Take Five: 'Neither snow nor rain nor heat....'

“Hey, Mary, do you want me to go out and bring in the mail? I just saw the mail truck stop at our box.”

Another day of reliable mail service. We residents of La Cañada Flintridge are served faithfully by our letter carriers. We expect our mail to be delivered to us six days a week in the morning or in the afternoon. Day in and day out, nothing stops the trusted postal patrol bringing our letters, catalogs, checks (we need more of these, please) and bills. Ugh.

I had the opportunity last week to meet with Roslyn Strawther, our postmaster since 2009. Strawther started her career as a carrier in Pacoima in 1983. She moved inside a year later to work the counter and soon was assigned to the cavernous warehouse in Pacoima where the mail is organized for residential and business delivery.

Rapidly moving up the chain because she was identified as a candidate for management, Strawther ran the Altadena Post Office for a number of years before transferring to Glendale and then on to La Cañada. She supervises a staff of 43 postal employees, who will probably spend their entire careers here in La Cañada Flintridge.

By the way, the U.S. Postal Service owns the post office property on Foothill, which helps assure us that we will not lose our convenient facility to a cutback in postal services. Nevertheless, there have been cuts since Strawther took over in 2009. There were 25 routes two years ago. Today we have 21 routes servicing LCF and Montrose. These 21 routes cover businesses and homes. Our letter carriers make 11,000 deliveries each day. That represents an average of 500 drops per carrier per route.

By 7 a.m. every day except Sunday, 60,000 pieces of pre-sorted mail are delivered to the docks of the post office, including regular mail and flat mail — newspapers, catalogs, magazines and other odd-shaped pieces. Strawther says that 96% of all incoming mail is pre-sorted. Regular mail comes from Pasadena and flat mail comes from Van Nuys. There are huge conveyor belts in both of these post offices that carry the mail past optical scanners that read the mail, sort it and then automatically hustle the stacks off to waiting trays that eventually are taken for delivery to the appropriate local post office. There is even a contract carrier working out of our post office who delivers mail to Mt. Wilson six days each week, with a three-hour round trip.

All U.S. mail volume is down because of the economy, email, faxes, UPS and FEDEX. Something to note is that UPS and FEDEX send some of their residential-bound parcels to local post offices for “last mile” delivery. This means that packages you expect from either of these two overnight companies might use the U.S. Postal Service to carry certain parcels to you.

I find it difficult to understand why Congress goes after postal executives to make a profit. How is this possible when the American public moans whenever postal increases of a few pennies per stamp are proposed? We should pay it happily.

The designers of the main post office in New York City thought enough of the postal service to inscribe the following words on that building. They are adapted from Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian who lived from 484 to 424 B.C., and who might have been referring to ancient Persian runners: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at gpep@aol.com or phone (818) 790-1990.

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