Friday, April 27, 2012

Progress vs. Familiarity

  So, I was standing in line at the post office, wondering what I'd write this blog about. I get my mail at a little neighborhood sub-station so the clerks know you by name. You find out who went on vacation and whose dog is missing. The window closes for lunch from one until two, tedious, but that's just the way it happens. At  the line has formed three people deep and we chat. Strangers talking about how fast the snow is melting, how warm it is. After the winter we've had, fifty degrees in flip-flops and tee shirts...but I digress.
Times change, the things we take for granted change. I wonder how long I'll have my little post office. I use
email and internet I have bill pay and online banking. I don't use the post office for much except birthday and sympathy cards. There are parts of my business that are still handled with stamps and envelopes, but I’m part of the 'problem' if you want to call it that. All too quickly the post office will be phased out of our lives, but what then? There is a huge hole there called the unknown.

How does that relate to writing? The huge hole in our writing world is called ebooks and how they will impact that world as we have known it. If an agent or editor doesn't  'do' email they are dismissed as old-school and hardly worth pursuing. The opinions fly fast and furious as to the demise of publishing and distribution of paper books. I recently heard someone call a paper book a 'tree killer'. Hummm, I love my keeper books but I'm learning to love my iPad as well.

I like browsing in a book store and I like my post office. I'm not looking forward to the changes I see coming. On the other hand, I like shopping online in my jammies and I look forward to driving those seven miles to the post office, because I love opening mail. The emotional ties of funny birthday cards and hand written notes telling of the sad inevitability of friends who've passed don’t translate well electronically. I like the feel of a book and the loopy hand writing in purple sparkly ink.

Times change. I don't know how it will all play out so as usual I take notes.  I paid close attention at the post office. Lady number one had a package to pick up from Amazon.
Man number two had two large boxes to mail. The clerk asked the usual questions, "Anything liquid, fragile or perishable?"
"No, it's carrots."
The clerk looked up from the scale,  "Carrots?"
"Yes, and some beets."
The clerk measured the box with a tape measure. "Three feet by two feet, that's a lot of carrots,"
"Yeah, my wife’s sister is doing some kinda juice thing."
The clerk looked at the address again, "Oh, Nome." 
In Alaska, mailing forty pounds of carrots to Nome, or cement blocks to McCarthy is a common occurrence. Not so much in Dubuque.

I'm going to enjoy my post office until it's gone and I’m going to enjoy my paper books. 

Change. The post office has been around since the constitution was written and now it has to change. I wonder where ebooks will be in twenty years?

---DeNise Woods


Tam Linsey said...

Lovely, nostalgic piece of writing. I agree, the world is changing so fast, it's hard to keep up. The post office is being relegated to packages simply because email is so much faster for correspondence. (Plus it has spell check.)

LizbethSelvig said...

Hey DeNise,
Lovely post -- those of us "of an age" will probably never grow out of this nostalgia. I, too, have a small post office where the clerk knows me and we all chat. It's delightful to say the least.

I'm of the opinion that things like books and POs will morph but never thoroughly disappear. Our tiny post offices may slowly close, but the bigger ones will always be necessary for those carrots to Nome! And trees can be a renewable resource--we don't have to be "ungreen" to read books -- plus, we'll recycle more and more -- reading books is okay. And I just ran into someone in a chat room yesterday who writes for Harlequin but doesn't yet "do" e-readers, so we're exchanging paper books by mail!!

I believe things will even out eventually. After all, people can watch movies just fine on their TVs but a lot of folks still go to the movie theater too! Let's hope there's room for all the things we love--old and new!

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Great post, DeNise. I also love post offices, and hope they will continue in some form, just like books will continue in some form.

I worry that the young people will lose all these personal connections that we grew up with as they do more of their communication online. Then last night I was in a family gathering, where the young adults were leading the conversation ranging from movies to World War II weapons to politics, and it gave me hope for the future. Things will change, but we'll manage to keep some of the good stuff.

DeNise said...

Tam and Liz and Lynn--I'm reminded that to thank you by mail it would take at least three days for you to to know how much I appreciate your comments. not to mention the stamps and envelopes.