Hey, wait a minute Mr Postman!
October 9 is World Post Day, and I want to take a little moment to show the love to one of human kind’s oldest means of communication.
Despite the popularity of written post being on the decline (New Zealand Post has recently moved to a three-day week service), the novice of sending and receiving handwritten mail has not worn off. I know I’m not the only one who gets a little buzz of excitement when you see your name and address written on the front of an envelope – admit it, that feeling outweighs the reaction to seeing a little message pop up on your cell phone.
In my home-away-from-home, the mail system has not taken such a beating. U.K. establishments like banks, schools, telephone and power companies still largely rely on mail as the main form of communication, and you can bet trying to move your life to this country requires a lot of hard-copy posting – nothing is official if it’s not sent by mail! The Royal Mail employs an impressive 143,000 across the country, and it handles 13 billion letters and 1 billion parcels per year. While this figure will be significantly lower than what was sent/received in the heyday of written post, can I still just say... wowza.
A post box looks at home on London’s Oxford Street
In celebration of World Post Day, I wanted to talk to one of the people who make it all possible. I was lucky enough to talk to Welsh postwoman Jane Marshall about what it’s like to be a postie.
Hearing at the very beginning of our chat that Jane has worked as a postie for going on 24 years, I knew immediately this was someone who loved their job. What made her get into this line of work? “I was very sporty in school. I liked being out and about. When I was 17 I got my first job as a Postal Cadette, and I loved it. I knew I didn’t want to work behind a desk in an office sitting down all day, so it was great. I started working for Royal Mail in 1992 and started early mornings.” Early mornings sounds hard to me, but Jane? She loved it.
When asked what the best part of the job is, Jane’s answer is two-fold. “The people. I love meeting new people and I always do on the job. And being out and about, getting fresh air every day.” This comes as no surprise – the things we love when we’re younger have a tendency to stay with us.
As I spoke to Jane, I started seeing what she does as something far more social than I had realised. She builds relationships, often friendships, with people she encounters through work. As well as her colleagues being “like a big family, I just love it,” her customers have become friends. The self-described party girl often gets invited out to parties and events that customers are holding. 5 years ago, Jane broke her leg and the tables turned; all her customers started bringing cards and post to her! When you think of many people who hold positions which frequently cross your path – the baker, the supermarket assistant, the bus driver – you get to know them to a certain extent, but not often would you know if they’d broken a limb, much less be inclined to call on them. Oh, and at the moment? Jane is dog-sitting for a customer; if that isn’t a true sign of trust and friendship, I don’t know what is!
While post is definitely on the decline, it is something a bit like vinyl records or hard-copies of books: technically no longer a necessity, but just too special to do away with. In an age of modern technology, we still play records because we get real enjoyment out of it. We still go to book stores and spend our money buying books because we like to. And we still send letters because it is the best way to show someone you care. So, Happy World Post Day everyone. Go write a letter to someone you love. And FYI all my people... there is a whole lotta post coming your way!
P.S. also check out this cool piece released by Royal Mail recently.