Jun 8, 2020

Close the US Post Office? Undeliverable!

No one’s going to close our beloved, infuriating, Constitution-protected organization

By Ed Goldman
I hate to start this with a mixed metaphor—I prefer shaken, with just a hint of dry vermouth—but the continuing, insidious blather about shutting down the United States Post Office is nothing more than the usual limp-sabered brinksmanship that passes for statesmanlike discourse in Washington these days—and as such, is likely to dissipate soon.

But it aggravates me because Postmaster General Megan Brennan is a pen pal of mine. Kinda-sorta. More on that in a moment.

I find the politically inert gas about shutting down the USPS even more annoying than the other non-starter issues being tested as campaign fodder by what’s become the party of Lincoln Logheads: cutting back on programs such as Social Security and Medicare. 

I hate to screw up the 24/7 news cycle with a spoiler alert but none of these events will happen, especially not in an election year. Not that it won’t give the talking helium balloons on CNN and FOX plenty to bob and bounce about—if they can take their minds off the coronavirus and street protests for more than the duration of commercial breaks for treatment of post-death-onset Type 37 diabetes, alpha-blockers (drugs to prevent you from buying beta-blockers) and anti-depression meds, which, unfortunately, are among the more depressing ads on TV.   

While most of us probably think of the U.S. Post Office as a relic, almost six years ago it showed how very modern it was by elevating a woman, my kinda-sorta pen pal Brennan, to its top job. At the time, without having interviewed much less met Brennan, I wrote about her in my daily column for the Sacramento Business Journal:

“Just because a national organization has infrastructure problems doesn’t mean it has a glass ceiling.

“I’m talking about the U.S. Postal Service — and the fact that its postmaster-in-waiting is a 52-year-old woman. Talk about pushing the envelope.

“Various news outlets have been reporting on Megan J. Brennan’s lengthy but steady rise over 30 years from delivering the mail to tackling the leadership of a nearly $68 billion, multi-headed, megalithic business, one of the country’s most unloved organizations (though actually one of its smoother-running ones. Try mailing something to or from Italy, if you don’t believe me).”

In that column, which ran on December 2, 2014, I made note that Brennan’s escalation was possibly her destiny:

“Reports have noted that Brennan is from a letter-carrying dynasty. Her dad worked at the USPS for more than 40 years and two of her brothers are or have been mailmen. It used to be okay to call them that, by the way, though ‘mailwomen’ always sounded puzzling, at least when spoken aloud. I’m gratified that no one’s demanded Brennan be called the Postmistress General, which, besides being vaguely sexist, sounds like a military man who no longer cheats on his wife. 

“I’m guessing that when Brennan attended parties as a teenager and her friends said, “Let’s play Post Office,” she was disappointed to learn it involved locking lips, not licking stamps.”

Well, okay. I had fun with it but that was only to thinly disguise my appreciation for her perseverance and obvious love for her work. 

Well, much to my surprise, that column showed up on a lot of search engines—including that of Brennan’s: “I enjoyed reading your Dec. 2 article,” she wrote to me. “Thanks for the laughs. I welcome your analogies.”

Note from Megan Brennan to Ed Goldman.

As I pointed out then, “Actually, it might have said ‘your analysis.’ Her handwriting was a little tough to make out—which you have to expect from a friendly handwritten note like this. The U.S. Mail doesn’t auto-correct.”

According to a number of sources, Brennan had planned to retire a few months ago but stuck it out until a successor could be found. My guess, without knowing her politics (or her, let’s face it) is that this item may have had something to do with her determination to hang in there a little longer: two years ago, President Trump is reported to have urged her to “double the rates on Amazon and other firms,” according to the Washington Post.

Maybe Brennan has updated the unofficial letter carrier’s credo: “”Neither rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. Nor shall the wishes of limp-sabered brinksmen.”

Thank you, Megan. Write when you can. And please keep pushing the envelope.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).