A waterlogged letter!

After being a pen pal for about 36 years…a first. I opened my mailbox and saw a letter from a pen friend in Australia. I could tell by the “wrinkly” look of the envelope that it had gotten wet at some point in the postal journey. At first, I was not concerned as the envelope was dry and intact.

But as I opened it, it became clear that the letter had not just gotten a few raindrops on it, but had been totally soaked or submerged in water! The letter was written on a note card and stationery paper, which was wrinkly, and the ink was totally smeared/smudged and unreadable as a result. Some paper nature images enclosed in the letter were all wrinkly too. The one surviving item, without any damage, was a laminated bookmark! The lamination had made it waterproof.

Over the years I have received a rare ripped or torn letter in the mail, but never one damaged by water. How about you??

USA first-class postage to Canada

For those in the USA who have used the postal system for years, you may remember there used to be a special international first-class rate for Mexico and Canada – it was more than domestic first class but less than the international rate. I am dating myself, as this was years ago! But at some point the special rate for Canada and Mexico ceased. However, I discovered several months ago, by accident, when I was double checking the postage amount for a slightly heavy letter to Canada, that:

“International postage (for first-class postage) starts at $1.30, covering the postage costs for up to 2 ounces of mail to be delivered to any address in Canada.”
Normally the limit is 1 ounce. See the chart below.

So, take advantage of being able to stuff extra paper items in your envelope to Canada, up to 2 ounces! This may be nothing new, but I was unaware of it. Years ago I mailed to Canada quite often, having personal friends and pen pals there. But then I lost touch with these people, and only gained a new Canadian pen pal a couple years ago.

Mailboxes and mail carriers and snow

We don’t get snow like this where I live now, but we did in the northeast U.S.A. where I grew up. This meme (below) shows thoughtfulness for the mail man!

With these curbside mailboxes, the mail man drives and can put the mail in the box from his driver’s seat. Where I live now (southeast), this type of mailbox – at the curb/street – is very common, even in town, in residential neighborhoods with many houses. Where I grew up, this type of mailbox you saw mostly in rural areas. In town, the mailboxes were attached to your house – either on the front porch or your front door had a mail slot – and thus the mail man walked from house to house carrying a bag of mail.

* P.S. I suppose calling this person the “mail man” is outdated, but it is still what comes to mind. Other options would be: mail carrier, postal carrier, mail woman, mail man, etc.

When I visited Finland, I got to see a mail woman that delivered the mail via bicycle. See here.

The mail?? The post??

I just realized that November is the 4 year anniversary of when I began this blog. I don’t always blog consistently, but I plan to keep at it! Here is a post (slightly edited) that was originally on the blog in December 2017…

The mail? The post?

I recently told someone that I would send them an item by post. They did not know what this meant! “What is post?” Uh, by mail – the postal service. Then they felt a little dumb. haha.

But really, they should not have felt dumb about it. I tend to use the word post, and I recently realized this is more of a British or European term. Somewhere along the line I picked this up, even though I am American. Perhaps for several reasons: I had a great deal of Canadian influence in my youth. I appreciate certain classic British novels and movies. I’ve long had international pen friends (and international students live with me) that typically write and speak British English.

If you look up the word post in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are several definitions, but one is this: “chiefly British, a nation’s organization for handling mail.”

The online free dictionary similarly says for post:

1. Chiefly British
a. a single dispatch or delivery of mail.
b. the mail itself.
c. an established mail system or service.

I sometimes sign my letters “Your friend by post and pen.” You’ll note that this blog is called Postman’s Treasure, rather than Mailman’s Treasure.

However, I am a blend of American and British English when it comes to the post or mail, and may even be inconsistent with my word use. When it comes to my home mail box, I use the word mail. It is the mailbox, not postbox. Do you say that you will “post a letter” or “mail a letter”? Most Americans, in my experience, say mail. I also say mail a letter; somehow post a letter sounds strange to me!

In the U.S.A. we do call it the POST office. It is the USPS: the United States Postal Service. So why is it that we are more likely to use the word mail instead of post…we mail letters, check the mailbox, look for the mailman, and mail packages. Hmmm?

Postal rates going up in USA, and “forever” stamps

For my readers in the USA, postal rates go up August 29th. I find it interesting to hear about the post in other nations, so readers from elsewhere may perhaps find this interesting as well?

Here in the USA, our postal service offers a nice policy for stamps called “forever” stamps. It means the stamps you purchase remain valid even if the price increases. You do not have to add extra postage to match the new rate. Years ago this was not the case. For example, before the “forever” stamp policy, if you purchased first class domestic stamps and the current postal rate was .55 cents, and the rate went up to .58 cents, you’d have to get .3 cent stamps to make up the difference. But not with the forever stamp policy!  A first class stamp remains good for mailing a first class letter, no matter what the current stamp price.

The forever policy applies to stamps for domestic first class, additional ounce, postcard, and international stamps.This is something I did not know until earlier this year! I thought forever only applied to domestic first class and international (as these stamps have the word forever on them), and I did not know it also applies to additional ounce and postcard stamps (where I did not see the word forever).

I recently stocked up on stamps due to the pending price increases. Our international rates are going up .10 cents and I especially stocked up with those.

