Last winter, I penned a column about writing in one’s own hand during the holiday season, and the positive impact that results from the effort.
“I’m a sucker for stationery and stamps, Emily Post and the post office,” I wrote.
You can imagine my outrage and heartbreak upon reading The New Mexican’s recent front-page story about the possible closure of the Federal Place post office. Over the past year, I’ve heard these rumors from my team downtown, like David and Sparky, but it just seemed so far-fetched. The idea that a capital city — that any city — could lose its main post office is incomprehensible and shortsighted. Can you imagine telling a wandering tourist looking to buy a stamp for a postcard in one of the most historic cities in North America that the nearest post office is at the mall?
And what of the rural communities at risk of losing their post offices? What about the fact that the post office is one of the largest employers of minorities and veterans in the country? These post offices are central to communication between communities, large and small, and the outside world.
It reminded me of the recent relocation of the Venice, Calif., post office from its historic downtown home to a nearby characterless box building. The 1939 art deco post office was built during the Great Depression under the Federal Work Projects Administration and is the last WPA building remaining in downtown Venice. The post office features a mural known as the Story of Venice or the First Thirty Years of Venice’s History, and is one of two remaining murals by artist Edward Biberman. Hollywood producer Joel Silver has purchased the building to be used as his office and promises to be a good steward for both the building and the mural. At least Venice had the good sense to keep a post office downtown, despite its lack of aesthetic judgement and respect for community.
And what would become of our own post office building? Good luck finding a tenant who needs or can afford that much square footage. Will the staff hang a “Going Out of Business Sale” banner? Oh wait, I think the Historic Districts Review Board frowns upon those.
If there’s a poster child for loyalty and consistency it is Santa Fe’s Federal Place post office. The relationship downtown merchants and local residents have with the post office staff runs deep. Walking into that building is akin to walking into Cheers — where everybody knows your name and your business. My customer service award goes to these dedicated employees. I moved three years ago, and the postal carrier at my former address, now a rental, keeps tabs on my vacancies and mail forwarding. He’s even contributed to my columns.
As Black Friday catapults us into the holidays, it’s time for season’s greetings, and I encourage all of you to put pen to paper. It’s not about being old-fashioned or traditional, it’s about encouraging human contact with a meaningful form of communication — be it in the form of a parcel or post.
Today, we turn our books on and off with a switch and mail a letter with the push of a button. This holiday season, make a difference by handwriting your sentiments. The recipient(s) of your efforts will be overjoyed to receive something so thoughtful.
So, this is my love letter to the post office. The relationship between etiquette and the post is so intertwined that you really can’t have one without the other. I encourage you to support both. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor unfair constraints placed upon them shall stop the U.S. Postal Service from assisting Santa (and me) this season and all year long.
Well, it’s about time for me to take a number and get in what, I hope, will be a very long line at the post office this holiday season. See you there!
Bizia Greene owns the Etiquette School of Santa Fe. Send your comments and conundrums to email@example.com or 988-2070.