Yesterday, there was a fire at our town’s post office, and the fire was so intense that it gutted the building. All morning the fire raged, and Facebook was full of images and descriptions. This put our little town in an uproar, and Clif and I had a hard time concentrating on anything else.
With that fire and destruction, we have lost an essential part of our town. Despite email, FedEx, and UPS, the postal service is vital to our community—indeed to many communities—and now there is great big burnt shell where the post office once stood.
Many people criticize the U.S Postal Service, complaining of how the federal government can’t do anything right. I beg to disagree. Sure, every once in a while my New Yorker goes missing, or we receive mail that should have gone to someone else. But not very often. Mostly, day in and day out, our mail comes, delivered by conscientious carriers who actually bring the mail to our doorstep when we have a package.
While it does cost money to send letters—still a bargain, as far as I’m concerned—and packages, it doesn’t cost anything for individuals to receive mail. You might even call the U.S Postal Service a common good, a concept that today seems as dated as poodle skirts and saddle shoes. Spending for the common good? Where’s the profit in that?
And while I’m on the subject of the common good, I must praise the firefighters, from our town and from surrounding towns, who put out the fire and stopped it from spreading to other buildings. At town meetings, there is always grousing about how much the fire department costs. Yes, there is a cost. But what would our town be like without it?
Schools, fire departments, libraries, police departments, trash removal all cost money, but they are essential to having a decent society. (I could add other things such as public transportation, too.) The point is not that they cost taxpayers money. The point is, how do we collect the money fairly so that taxes aren’t a burden on those who don’t have much?
The postal service has already sprung into action with a plan for Winthrop’s mail. Working out of Augusta, carriers have already resumed home delivery in Winthrop. For those who had post office boxes or need to pick up packages, they will go to the Manchester post office, in the town next to us. The mail will be delivered, despite the loss of our post office.
Right now, fire marshals are investigating the cause of the fire. I’m hoping it wasn’t arson.
And I expect a new post office will replace the burnt wreckage of the old one. But it will be quite a while before that happens, and, in the meantime, our post office will be sorely missed.