Skip to main content

No more Saturday visits from Bob

By Jay Parini, Special to CNN
February 9, 2013 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Life.com pays tribute to mail carriers, other postal workers and the U.S. Postal Service in earlier times. Here, a rural Vermont mail carrier makes his rounds in subzero weather. Life.com pays tribute to mail carriers, other postal workers and the U.S. Postal Service in earlier times. Here, a rural Vermont mail carrier makes his rounds in subzero weather.
HIDE CAPTION
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
Classic look at U.S. Postal Service
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jay Parini lives in small-town Vermont, and says he will miss Saturday mail deliveries
  • Parini: We are losing the joy of saving, re-reading letters from pen-pals, family and friends
  • Telegraph replaced the Pony Express, he says, just as e-mails have replaced mail
  • Parini treasures his letters of favorite writers: Who will publish collections of e-mails?

Editor's note: Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. His forthcoming book is "Jesus: The Human Face of God."

Weybridge, Vermont (CNN) -- Will I get over the end of Saturday deliveries by the U.S. Postal Service? I'm sure I will. But like countless others in this country, I will miss them.

Living in rural Vermont, in a fairly isolated farmhouse overlooking the Green Mountains, I look forward to the mail, which brings news from relatives and friends, Christmas cards, bills, and -- most of all -- Saturday visits from Bob, who has been arriving at my house for years now, always with good cheer, local gossip and a sense that God's in his heaven and all's well with the world.

I remember as a child looking forward to the arrival of Mr. Mail, as my sister and I called him, on Saturday mornings. He was a dour fellow, but we liked him.

Jay Parini
Jay Parini

We had no school on Saturdays, so all the children got to know him on that day. He was missing a front tooth, so it was probably a good thing that he rarely smiled. When he did, it was an occasion. I loved him, mostly because he brought regular letters from my pen pal in Sweden -- letters with an array of strange, colorful stamps and peculiar tales from abroad.

It was an adjustment when, years later, we had to get used to Miss Fe-Mail, a young woman with masses of blond hair and red lipstick.

The mail has always kept me in touch with the world. As a young man I lived in Scotland for seven years, and loved getting two postal deliveries a day, bringing letters on blue aerograms from home. I would open those fragile blue letters very carefully, so as not to lose words. They were often scribbled in a tiny hand so the author could get as many words as possible within the aerogram's limited boundaries.

Opinion: Goodbye, Postal Service?

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



My Scottish postman's name was Angus, and he told me about his grandfather, who had brought three or four deliveries to every house each day. The mail was like e-mail in those days. If you lived in a city, such as London, you could really send a letter in the morning and expect it to make it across town by the afternoon. Nowadays it can take several days to get a letter from one side of Vermont to another. Sometimes I wonder if we're still using the Pony Express.

As a boy, I read a book about the Pony Express, and had fantasies about joining it. The express started up in the mid-19th century, with relays of postal workers on horseback who would carry letters from Missouri over the Great Plains, through the Rocky Mountains, to California -- and it only took about 10 days. It was the invention of the telegraph that brought this wondrous service to a halt, not unlike the advent of the Internet, which has made the postal service much less relevant to our lives.

E-mails deliver most of our joys and sorrows today, and we conduct routine business in this ephemeral form. Handwritten letters have become precious artifacts. For future biographers, the loss of real letters presents a dilemma. My bookshelf holds volumes of the collected letters of my favorite writers, and I treasure those by John Keats, Lord Byron, Dickens and others. Will anyone ever publish someone's collected e-mails?

How Amazon could save the U.S. Postal Service

Postal Service to end Saturday delivery
Postal carrier saves 91-year-old

So much of our thinking is about loss, and this is one of the losses we must bear. I doubt that we'll ever return to obsessive letter-writing, and don't expect to get many letters from abroad, with brilliantly colored stamps bearing the visage of unknown kings, queens and other eminent people I've never heard of. I wonder if I'll even know the person who brings letters to my house in the years to come.

At least my part of Vermont has Internet access. In the immediate future, the absence of Saturday postal deliveries for rural areas that lack access might have genuine consequences, hurting business and dampening the spirits for people who already feel a bit out of touch.

Everyone would like, I think, to see a robust postal service -- the Post Office represents the nation at home. I still make special trips into town, a drive of several miles, to do "business" at the P.O., where I meet friends to exchange gossip, buy special editions of stamps and, for nostalgic reasons, purchase aerograms to send to friends abroad. The bustling atmosphere is cheery, especially at Christmas, when people wait in line to get their odd-shaped boxes weighed and posted.

Postal Service finances show smaller loss, but still in trouble

The postal service will always be part of our lives, and long may it live. I'm sorry about the loss of Saturdays, which may make me feel a little more isolated on weekends at my hilltop house. But who ever thought the government existed to make us happy?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Jay Parini.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1952 GMT (0352 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2312 GMT (0712 HKT)
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0335 GMT (1135 HKT)
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1257 GMT (2057 HKT)
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 2115 GMT (0515 HKT)
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1811 GMT (0211 HKT)
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1808 GMT (0208 HKT)
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1853 GMT (0253 HKT)
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 2019 GMT (0419 HKT)
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2239 GMT (0639 HKT)
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 0112 GMT (0912 HKT)
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1709 GMT (0109 HKT)
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2345 GMT (0745 HKT)
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 2134 GMT (0534 HKT)
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1951 GMT (0351 HKT)
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 2113 GMT (0513 HKT)
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
December 10, 2014 -- Updated 1255 GMT (2055 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT