Aug 5, 2020

On Saturdays, the Postman Doesn’t Even Ring Once

A vexing change, probably not attributable to the pandemic

By Ed Goldman

Before I could explain to the new rabbi in my mom’s temple why I’d given up on the idea of becoming one, too, she blurted out, “He didn’t want to work Saturdays.” In biblical terms, you could say this smote the rabbi, who doubled over not in pain but laughter.

I think my local branch of the US Post Office must have hired a similar rabbi-training  dropout to deliver my mail on Saturdays. He or she doesn’t want to work that day, either. Ergo, I don’t receive my Saturday mail until Monday.

This isn’t especially problematic in terms of bills arriving a day late since if I received them on Saturday, wrote checks and mailed them, they still wouldn’t go out of the central post office until Monday. I suppose if the item were important enough, I could drive to the USPS headquarters, about 20 minutes from my home, where mail is supposedly sent out immediately and on a 24/7 basis.

But I decided to test this once some years ago by sending myself the lyrics to a song I’d written. I’d been advised that this was a quick form of copyrighting a document, provided I didn’t open the envelope when it came back to me since that would ruin the credibility of the postmark date the post office would have stamped on the envelope.

So I took it to the post office HQ about 3 p.m. on a Saturday. I didn’t expect it to arrive back at my place on Sunday, of course, since that’s not a usual residential delivery day. But it also didn’t arrive Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. When it finally got to my house on Thursday, I checked the postmark: sure enough, it indicated the piece had been stamped around 11 p.m., about eight hours later than I’d mailed it on Saturday. It must have then been tossed in a gag basket marked “Hyper-Punctual/Anal-Retentive Mail. Ignore for 2-3 Days.” 

I’d like to blame the current Saturday laxity on the pandemic­—like most of you, I’d like to blame everything that goes or remains wrong in my life on Covid-19, including some mild arthritis in one knee and hair loss on my one head—but know better. The failure to deliver my Saturday mail, mild arthritis and hair loss had been going on since before the world went into house arrest. So it doesn’t seem to be, which would have seemed logical, that the postal service furloughed a bunch of Saturday mail carriers, either as a prophylactic or reactive measure. 

A brief aside for younger readers: “prophylactic” doesn’t always refer to preventing babies, just as “exasperated” doesn’t mean to have spat out a pain reliever. As for the dirty-sounding “dickcissel” and “dik-dik,” I’m sorry to disappoint you: they refer only to a bird and an antelope, respectively. But you’ll have to admit, for a moment there, I sounded pretty cool for an old guy.

What grates the most is that when I first moved to this condo community three-and-a-half years ago, mail delivery evoked the title of a favorite old book and movie, “The Postman Always Rings Twice”—meaning, in my case, I received stuff both in the morning and the late afternoon. (It means something else in the book and movie.)

I even wrote about this phenomenon in my daily column for the Sacramento Business Journal back then, prompting a neighbor of mine to grouse that there were many weekdays when his mail never came at all—and then, in the days that followed, a delivery might be so voluminous that letters, magazines, Amazon books, religious newspapers and discount-pizza circulars were crammed into his mailbox—so muscularly that on one occasion, the carrier pushed through and broke off the box’s back wall. 

Trying to cheer my neighbor up, I said that this would now make it easier for him to put things out for delivery since, rather than having to go around to the front of the box and clothespin the things he was sending to the little metal door, he could simply slide it through from the back. 

“Think about how much time you’ll save every day!” I said. As he walked away, I believe he called me either some kind of bird or antelope.

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).