I order stamps by mail though the USPS because my local post office has a TERRIBLE stamp selection. This is nothing new, and has gone on for years. Just recently I was at my local post office to mail a package, and thought I’d see if maybe, just maybe, they’d have a better selection of domestic stamps on hand. WORSE THAN EVER. They only had flag stamps. ONLY FLAG STAMPS!!  Sorry about all caps, but this annoys me to no end. I mean c’mon, the post office should have…stamps!  And I do not live in a rural or very small town. This is a busy suburban area. The next two closest post offices up the road in either direction several miles always have a good selection of stamps, but not mine – walking distance from my house. Even a post office sub-station I’ve been at on occasion has a better stamp selection!

Anyways, here is a chart of the rate increases.

Heritage Breed farm animal postage stamps

A comment was left yesterday that my posts were missed. (Thanks!) I’ve not had a post since March! Several times I’ve thought to myself “I should write about that on Postman’s Treasure” and then never did. Sometimes I wonder if postal related blogs go silent because, well, we prefer tangible communication – pens, paper, etc. That is partly it for me. But don’t worry, I plan to get back to posting here at least somewhat regularly.

One thing I’d meant to blog about was the farm animal (Heritage Breed) stamps that came out in May here in the US. These stamps have a connection to the county in North Carolina where my mom lives, so these stamps were in her local news.

Here is an article about it: New stamps trace lineage to Chatham’s Livestock Conservatory.

The article opens this way: “A Chatham County-based organization went to Washington last week to celebrate a rare victory. The Livestock Conservancy of Pittsboro joined with the U.S. Postal Service to mark the release of a sheet of 20 stamps showing endangered breeds of American farm animals on May 17. It was a rare win for the North Carolina organization because the Postal Service receives more than 30,000 suggestions for new stamps every year. Less than 100 typically win approval.”

Read the rest of the article for more details, but note that the Postal Service gets 30,000 suggestions a year for new stamps and less than 100 get approval. Wow!

A quick heads up…Did you know that postal rates are going up in the US at the end of August? More later.

More about postal delays in the USA

Regarding my last post, I just saw this news article from NPR about the delays with postal mail:

‘There’s No End In Sight’: Mail Delivery Delays Continue Across The Country

It begins:

You’ve got mail. Somewhere. Probably. The U.S. Postal Service is still digging out from under an avalanche of mail sent during the recent holiday season. But for much of the past year the postal system has been strained by the impact of COVID-19 on its workflow and workforce…

Slow and unpredictable mail delivery within the US

During most of COVID-19, mail delivery within the US (domestic) has mostly gone on as usual – no delay or only slight delays. International mail has taken longer. For example, letters to western Europe taking 6 weeks when they’d normally take about one week.

HOWEVER, domestic mail has now become wacky and slow and unpredictable since mid-autumn, getting worse around Christmas time, but still problematic in January. I know this from my personal experience, but also from “reports” people are sharing on social media and online pen pal groups.

I say wacky and unpredictable because that describes it. Some letters are arriving quickly with normal delivery times, while other letters are very slow, taking an excessive length of time. Even as long as 2 months to go from one place in the US to another! Someone I know locally in a town 30 minutes from my house sent me a card that took 10 days to arrive! Normally this would take 1-2 days. Some people are just now receiving Christmas cards sent to them in early to mid December.

This is not complaint but just stating fact. I think it is a combination of factors: postal employees getting COVID-19 and out sick or quarantined, extra mail being sent as Christmas approached with less postal staff to handle it, etc. For packages that can be tracked with a tracking number, some packages were sitting in a processing facility for literally 1-2 weeks, just sitting there, going nowhere. I also read one article that said in certain areas of the US the local USPS failed to prepare and plan ahead as they should have for extra Christmas mail so this contributed to the problem as well. For example, it said they should have hired extra trucks ahead of time and did not.

Again, the point here, is not to complain, as these are unique times. Patience is a virtue! Rather the point is: don’t give up on your pen pals. They may have promptly wrote you a letter that has simply not arrived…yet!  Keep waiting!

If you still don’t receive an expected letter after waiting a bit longer, you may want to drop your pen pal a note to check in with them. Hopefully, the post may be getting at least somewhat back to normal now that the Christmas rush is over.

My postal scale

This is my digital postal scale that I’ve had since the late 1990’s. I think it was a gift from my husband. It still works great. The only small problem is a little dark blob in the left side of the digital area, but it does not interfere with seeing the weight.

A postal scale is so very worthwhile, as I can keep adding things to the envelope until I max out the weight for up to 1 ounce! (Many pen pals like to enclose things with their letters. See here.) Or if I am knowingly going over an ounce, I can add the additional ounce stamp. I always keep a variety of stamp denominations on hand, so I can try to get exactly or close to the amount of postage needed. Truly, a digital postal scale can help you be frugal, and get the most for your money when sending enclosures.

After using a postal scale for years, I’ve actually gotten pretty good at accurately guessing weight myself! I may not get it exactly right, but can tell – for example – that “this is on the edge for a first-class stamp” – and when I weigh it, it is .9, 1, or 1.1 ounce. Yes, right on the edge.

Anyways, I consider my postal scale an essential item. If it breaks, I will get a new one! Whatever would I do without it?