Amid talk of raising costs of stamps, postal patron gets licks in |

Amid talk of raising costs of stamps, postal patron gets licks in

Mike Drummond, Columnist
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The postage increase is a serious topic of conversation here at Clear Creek Ranch. The post person on our rural route represents 50 percent of my contact with the outside world. He doesn’t like to talk about the rate increase or when it will take place. I suspect management is keeping him in the dark.

I am guessing “about 10 percent,” which works out to 37 cents, where 34 cents would have bought me an ounce of (first) class before. But nobody at the local post office is sure. And that second ounce, the one that’s 23 cents now, and postcards? Don’t ask.

In a previous column I promised not to reminisce, but I can remember when the Giants weren’t in San Francisco and a dollar would post more than 30 envelopes – more envelopes than we use in several months here at Clear Creek Ranch.

We can ship less than three per dollar now. A rather sad commentary on the value of a dollar, or our monetary system, or inflation, or the U.S. Postal Service, or the number of friends we have … take your pick.

I guess I don’t begrudge the post office its fees. Not for real mail anyway – like letters from friends or column readers, or all those little (tiny, really) magazine article paychecks I get from time to time. But the post office ought to consider charging less for bad news, and maybe pay the receiver a few cents for every piece of junk mail delivered.

The post office can afford it. It is always coming out with new stamps and lots of people collect them. A serious stamp collector doesn’t just buy one stamp, they buy whole sheets – that’s up to $37 per stamp, depending on how many the postmaster decides to put on sheet. It doesn’t cost anywhere near $37 to print a sheet of stamps.

That’s $37 worth of postage that will never make its way through the canceling machines or cause a single gruntled postal worker a moment’s concern. (I personally want to keep our postal workers gruntled, and disarmed, if I can. There is always a problem when the “dis” migrates from one of those participles to the other.)

Aside from the postage aspect of the stamp, I look at it as a form of envelope decoration. The stamp I select makes a personal statement about me. I’m currently working my way through my last sheet of James Thurbers – a good stamp for a writer of my type to use, although I have to tack on quite a few penny bird stamps to make it legal. Thurber’s profile, kind of homely at any time, does not improve when surrounded by American kestrels.

Shouldn’t the postmaster do something about return envelopes with the little windows in them? The ones where you must insert the stub the right way so the return address appears in the hole. Upside down won’t work. Or backwards. Or upside down and backwards.

That’s three ways to get it wrong and only one way to get it right. The odds against success are even worse when you count the times you slip the check between the stub and the window. It’s enough to give a lesser man an inferiority complex.

When I’m done here I think I’ll contact the Self-Esteem Task Force about this. (The county where Clear Creek Ranch is situated has actually paid for such a “public service.”)

Maybe I’ll save a stamp. What is their e-mail address?

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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