The first (and only) postal stamp for the provinces of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. from Commons.Wikimedia.Org

Last time I sent something to the grandbabies it took 8 business days. Usually it takes two days to get “overnight delivery” to their home from Canada now. It takes nearly a week for a priority package to arrive here from a US company; I have no idea how long it takes to get something non-priority. Probably a month.

I have usually thought this is due to increasing border security, but I now suspect it is due to cost-savings on the part of all the shipping companies. The shipping companies say it is delayed in customs, whether going into the USA from Canada or the reverse.

Think about this: in the first decade of the twentieth century a mother in Virginia would bring a dish towel-wrapped dutch oven to the post office in the rail depot to send her daughters and it would be delivered via the evening delivery (because there were two deliveries per day) in New York city, still slightly warm. Sure, the mum knew when to get it there to catch the express, but mail was picked up and delivered via every train, taking advantage of the infrastructure and integrating it with daily life.

Amtrak probably doesn’t deliver the mail any more, even in the communities it travels through hourly.

Once upon a time people sent post cards often. One might send a half-dozen a day every day of a trip. A post card was sure to be read by the many people involved in mail sorting and shipping at various levels; by the end of your travels a half-dozen people in every town you had relations and friends in knew you were on holidays, where you had been, and were a bit envious of your addressee for knowing such a glamorous and exciting person as yourself. It might even end up in the local newspaper. The point of the post card was to advertise, rather like modern blags, I suppose.

But these missives, and the travellers as well I suppose, were whisked along an integrated transportation system that involved trains and stages, trolleys, ships, and trucks. It was efficient because all these elements of the transit system were expensive, so they were strictly scheduled and well-maintained and the governments of the day ensured the post was carried on almost everything, because timely delivery was the backbone of the economy.

It still is. The post is so important, and so impossible to rely on either government or private industry, that the two largest retail companies on the planet are building their own.

But the lesson of just how bad the post has been allowed to become involved me driving across the border to purchase the gift and try to mail it to the grandbaby, and the postal service told me it was impossible to get overnight delivery from within the country. Two days for the fastest priority, full stop.

It’s not the border.