Family likes raising red flag in snail mail world

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Imagine no more bills, credit card applications or junk circulars in the mailbox.

There wouldn't even be a real mailbox. It would disappear from the landscape like those quaint round barns.

That's the vision of Posten, Sweden's national postal service, which is encouraging an Internet mail delivery system that could make most physical mail seem like ancient history.

The high-tech service is cheap and lets recipients pick up their mail at any Internet-connected computer anywhere in the world.

Customers access their electronic mailboxes through Web browsers.

In this brave new world, there's no need to put up the red flag.

"Our vision is that the hall carpet or mailbox will never be cluttered with anything but the occasional love letter or invitation to a party," says Posten spokeswoman Margareta Chowra.

Personally, I' m not ready to get rid of snail mail and the mailboxes that line city streets and country lanes.

When I was a boy, I loved getting the mail. Becca and Bailey love getting the mail too.

When you're a kid, there's something intriguing and exciting about getting mail even for today's computer-literate children.

Of course, mail is more fun when you're a kid, primarily because you don't have to pay the bills.

It was always a treat to get the mail.

I still like getting magazines and letters in the mail, but I could do without the bills and all those credit card applications.

Becca and Bailey like the birthday invitations they receive. Our 6-year-old, Bailey, was thrilled the other day that there was a huge pile of mail in the mailbox. To her, it doesn't matter the nature of the mail. The fact that we got all that mail was good enough for her.

Growing up a baby boomer, I used to play post office in kindergarten. I had a mailman puzzle at home.

Back then, no one went postal.

Getting mail was part of daily life. It still is. Roadside mailboxes say something about our existence. They're still a portal to the outside world, a way to feel connected even in the most sparsely populated areas of our nation.

I like those signposts of life.

Electronic mail isn't the same. It hides inside a computer tucked safely in a home.

It seems more impersonal.

Real mailboxes come in different shapes and sizes. Some people make them look like tractors or whatever else meets their fancy. Some mailboxes are just metal openings in doors. For some time, my sister had a wooden box on her doorstep that doubled as a mailbox.

Mailbox culture doesn't matter to the folks in Sweden's mail service, who view electronic mail service with the same excitement as Americans did the Pony Express.

I know times change and electronic mail is here to stay.

But I can't imagine a world without snail mail. For one thing, what would kids do without junk mail for their play stores? I'm old-fashioned. I like being able to grab hold of my mail without having to depend on the click of a mouse.

I like the look of brightly colored stamps on the envelopes.

If we eliminate snail mail, mail carriers would have to find other work. There would be no need for us to go to the post office and take a number to stand in line and buy a book of stamps.

Becca and Bailey love to get letters and cards from their grandparents.

Becca even writes back occasionally, putting the letters in our mailbox and raising the red flag.

Some things are truly worth writing home about the old fashioned way.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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