This election season has me worried about the mail. Not so much about the U.S. Postal Service – I have faith in the mail carriers. It’s the young people.

No offense, young people. But I know some of you, and you don’t know diddlysquat about how the mail works. It’s probably not your fault.

When I went to elementary school in the early ’70s, we had to practice letter-writing. You had your salutation, your body of the letter, and your closing. We practiced going from “Dear Sir” to “Sincerely yours.” We learned how to address an envelope, too. Fourth grade found many of us expanding our minds as we tried to fit into the upper left-hand corner our name and street address, and then the United States, North America, the world, the universe!

But by the early aughts, letter-writing wasn’t taught anymore, at least in my kids’ schools. And even though they had to write some thank you notes, they didn’t seem to absorb how the mail worked.

I found out just how bad the situation was last year, when I mailed a birthday card to one daughter. I didn’t want to send just a text or an email or even a fancy e-card, seen once and then buried in a never-ending scroll of messages. I wanted to send something she could stick to her refrigerator with a magnet. Something she would see for a few days that said, “it’s not about me, but 24 years ago I gave birth to you, so Happy Birthday!” I sent a lovingly hand-drawn paper card through the U.S. mail.

After a few days I texted: had her card come? No. I waited another couple of days. Got it yet? Still no. By now I wondered, had it actually gotten lost in the mail? After a week I called to ask, “Are you sure? You checked the mailbox?”

“Oh,” she replied. “I can’t get anything out of there. It’s stuffed so full.”

Upon further inspection, the card (did I mention it was lovingly hand-drawn?) was found in the mailbox. A little shaming — I mean, quizzing— followed. How often did she check her mailbox? Maybe once a week. Didn’t she know she should check it every day? No.

And there’s the mystery of stamps.

“Don’t even talk to me about stamps,” my daughter said. “I go to the post office to mail a letter. And then they ask if I need stamps. How should I know? Isn’t that their job?” I explained that the clerk probably wondered if she wanted to bring stamps home with her. “Well, they should say that, then,” she replied. “How was I supposed to know?”

It’s not their fault. Between the lack of schooling and the advent of email, today’s young people didn’t stand much of a chance to master the sending and receiving of an actual envelope via an actual mailbox. But hopefully they’re working on it. Hopefully they’re making and sharing videos about how to mail a ballot.

I could probably search for one on TikTok or what-have-you, but I know an easier way. I’ll just ask a young person, and they’ll show me.

— Special to the Telegram


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