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Postlessness

About a week and a half ago, the UK postal service went on strike for better pensions, among other things. It was the first of two 48 hour strikes. In theory, this meant the strikes were over as of Wednesday, although there's now due to be another one next Tuesday and several unofficial strikes in between.

Businesses are the first places to receive mail. Many of them have had their post delivered in the past few days. Residential properties, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the delivery heap. Our building has had no mail delivered in a week and a half, and is not expecting any to be likely forthcoming until later next week.

Mail isn't (usually) a matter of life and death, and I respect the rights of the unions to go on strike. This isn't about that. I'm not even waiting on any urgent tickets/passports/licenses/paperwork/bills that I know of, the things which would make me impatient for my mail to come.

Most of the meaningful things I receive in the post are journals and magazines, at least one a week between the food magazines and the academic journals and their supplementary newsletters. They don't arrive on any specific day of the week, the way a weekly magazine might. They come as solicited surprises, points of physical contact with a wider world of thought, colleagiality, and criticism. They are supplement to my general day-to-day lack of interaction with present colleagues. (I teach online. The other members of my department are in another country.) They come with reproductions of old prints or glossy farm photography; they come with informative booklets on new books from a particular publisher, or an unexpected free spatula.

Sometimes the post brings - best of all - letters or postcards, small notes which show a friend or family member was thinking of me, including me in their travels or a lazy afternoon. Keeping in touch via email usually results in more copious and up-to-date news, but it doesn't have the immediacy of a friend's handwriting, or the physicality of an object I can prop up for display or tuck away for safekeeping.

Of course there are bills and statements and unsolicited advertisements and other less notable instances of post. But there is almost always something waiting for me in the mailbox.

Except that for the past week and a half there isn't. C. went away for work for the week, leaving me the mailbox key to no avail. No letters, no statements, no journals.

It doesn't gnaw at me the way I thought it might, impatient for that contact with swathes of the world I don't otherwise regularly reach. I've been comparing it to the '97 UPS strike, when, for several weeks, I learned just how dependant on just-on-time delivery modern commecial operations are. Flowers and fruit were only the most obvious examples. Banks ran out of application forms when their usual method of receiving them from their centralized printing services stopped working.

I have noticed almost no mention of the postal strike my UK LJ f'list, which makes me suspect that many of you are content, for now, in your waiting too.

Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
taldragon
Oct. 12th, 2007 09:32 pm (UTC)
i actually didnt realise there was a strike til it was over. i've had a couple of bills through but nothing interesting.

however, i rarely get mail of any sort so i wasnt bothered ;)
targaff
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)
We already arrange for our post to be delivered to various work addresses anyway since the posties are for the most part fucking useless and don't know where our flat is despite it having been here for a good 3 years. When you're not getting your post in the first place a strike becomes much less of an issue.

Still, I'm pretty annoyed at the working time issue that seems to lie at the crux of the strike. Your managers have turned a blind eye to your not working your contracted 37 hours and 20 minutes for years now, eh? And now they're saying that actually your contract does state you're supposed to work that and not fuck off home when you finish your deliveries on your less-than-taxing postal route? FOR SHAME, how could they be so cruel?

I know there are other issues going on, but that one particularly really gets my goat.
owlfish
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:52 pm (UTC)
It shows how little I've been following the news lately that I didn't know that part of it. Interesting.

(And not being able to get post at home is infuriating - what if you wanted to run a business from home?)
sioneva
Oct. 13th, 2007 11:17 am (UTC)
I have a friend who's self-employed and therefore has all of her cheques posted to her home addres. She says she's waiting on about £900 worth of payments, so for her the strike is a VERY big deal!

ajodasso
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:02 pm (UTC)
I had to shell out forty quid on Wednesday to make sure a fellowship application was going to reach the States by 15 October (via International DataPost). So, yes, the strike has been sort of hard on my already beleaguered checking account :-P
owlfish
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
That's painful. I hope you have nothing else you need to get abroad that's time sensitive for at least the next week!
pola_bear
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
I have been waiting for the pin for my new account. This is a real problem as my local branch is in fact quite far away and I also have far more things expected in the post than I would ever normally have - course text books, the sim card for the new phone contract which, if and when it doesn't get here will leave me contactless, but for the gloriousness of internet and skype. It's driving me mad, to be honest. Never have I before had so many things I have been waiting for and it has to be when I do that the strike happens. I respect their right to strike and if I knew more of the situation could well support them, but for selfish reasons it's maddening.
owlfish
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:48 pm (UTC)
Ouch. Beginning of university - yes, there's a whole lot you're likely still arranging. Depending on when you're expecting to next get mail, it could even be faster to re-request the pin and collect it from your branch-of choice. (But given there's now a chance of mail, it's a hard call.)
gillo
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:21 pm (UTC)
We had post delivered yesterday and today - a magazine, a bank statement and a bill. And some stuff for one of my daughters.

