I will always regret that I never gave my Grandmother a tour of the post office where I work, while I still had the chance.
She was the most prolific letter writer I’ve ever known. She loved sending letters. Indeed, she would take time out of every day and write out postcards and letters to friends and family.
I would have shown her that the post office is more vibrantly mechanized than she could have ever imagined. From the tow motors carrying big steel cages crammed with parcels and containers of mail, to the video coding desks, culling belts and letter sorting machines, she would have loved the magic that she was witnessing.
However to me, it’s just organized chaos.
The plant where I work is full of machines that can each process almost 50,000 pieces of mail an hour.
During the Christmas period, 1.5 million pieces of mail are dumped, machined, sorted and dispatched each twenty-four hour period.
That’s a lot of mail.
One of my favourite authors, Antoine De Saint Exupery, author of ‘The Little Prince’ was among the first pilots to ever fly mail from point to point.
In his book Wind Sand and Stars, he eloquently recorded his thoughts as he flew his plane with it’s cargo of mail over the Sahara Desert.
Mail in the late 1930’s was very different from what it is now.
Today the majority of mail is business related. The mail stream consists mostly of credit card bills, receipts, invoices, account statements, and of course junk mail.
However, back then the mail consisted almost entirely of personal letters. These were letters from mother to son, husband to wife, friend to friend, beloved to beloved.
And so, as this pilot and author flew high in the sky alone at night with his cargo, he marvelled at the stars above and pondered the points of light below while trying to imagine the precious contents of the letters. Antoine De Saint Exupery firmly believed that he was doing an important task. The letters he carried contained validations of love and friendship from loved ones separated by time and distance.
It was indeed a different world back then and I wish we could get some of it back.
It might do our digitized hearts some good.