Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Postal Issues

Is there a guideline in government agencies that they should never make things easy when a more complicated process is available?

My case in point. Today I wanted to mail something via the U.S. Postal Service's Express Mail service. At work, we had the proper labels, and I could run it on the postage meter, but we didn't have Express Mail envelopes. At least not plain, run of the mill Express Mail envelopes. We had only Flat Rate Express Mail envelopes -- the ones that you can cram as much paper into as possible and then send for the same rate. In this case, that would have been $17.50, versus $13.05 for regular old Express Mail.

Since we didn't have government-issued Xpress Mail lopes, I went on line to see if I could use my own packaging. The data was inconclusive.

Now, I've seen most USPS supplies. There's not a whole heck of a lot of difference between the flat cardboard mailers except for the words printed on them. So it made sense to me that I could cross out the words "Flat Rate" and still use the Express Mail things we had in house. Right? That doesn't seem too confusing, particularly since I was using the right label.

I should have known better.

The carrier picked up the package and a couple of hours later I got a phone call from the post office. They were holding the package there because it was in the wrong envelope. I could either run down and switch the packaging or they'd send it out "postage due". I had until 1:30 to haul it to the post office in town.

Unfortunately, I was in a meeting until 1:25. I called as soon as I got the message. Oh joy, the truck had not yet left. I booked out, grabbing a manilla envelope because the postal clerk told me they didn't have any of the regular old Express envelopes and rushed to town.

In the midst of switching envelopes and filling out a new label, the clerk told me that since it was past 1:30, the best they could guarantee was second day afternoon delivery.

Uhhh. The package was going on the same truck as the other ones that had come in before 1:30, so why couldn't they still guarantee next day delivery? What, my package was going to be too far in the back of the truck or something?

All this because of two words -- Flat Rate -- on an envelope. Never mind that I wasn't cramming in reams of paper -- just a single sheet. Never mind that even if I'd wanted to send it in a regular Express envelope they would not have been able to supply me with one. So what that it didn't specify on the website that I could use my own packaging and still send it Express.

I refrained from suggesting that crossing out the words Flat Rate made my package unique and "mine" so they should let me send it out that way instead of wasting the package and my time.

Sadly, I've learned that when it involves the post office, it's their way or no way.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

No Retreat, No Surrender

On October 27, 1975, Bruce Springsteen hit the covers of both Time and Newsweek. Jon Landau proclaimed, "I have seen the future of rock 'n roll and its name is Bruce Springsteen."

The album (Yes, album) Born to Run had burst onto the scene. Springsteen was 26 years old.

I was 17 years old and a freshman in college. The first time I heard Thunder Road on the radio I was awestruck. These days, my superfan status is just as strong. My opinion of Bruce as the greatest rock and roll songwriter/performer/star hasn't changed.

Other things have, of course, changed.

Today I went to the mailbox and pulled out the September/October 2009 issue of AARP The Magazine. Yes, at 51, I've qualified for AARP membership for over a year. On the cover of this issue, brandishing his guitar, nobody else but the Boss. He'll be 60 next month and he's still filling arenas and rocking out concerts that last two or more hours.

In Thunder Road, there's a famous lyric that says, "So you're scared and you're thinking that maybe we ain't that young anymore. Show a little faith, there's magic in the night." Nine years later in No Surrender, Bruce sings, "Well now young faces grow sad and old and hearts of fire grow cold. We swore blood brothers against the wind. Now I'm ready to grow young again."

I don't think he ever grew old, and if there's anybody that doesn't seem to fear that he isn't that young anymore, it's Bruce.

From the time I became a fan, Bruce has inspired me with his songs and his life example. 34 years later he still does. Can't wait to see him and the E Street Band in concert again next month!

I don't feel like I've ever grown old either, which does not mean that I don't take full advantage of the AARP discount at hotels and Borders Books.

Hey, AARP scored Bruce for its magazine cover. That makes it totally cool in anybody's book.