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Postal Logic | blog.deanland.com

Postal Logic

Postal Logic

Last week I sent a package to a friend, via the US Mail.  It was in a long, rectangular box, which I came to learn weighed in excess of one pound.
  Well, actually I knew what it weighed, as the contents are sold by the pound.  And we weighed it in order to buy the correct postage for it.  But why split hairs?  This is something I've sent before, any number of times, with no hassle, and usually to the delight of the recipients.   We had access to a mail pick-up service, which took the package from us to get it to the Post Office and on its way across the country to my friend.

A few days later the package ended up back at my mailbox.  According to a sticker placed on the package, the new rules (post 9-11) state the following:

ìWe regret that your mail is being returned to you because of
heightened security measures. All domestic mail, weighing 16 ounces or
over, that bears stamps and all international and military APO/FPO mail
weighing 16 ounces or over, MUST be presented to a retail clerk at a
post office. Postage that is affixed to the returned mail may be used
for re-mailing the item.
î

The reasoning and the fear, as explained to me by the retail clerk at my local Post Office, is that this can't be put on a plane, since it could blow up in the air and kill the pilot and passengers. 


Does this make you feel like heightened security is protecting you?<br />

Let's examine the logic here.  Is this the thinking: by bringing it to the window and interacting with a retail postal clerk, someone with evil intent will tell the clerk the real contents, not just lie?  What is this, Kindergarten, and the clerk represents a proxy parent or other such authority figure?  A determined evildoer will no doubt lie with ease. 

The clerks want to ask you if there are any liquids, perishables or explosives in the package.   Is a terrorist or a nutjob (remember the Unabomber, who apparently was both?) going to be forthcoming with such information?   Are postal retail clerks trained in reading faces to sense or intuitively grok who they should trust and which packages to let through?

But there's an even more ridiculous side to this process.  The Post Office, having not been assured of package safety by the sender in an interpersonal  exchange with the retail clerk, then proceeds to put the package back into the system, to return it to the "sender address" as noted on the package.  Thus, if a bad guy rigs a time bomb in a rectangular package such as the one I sent, and puts a false return address on it (like, say, some bigwig's abode), the Post Office will have internal package handler people and machinery, drivers, and then letter carriers, treat it as regular mail.  All this in order to drop it back at the apparent point of origin.


Despite the inanity of this heightened security business -- which places all sorts of people and places in jeopardy in the name of protection -- it still amazes me that most of the mail  makes  it through the system and arrives.  The logistics alone are mind boggling.<br />


My package was picked up in  Manhattan,  rejected  as not meeting the  less-than-16oz standard, and then  traversed the system to come back to me in my suburban Western country outside the city, to my door.  In order to prevent an airplane mishap, it traveled by truck and carrier, from at least one Manhattan Post Office to the Main Post Office here in my county, to the local Post Office, and then into a letter carrier's satchel on the way to my mailbox.  Were the contents of this package a bomb or some other nefarious item, it could well have done any manner of damage along the way.

So now the well-traveled package is back in my hands again.  I bring it to the local Post Office.  I attest to the fact that it is neither a liquid, a perishable nor an explosive.  The retail clerk peels off the sticker indicating that this is one of those over 16oz suspect packages(see green graphic, above) and another one that indicates that it must not travel by air, accepts it and puts it back into the system.

Bottom line: the package can now travel via airplane to my friend.  Heightened Security, that's what they call it.  We are clearly safer, yes?