Have you noticed that the big, dark blue mail box in your neighborhood is missing? The reason is e-mail. Today everybody communicates the written word through text or carrier pigeon or, more probably, e-mail. Look at the situation this way: when was the last time you got a letter, a real letter, from a friend or relative? Letters are so 1950s. An even greater reason for the drop in mail box traffic is that we now pay so many bills online. As a result, in the past five years, the number of letters and postcards has dropped by more than 3 billion, a little more than 3 percent. Thus postal workers, when not going postal on us with AK-47s, check the number of letters and post cards in a neighborhood post box every two weeks to see if it’s still worth the time and fuel to keep the box there. Some among us can remember when small mail boxes were attached to utility poles. I can’t, but I can remember when the large boxes were colored a camouflaged olive green and resembled an Army armadillo. The blue color was introduced in the early 1970s. Incidentally, if this makes you feel old, a blue mail box is now in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in Washington. Our Postal Service will finally go modern when the Smithsonian installs a glass case holding a “Next Window” sign. This raises the obvious question of what does our government do with perhaps a million used mail boxes? In an orgy of irony, they could be turned into really big laptops. No, what our government will do is line them up in rows that stretch to the horizon, probably in Hope, Ark., alongside those 45,000 deteriorating FEMA house trailers reeking of formaldehyde and stuffed with asbestos. What else are we not seeing around town? Pay phones. Since everyone seems to have a cell phone these days, the number of pay phones nationwide has shrunk to one million in the last decade from 2.6 million. Many neighborhoods once had fire boxes – alarms whereby kids could pull a red handle and watch from afar as fire trucks roared by. About the only change in fire hydrants occurred in Houston years ago when the water commissioner, a Princeton alumnus, painted all the fire hydrants his school’s colors, orange and black. Whatever happened to stop buttons in the middle of the street? Have you noticed that your friendly neighborhood garage has been plowed under and replaced with a soulless 24-pump self-service convenience store? Those dozen employees are gone, and now there is just one guy named Omar. We don’t see doctors driving around our neighborhoods making house calls anymore. The milk man is gone. Whatever happened to the Fuller Brush man? As for the Postal Service, it is not only taking away our big, blue iron drop-off letter boxes, but it has just raised postage stamps a penny and put out a stamp featuring Frank Sinatra. Ashby is obsolete at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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