Disgruntled about Mail? Chill Out!

February 16, 1994

"Disgruntled postal workers," we've heard of. But "disgruntled postal customers"? While they're hardly a rare breed, their numbers have multiplied since the recent ice and snow storms that interrupted mail delivery throughout Maryland.

On two ice-coated days during the week of Jan. 16, about 50 percent of deliveries statewide were made. Just after last week's ice and snow falls, mail drop-offs were down by 10 percent, says a spokesperson for the Baltimore postal district, which includes 1,900 mail carriers and 1.3 million daily deliveries in most of Maryland.

This week, full service returned. Still, folks were fuming that they'd had to wait for everything from Social Security checks to the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Complaints were phoned in to the main post office downtown, and were sent -- mailed (ahem) -- to area newspapers. Someone even called a congressman to demand U.S. armed forces be dispatched to deliver the mail.

Maybe some of us in this era of instant gratification are so accustomed to getting our mail on schedule, we're vexed when it fails to reach us. The policy of the Postal Service, however, is very clear: If a carrier lugging a heavy bag of mail judges that a home or group of homes is too hazardous to approach on foot, then he or she may postpone the delivery. The fact that one out of 16 Baltimore district carriers was injured during the treacherous week of Jan. 16 should indicate the level of their dedication.

It doesn't help that much of the public assumes -- incorrectly -- the famous slogan about snow, rain and gloom of night is the official postal motto. The line is actually a slight reworking of a passage about military couriers written 25 centuries ago by the Greek historian Herodotus. It was revised for an inscription above the main post office in Manhattan. Yet people relish sarcastically citing it when mail service is slowed. No doubt the past month makes postal employees wish the Manhattan branch had chosen something less boastful to carve above its doorway.

This week's warmer, sunnier weather arrives in time not just to ease the frayed nerves of postal workers and customers alike but also to aid the annual postal workers' food drive, Harvest for the Hungry. Through this Saturday, residents can leave canned goods outside their homes for carriers to pick up, or take the food directly to local post offices. A project like this may even cause some of us to ask what we've got to be disgruntled about.

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