Canadian media has been aflutter with buzz and shock after the recent changes Canada Post proposed this week. Over the next five years, CEO Deepak Chopra (uncanny, right?) hopes to phase out home delivery altogether, incorporate communal mailboxes, and focus on the real money maker: parcel delivery, thanks to millions of online shoppers.
For most of us who live in an apartment building, this will not be a huge inconvenience, as we already collect our mail from locked boxes in the lobby. However, for the elderly, those who live in suburban communities and even small businesses who still rely on Canada Post to mail checks, this will pose a problem. Maybe a big problem. Not to mention, the loss of permanent employment will be immense.
The rising cost of postage is what keeps me from using the national service more often. Like many North Americans, unless I feel compelled to send a letter or Christmas card, only a handful of times per year, I don’t bother. It has been predicted that a simple stamp will cost between 83 cents and a dollar, depending on the quantities purchased. In terms of profit logic and basic numbers, I can understand why Canada Post has chosen to make such a drastic change, and yet can’t help but be surprised when it actually happens.
A few years ago, I read a futuristic novel called Uglies. It’s a young adult series about a society in which everyone must undergo beautifying surgery at the age of sixteen, and destroy any sense of unique facial traits. Symmetry is the ultimate goal. In this society, people no longer write by hand and, in fact, cannot write. They don’t know how, and most attempts result in jumbled scratches and bad spelling. Everyone communicates electronically. No one is even required to type; machines transcribe by voice recognition. For some reason, this particular vision of the future was totally upsetting. A world without handwritten notes or letters? How bizarre. How sad. But, if we were to be completely honest, we are moving toward such a future. We send emails for everything, use emoticons and abbreviations, so much that our publishing industry is bleeding to death, and our postal services can’t break even. And, equally shocking, I did hear a rumor that the elementary school curriculum is phasing out cursive writing.
Environmentalists might argue that this cultural metamorphosis is good, and theoretically I agree. Paper has become a secondary (and more expensive) resource. We are using less and learning to reduce waste. Agreed. But, at the same time, I feel like we’re losing something else that’s equally important, a record of history, an organic and emotionally satisfying part of communication. It would be a shame for handwritten letters or cards to become a novelty. I can’t think of anything more meditative than writing by hand, maybe in my journal or working on my manuscript at the library. No lap top required. Just a pen and a notebook.
How often do you send a letter or card in the mail? How many times in a day do you write by hand?