I think it makes a difference if you're provincial. Not too many businesses in Kenilworth to use up al the postie-time.
owlfish
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:49 pm (UTC)
I was wondering if being in a more rural place would help or not. Presumably you have a backlog awaiting you somewhere, whenever it gets sorted.
austengirl
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
grrr
I'm hacked off because I need to send my receipts for visa, passport, etc to the house insurance in order to get our claim taken care of. I think UPS or FedEx will be my next port of call, because I can't really afford to wait much longer to send them. It's screwing us up a lot at work as well.

I haven't got around to ranting about it on LJ yet, but I'm sure I will soon.
owlfish
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
Re: grrr
That's irritating. The claim is the last piece of resolution you need to work through, right?
itsjustaname
Oct. 12th, 2007 10:50 pm (UTC)
I was very annoyed by it as I found out about it shortly after ordering some stuff from HMV.com to take to Canada with me, which of course didn't arrive in time because of the strike.

Plus for the early part of the week I was without my copy of the Economist to read on my commute.
retsuko
Oct. 12th, 2007 11:28 pm (UTC)
Huh. I am imagining something like this happening in the U.S. and the chaos that would ensue. I, too, enjoy the good stuff you mention (notes, journals, and the like), but don't really care for the rest of the junk I find in the box. (Most of it is unsolicited catalogues and charities.)
agincourtgirl
Oct. 13th, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
Currently my fiancee is waiting for his passport in the mail, SO he can come here and we can get married; I feel as if it's two bureaucracies slowing us down now, instead of one. At this rate, I'll be in London by next year...
fjm
Oct. 13th, 2007 06:31 am (UTC)
They aren't on strike for better pensions. They are on strike to keep the pension conditions for which they have already paid, but for which there is a shortfall in the funds because the Royal Mail took money out of the pension fund a few years back, a la Robert Maxwell.
haggisthesecond
Oct. 13th, 2007 07:50 am (UTC)
I think it's actually that some areas have been getting post and others haven't due to wildcat strike action in some postal districts. My office is in someone's home and we got deliveries Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (my boss in the same postal district also got mail to her house those days). The postboxes are being emptied too. On the Isle of Dogs though we haven't had a delivery since before the strikes started and the post boxes are rammed full of mail.
stormwindz
Oct. 13th, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
Annoyed?
Isn't the word. This strike is causing so much hassle at work I feel like lobbying someone, anyone, to just give in and let them keep their higher pension age. Just do it like they did with Agenda for Change in the NHS - the lower age and pension apply to people joining after a certain date, not staff in post. And hope the money doesn't run out before then.

It has had a huge affect on my hospital (and presumably other hospitals too) because so many appointments and results are usually sent out by post. If you have to phone someone, and you miss them, and you call back. And you can't leave proper messages due to confidentiality. And you end up having long meaningless conversations with patients about irrelevant things just because they are so happy to speak with someone. And they forget to come because they get no confirmation, or they say 'yes' because people are loathe to say 'non' on the phone and then you have cranky clinical staff because their patients aren't turning up... This is the reason we do a partial bookings system by post. Quick and it sieves out people who weren't going to show up, before wasting time on them. Every time we run a class that's whoomph another twenty people to somehow find the time to phone... we run a lot of classes... Then people phone back and all the lines are busy because we're using them all to phone out and the piles pile up...

Oh I could go on. And the official word from Royal Mail is as good as useless. I believe their current statement mentions strikes between "12th and 15th, different across the country" which really tells you nothing. Prioritizing their "big business" customers makes me want to puke. If I was a patient waiting for results/an op/treatment I would be screaming my head off to the local media at the delay. Not to mention our patients who have no phones and are needing urgent treatment. Using a private parcel delivery company isn't really feasible from our budget :o(

If it goes on until November we're going to have to make some more drastic changes, what I don't know but I'm sure it won't be fun.
owlfish
Oct. 14th, 2007 09:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Annoyed?
And doing all that leaves you less time for doing what you really need to be doing at work too.

November?! (I really haven't been reading the news enough lately.) I could really use my mail by then. Two weeks I can feel complacent about. A month is much, much harder.
hairyears
Oct. 14th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
No, it's screwed up the invitations for an event on Tuesday. But that's part of my life I don't blog about.
mutabbal
Oct. 17th, 2007 07:50 am (UTC)
I don't really get mail in Lebanon, aside from the odd document sent via DHL (or the intra-university flyers left in my office mailbox). And I _miss_ it - I miss the ritual of getting the mail, the anticipation of wondering: will there be something good? (even if just a catalogue) and the joy of getting a magazine, a letter, a journal - something worth reading. I even miss the junk mail. Living in a country with no true home mail delivery has definite disadvantages :|!
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )