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“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
You probably know these words and believe them to be the official Postal Creed, the motto of the United States Post Office.
They are not that.
The USPS has no official motto, though this sentence, whose origins are attributed to Persian history, is inscribed in the post office in New York City.
Still, it often is cited by citizens and embraced as a standard for their expectations.
The USPS, to its everlasting credit, always has had an excellent record for delivery. There are stories of many heroic efforts by individuals to get the mail into the hands of the citizens. The service has many dedicated employees who have made it proud of its performance, and they should be.
But during last week’s snow-and-ice storm in Shelby County, some residents weren’t so proud of that service.
In some places across the county, mail was not delivered at least a day or two between Tuesday and Friday. In some there was no delivery at all.
A random sampling will tell you that there seemed to be no specific pattern to the missed deliveries. Some residents within Shelbyville’s city limits received four days’ of deliveries on Fridays.
David Walton, the USPS spokesperson for Kentuckiana, says that every county attempted to deliver its mail. Though many post offices were also without power (and still are), there were no off days for carriers. Only dangers from downed power lines, blocked and impassable roads and mailboxes that were not made accessible would impede delivery.
Donna Brown, the supervisor of delivery at the Shelbyville Post Office, cited roads that were not passable and residents who did not clear paths for access as an explanation for any missed deliveries.
We’re not questioning the commitment or the intent of the carriers, but we are questioning the results. The individual judgment used in executing these deliveries may have been too open to interpretation.
There were open streets and roads with cleared boxes that did not receive mail, and there was no sign a carrier even had passed by to check it out.
And given there were fewer homes to which delivery could even be considered because the road was blocked or a resident’s mail box had been torn down by snow plowing, you would think there would have been an increased opportunity to serve those with better access.
But that didn’t seem to happen.
Are the carriers given the right amount of latitude in their written standards? Could one get out his/her vehicle and go to a door if the situation warranted it? Should the public be informed about what to expect or when to expect delivery?
During storms such as the one that froze us solid last week, residents without electricity to power their TVs, computers and radios were looking any sort of comfort from the outside world.
Then, as a last resort, folks looked to their mailboxes as their most trusted form of communication, and, sadly, for some that box was cold and empty.