I got a message the other day from the postmaster general. Maybe you got one, too. It didn’t mention anthrax, but that’s what it was about. Speaking on behalf of my deepest biochemical anxieties, it asked, “What should make me suspect a piece of mail?”
The problem was, the answers that the postmaster gave to that question described a large proportion of the mail I receive.
“It’s unexpected or from someone you don’t know … It’s lopsided or lumpy in appearance . . . It’s handwritten and has no return address or bears one that you can’t confirm is legitimate….” Most of the stuff that appears in my box emanates from no legitimate return address – it’s junk mail. A lot of the rest is from people I don’t know, because the post office can’t do its sorting right. (I get mail from people who have the same apartment number, except that the apartment is on another street, two or three miles away. How does the post office manage that?) And you’d be “lopsided or lumpy in appearance,” too, if the post office mangled you the way it mangles my mail.
Recognizing that danger, some of my correspondents put their mail in the suspect category by sealing their letters “with excessive amounts of tape.” But all of my mail, without exception, bears the final mark of Cain: “It has excessive postage.” Considering how bad our mail service is, any postage whatever must be regarded as excessive.