Stamps.com, the service that allows people to print stamps in-house, promises to its customers that they won’t have to go to the post office ever again. I cannot think of anything more depressing.
I see this as part of a generic trend in which we get rid of relics of the near past believing to improve our lives, only to realise too late that with the object, place, institution we have lost something immaterial that cannot be replaced, something whose importance we didn’t comprehend.
Like libraries, post offices have been threatened with irrelevance by technologies that seem capable to replace them completely, and just like libraries have been reducing the number of books to increase the number of community building activities offered, post offices have been trying to reinvent themselves, coming up with new services and goods for demanding digital customers.
The fact is that just like libraries are portals to different worlds (open a book to be teleported in time and space), post offices are more than just a building with red boxes.
Post offices are places where emotions are stored and delivered, like airports, stations, waiting rooms. The lack of action that characterises post offices (the letter we send or receive is perceived as action only at the point of writing and at the point of reading) is only apparent because the journey that a letter takes through the post office is packed with emotions and promises.
Because what is the act of sending a letter but the promise of a letter that will be received?
So dear stamp.com, go ahead and help people print their own stamps at home but please, don’t threaten me with a world without the post office.