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Horrors of Snail Mail
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The Postal Service is going to be pretty much shut down for an almost unprecedented three days in a row. There was a time -- when I was reading and writing for and to paper zines instead reading blogs and ezines and communicating electronically -- that that would've seemed a disaster. Kind of like having my heart stop beating for three days. Not that the mail was without its faults.

Oh yes, I can never forget the horrors of snail mail.

While browsing the web the other day I was surprised by an advertisement:

Save time and money with a postage meter.

Considering the extent to which email and other sorts of electronic transfers have superseded snail mail, a postage meter seemed a peculiar thing to advertise on the web. Like advertising a reed pen in a typewriter shop, or advertising a typewriter in a computer store.

During that ancient epoch when I mailed out a fanzine (typed and reproduced by ditto machine) I never owned my own postage meter. Calculation of mailing costs was far too risky a stunt to try at home.

The basics were easy enough. For one stamp I could mail six pages of standard weight duplicator paper held together with two staples. (Since my finances were such that I tended spend a lot of time searching under the sofa cushions for the extra quarter I needed to buy a six-pack, my zines were limited to six pages) After that, though, it got complicated. If you think taking the number of staples into account was cutting things too fine, think again.

Even the humidity could affect mailing costs. I learned the hard way to avoid sending my zine out on rainy days. One morning I trudged through the steady drizzle to the post office with a bag full of pre-stamped zines. The clerk plopped a zine on the scale and chided me for not having enough postage. When I protested that a single stamp had been sufficient for six sheets before, the clerk explained that might be true on a sunny day, thanks to the rain the paper was probably heavier than usual, having absorbed moisture from the air.

I resolved to check for inclement weather before mailing and certainly never mailed my zines the same day I printed them, soggy off the press.

Then there was the time I took a well stuffed envelope in to be mailed. The clerk weighed it, stuck on the appropriate stamp, weighed it again and added a second stamp. It seems that the addition of a stamp had pushed the letter into the next weight category. (Apparently nuclear physicists could use post office scales to weigh atomic particles.)

This strikes me as wrong. Surely you shouldn't have to pay to mail the stamp? If you take the stamp's weight into account then you're not paying so many cents per ounce but so many cents per ounce, minus the weight of the stamp. Now that you don't have to lick most stamps the Post Office will be increasing their lead content.

Considering the condition of some of the zines I received, I wonder if the rates should've been based not on pages sent but on the number of pages that actually arrived. I sometimes got a few scraps of torn paper in a plastic bag. I guess I was lucky I wasn't charged for postage due for the weight of the bag. Or for the weight of the postage due stamp.

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