More than stamps are forever

Posted 7/13/22

The spring-operated screen door slammed behind me on entering the post office in Springfield Center in upstate New York about 10 miles away from the baseball Mecca, Cooperstown.

On either side of …

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More than stamps are forever


The spring-operated screen door slammed behind me on entering the post office in Springfield Center in upstate New York about 10 miles away from the baseball Mecca, Cooperstown.

On either side of the counter, which was open, were rows of numbered boxes, maybe 100 in total, if that. Springfield Center is tiny and the post office apart from Dale’s garage, the liquor store Jeanette operates from her garage and the twin pump (they still pump your gas) station and convenience store up the road at the four corners is the place to meet people. That’s usually the case on Saturdays, but last week I missed the rush. It was close to noon and closing time.

The woman behind the counter looked up from her cell phone. She wore a dark blue shirt with a silver plastic label pin bearing the name Donna. I don’t remember ever seeing Donna and she didn’t know me.

She was embarrassed to be looking at her cell that she had on calculator mode, moving it out of sight. Beside it was a sheet of paper with rows of numbers.

“Never quite comfortable with the technology,” she said of the postal equipment.

She could tell I was confused although I agreed technology can be daunting. 

“The prices go up Monday,” she said.

That was news to me, but not the case for a good many people in Springfield Center. Apparently they had a stream of customers buying forever stamps to beat the two cent price hike for first class mail weighing an ounce or less. The stampede to horde forever stamps before prices went up again was over. She and I were the only ones there. Donna was tallying up the sales before closing.

“Two cents?” I hadn’t heard it now cost 60 cents to mail a letter.

“That’s just First Class weighing an ounce or less,” she answered. She then recited the change in rates on all classes. I had no idea there were so many. Donna reached for a three-ring binder containing plastic envelopes with sheets of stamps. 

As she flipped through it I caught glimpses of flowers, birds, presidents, animals, cartoon characters and, of course, stamps for holidays. Donna pointed to some of the whimsical stamps, saying she bought plenty of those to mail birthday cards to grandchildren.

“That’s a global stamp, for anywhere in the world,” she said pointing. That cost $1.30. “Imagine it, anywhere in the world,” she added with longing.

She stopped at a page of purple stamps. 

“Non machinable,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“They are hand cancelled,” she explained. I couldn’t imagine the post office sold many of those. Who would care whether an envelope was machine or hand cancelled? The stamps cost 99 cents.

“For invitations and special letters,” she said. “I’ve got lots of them...I make cards and I don’t want them damaged.”

I was interested to see her work, but as Donna explained she had been called in to cover for someone and this was the first time she had worked in the Springfield Center office. 

I had the impression she had worked for the post office for most of her working career. I was wrong.

“Four months?” I said with incredibly.

Donna said she lost her job as a CEO when the pandemic forced the company to close. She lamented the loss in wages, adding she needed to work and there was an opening at the Post Office.

I remained the only person in the post office and it was probably not the question to ask.

“So, what would you really like to be doing?”

If she thought the question intrusive, she didn’t display it.

“I made all my clothes and those for my kids.” In addition, she makes quilts and the cards, of course. “It’s crafting,” she said.

As a kid I had a stamp collection, but it never amounted to much. Yet after flipping through the binder of stamps, I could understand their appeal all the more enhanced by today’s technology where a fleeting image of a cell phone or website is all you get. These were tactical and permanent. They’re as close to “forever” as you could get.

I could understand Donna’s passion for crafting. Aren’t we all seeking to make something?

This Side Up, editorial


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