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Have Electronics Really Helped?. . . Oh, For The Days When Pony Express Was Simpler, And Faster

July 9, 2020 Frontpage No Comments


PHOENIX — Technology seems to have made life easier these days in some unexpected ways for bad folks. Organizing the “progressives’” riots, looting, and arson gets an assist when connecting through social media.
On the other hand, for conservatives, being able to go electronically past the hammerlocks of dominant left-wing media gives them access to facts otherwise choked off.

10 most influential personal computers – in pictures | Technology ...

But what about the more ordinary parts of life? These have their frustrations, but it’s an easier step to Heaven if you don’t always have to be grinding your teeth. What I’m about to write probably will set many heads nodding in recognition. Take heart that at least we’re not alone — as if that’s any comfort.
It used to be that when you mailed a certified letter, you had to wait for the return receipt back in your hands to show it’d been delivered. Then the Postal Service began not only to offer but also encourage following the tracking on your personal device.
You could see the certified letter move along step by step to its final destination, even if the information embarrassed the P.O. You dropped your letter off at the branch station at 4:23 p.m., but it didn’t get down to the main post office until 11:27 p.m.? Those USPS tractor trailers don’t zip straight from your neighborhood loading dock to the main station. And so on.
Usually the delivery proceeds transparently. On two occasions, though, the tracking information for my certified letters showed they were out for delivery to the addressee at the destination city but provided no further result. In each of these cases I finally filed an inquiry and received a Postal Service phone call to assure me that delivery was achieved but, for some reason, the carrier didn’t scan that in or whatever.
In fact, in one of these cases a postal supervisor in presumably very busy New York City in 2017 not only phoned but also told me exactly who had signed for the delivery. Which was all the more interesting to me because the recipient at the shifty publishing company in question had never admitted to me that my letter went into his very own hands.
Bad news this year, though. I mailed a certified letter on March 31 — for which I paid $4.10 — then I misplaced the cash receipt. The following week, after I realized I couldn’t find it, the postal-counter employee said he couldn’t help me without that tracking number. Lo and behold, in early June here the receipt was after all, between some other sheets of paper at home.
However, when I entered that number into the Postal Service online tracking in, as I say, early June, the response was that delivery had been attempted on April 3 but access wasn’t available, so another try would be made the next day. But no updated information since then. When I next checked, I received the ominous tracking message in red, “Status Not Available.” And there it remained, even as I write this on June 30.
Of course, I hadn’t just sat still. I filled out an online P.O. form and received email confirmation that my inquiry was received on Friday, June 5. “Your inquiry has been forwarded to the appropriate management team for research and response,” the confirmation said. “You can expect initial contact within one-business day.” But I received no such contact.
The next P.O. email was on June 11, asking for my “feedback about the service you received….We will use your insights to improve our processes.” Because I had received no service whatever, I let the Postal Service know that by return email.
Surely they’d be contrite and get in touch with me now. They did not. It’s like everything was disappearing into the dead-letter office.
Deciding I had to speak to an actual person, I finally phoned on June 22, later in the day, but of course found there was a long wait time. So I phoned early the following morning and received a recorded message there was a wait of more than an hour, but I could receive a callback.
My callback arrived after 75 minutes. After I repeated the issue, the postal woman said the letter was returned to me. I informed her that it had NOT been returned.
She obviously was reading from a script and had no more information than I myself could see at the Postal Service website, despite my hope for better-informed service from within the command center at the P.O. She said that it can take time for mail to be returned.
I offered my opinion that, no, it does not take more than two months to return a letter from Missouri to Arizona.
(I did not provide her a history lesson that when the Pony Express originated in 1860, a letter could be rushed from Missouri to California in about 10 days, not 10 weeks. I also did not ask her if the Postal Service had given her a Bible. What ho?
(Wikipedia says that Pony Express riders back in those less-secular days were presented with Bibles and required to sign an oath concluding that “I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God.”
(Another Wikipedia article says there was a question as to how faithfully the oath was observed by riders who largely were “considered dreadful, rough and unconventional.” Still, setting social expectations meant something. It’s not as if the mail was being handed over to riders with today’s Antifa.)
Anyway, the postal lady said that I could fill out yet another form online. Instead of my having found someone to take ownership of the problem, I just hung up with no confidence the P.O. had any idea, or curiosity, about how it lost my certified letter. Maybe COVID-19 is overloading their tasks, too?
Hardly had I put the phone down, while still looking at my computer monitor, than a new mystery arrived, an email welcome to a home-warranty service that I’d never heard of. Because I already have a home warranty, I phoned the new number to see what was up. The different lady who answered for this company told me I’d sent them a check.
I said I couldn’t have sent a check to a company I’d never heard of. Could she see an image of my check? She put me on hold to research the matter. After about four minutes of nothing, the line simply disconnected.
My next call produced the information that my current warranty company had merged with this other company, or joined in a partnership, or whatever. I’m still waiting for the promised documents of my new coverage. Unless my existing documents are supposed to be sufficient? And what if I need to have them delivered by the Pony Express, er, Postal Service?
After this, I received an email from my tax preparer’s office to remind me of a Thursday appointment, only 24 hours away. Problem is, my actual appointment was for Friday, which I had set aside time for, not Thursday. An email exchange produced the information that after I made my appointment back in March to come in on June 26, the office began closing on Fridays — although I wasn’t told.
It’s not that I need complicated tax preparation, but I prefer to leave the figuring in the expert’s hands. So I had to reschedule. Meanwhile, my sister over in California told me that her dentist’s office asked if she could come in on July 2 instead of when she was scheduled on July 3. She replied that her date was July 30, not the third.
Seems that she had asked to be put on a waiting list to come in earlier than July 30, and the dentist’s office granted her request — without telling her. Then, not being able to come in on either the second or third, she ended up with a time one day earlier than July 30, on the 29th. The marvels of twenty-first century technology that seem less efficient than early twentieth.

Not Worth It

Let’s close on this note about Arizona’s Public Safety Fee, the never-satisfied hand of government picking our Grand Canyon pockets — like, an abyss supposedly brimming with money — again. The fee was enacted, need it be noted, with Republican majorities at the state capitol under a GOP governor. I get this image of professional pols rubbing their hands in glee at having put one over again.
Back in 2018, as the website of the Truck Renting and Leasing Association tells it, the Arizona legislature approved some unspecified fee to fund public-safety officers, “as a way to free up gas-tax revenue for the state’s infrastructure.” Never enough tax money to feed the public ogre.
After this typical hand-off from legislators to unelected bureaucrats, the Arizona Department of Transportation decreed the safety fee would be $32, which was added on top of the auto-registration fee. It’s not as if it was, say, $500, but enough of an unpleasant surprise to voters.
In 2019 a GOP state senator, Michelle Ugenti-Rita, introduced a repeal bill, but legislators hated to see the new revenue go away. Negotiations finally spelled its death knell, but of course, like, not immediately. It’s to disappear at the end of 2021.
I asked conservative Arizona Republican political consultant Constantin Querard if he thought the fee was the kind of irritating imposition to get some people thrown out of office in this election year.
Querard replied that if the fee is departing, “shouldn’t that make people happy?” Anyway, he added, with all the other issues going on now, “I’m not sure a new fee would get anyone tossed. That stuff is more useful in a GOP primary in any case, and this COVID-19 environment has people focused elsewhere.”
Well, these days are full of surprises, many of them not encouraging. If only a Pony Express rider could have looked ahead 160 years to where we are now, he might have thought that delivering the mail into this kind of future wasn’t worth it. Which is sort of what happened to my certified letter from last March 31.

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