It’s just not like the good old days

Northwestern B.C. mail and packages seemed to move faster, and more cheaply, in the good old days.

Mail moved more quickly in the good old days

Mail moved more quickly in the good old days

Winnipeg’s T. Eaton Co. supplied our family’s needs from clothing to bedding to a CCM bicycle for my 14th birthday.

Mom would comb the pages of Eaton’s catalogue listing her wants on their printed order form. If we mailed her C.O.D. order before we started school at 9:00 on Monday morning, by Friday or Saturday her parcel would be waiting at our village post office across the street from the CNR station.

All mail was trundled from train to post office by the postmaster pushing a two-wheeled cart, the bag of registered mail over his shoulder.

Granted we had to do our part, visiting the post office to be handed our mail from its cubby on the wall.

Living in a farming community, we didn’t except delivery to our door.

In fact, when my grandfather homesteaded in 1907, he walked 30 miles now and then to pick up his mail in the nearest city.

Canada’s postal service functioned six days a week in the 1940s and 1950s as did the CNR.

Except for registered mail, no record was kept of mail movement.

Today registered mail is assigned a number enabling us to track its progress like kids watching Santa Claus’ approach across the sky on the internet every Christmas Eve.

But does it arrive quicker than parcels from Eatons in my childhood? Not likely despite the use of planes and trucks.

In Terrace, we can mail a letter in the main post office between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. five days a week, except for statutory holidays and heaven knows more statutory holidays seem to be added every year.

Saturdays? Dream on, little dreamer, dream on.

If I’m not in a hurry for the recipient to receive my letter or parcel, or if it’s a Saturday, I can post my mail in Shoppers Drug Mart.

I may think I’m ‘doing business’, but that piece of mail won’t arrive at the  main post office one block away for three days, surely the slowest advance beyond a parade of Second World War veterans on walkers battling end stage COPD.

For those three days my letter will languish in Shoppers’ post office gathering strength for the arduous trip.

Only after sorting in the main post office will it finally begin chugging along to Vancouver, uphill every mile, seemingly.

One courier client was dumbstruck when told delivery to Stewart would take six days despite a distance of only 300 km over a perfect all-weather highway.

Adding financial insult to delay, you may get charged extra.

For example, on a Saturday before Christmas I mailed a first class letter containing two sheets of paper to the U.S.

Cost? $2.50. Four weeks later I mailed an identical letter to the U.S. from the main post office and paid only $1.25 postage. Is that fair when it’s a government service?

Similarly, if I post a letter in the community mailbox a few doors from my house on Dobbie Street, despite a notice reading “Mail deposited here before 8 a.m. will be picked up daily Monday to Friday except for statutory holidays”, that letter won’t be sorted at the main post office until Monday.

If Monday is a holiday, add one more day delay.

Twice over the years I have mailed a cheque from this community mailbox in what I judged was plenty of time to meet a 15th Vancouver deadline.

The first cheque I mailed on the 7th, the second on the 9th. Both arrived late jeopardizing my medical coverage. Eaton’s would have gone bankrupt with such lackadaisical service.

Claudette Sandecki tracks Canada Post from her home in Thornhill, B.C.

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