The Mailman Kissed My Mail
How the post office shot missiles full of mail to Florida! The insanely difficult zip code game (play along while you listen!) The history of sending people through the mail! Nixon’s mail vendetta! And more. Listen to the full episode and subscribe at garbagebrainuniversity.com to get each episode the second it drops. (We’re also on iTunes, Spotify and a handful of other services.)
The United States Postal Service handles 47% of the mail in the entire world, and operates 143,000 of its famous “blue box” mailboxes. There are around 42,000 zip codes, from 00501 (Holtsville, NY) to 99950 (Ketchikan, AK.) And zero percent of its budget comes from taxation - it’s supported solely by retail sales.
The smallest post office in America? That’s the Ochopee, FL branch (above) which measures seven by eight feet. It employees a single clerk and a single mail carrier, whose daily route is 132 miles long.
We talked extensively on this ‘cast episode about the weird ties between the famous USPS “Long Life Vehicle” mail trucks and the war industry. They were built well enough to drive a million miles each and were designed to last 24 years, but since no new LLVs have been manufactured since 1994, they’ve gone beyond their intended lifetime and are now catching fire here and there. (Don’t worry - the carrier from that picture above got out okay, but here’s an article about LLVs self-igniting.)
Mail carriers have difficult jobs with long hours and exorbitant physical labor, but they’re also burdened with the responsibility of not committing a federal crime by misdelivering the mail. In fact, the longest prison sentence ever handed down in Spain was to a mailman who failed to deliver 42,768 pieces of mail, and whose prosecutor requested a sentence of 384,912 years. He ended up serving 19 years, which was no doubt terrible, though less than the nine-years-per-letter sentence that was originally requested. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal, 1972.)
Hey, remember this band, The Postal Service? They were served with a cease & desist from the USPS in 2003, but ended up negotiating a deal where they were allowed to continue using the name. The deal included a gig at the USPS’s National Executive Conference, which may have been their only show where the audience was more boring than the pensive indie-pop The Postal Service was gleeking out on stage.
Mail is still delivered to the town of Supai, Arizona (the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation) by mule. That’s because Supai has no vehicles, is over eight miles from the nearest road, and cannot be reached except by mule, on foot, or via helicopter. It’s worth a click-through on Google Street View, unless you’re willing to ride a mule down into the Grand Canyon anytime soon.
As always, hosting for garbagebrainuniversity.com, both the newsletter and podcast, were provided by Substack Inc. Thanks to The Melvins for our theme song, “Electric Flower”, to the USPS for bringing us the mail, and, of course, to Ben Franklin for inventing it. Our first paid episode is coming soon, so slam this “50% off” button today and you’ll get it as soon as it drops!
Bye for now! - drew & natalie