine the forest which have been denuded to supply the paper to send me catalogs. It must be a state secret how much it costs to mail a catalog, but they are a lot heavier than my letters. If cost to mail was based on weight it might save enough for the post office to treat the delivery person for back spasms incurred by the weight.

I don’t expect a return to the 3-cent stamp, and the old “penny postcard” is only a vague and highly collectible memory. Costs do go up. I get anxious when the Postmaster General goes, hat-in-hand, to Congress pleading for an increase in postage. I won’t quit writing letters, but it would be nice to get some sort of award for faithfulness.

So if you happen to see my picture in the post office, let’s hope it doesn’t say “WANTED” in big, bold letters.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star reporter. Send e-mail to