Sunday, September 09, 2012

Mothmail: the fly-by-night mail courier service

About a month ago, our local post office closed down.  It was located right in the middle of the downtown area and was always busy, so I'm hard-pressed to understand why it closed, other than the usual suspect: financial issues at the USPS.  In its stead the Powers that Be have opened the regional mail distribution center to customers as the city's sole post office; it's much further away and not at all convenient, but that's government for you.

I've long maintained that the biggest problem with the USPS is its status as a government-sanctioned monopoly.  As long as no one's allowed to compete with the Postal Service, there's no impetus for improvement in fees or services.  Even so, innovations like email and Skype and so forth are making the USPS monopoly on first-class mail irrelevant.  And yet there's always going to be something lovely about receiving a letter in the mail -- something more than a bill or an advertisement, something that required some thought (or at least a generous amount of whimsy) to write.

So here's my random thought for the day... let's create an alternative international mail courier service called, say, Mothmail.  It's the method Captain Midnight and I already use whenever we visit Utah: since we're going there anyway, we tend to carry a few items along with us as a favor to friends.  Any packages we take with us on either leg of the journey we deliver right to the individual's front door.  Since there are few limitations on what could be sent this way (other than the obvious ones, like high perishability and space restrictions in the back of a courier's car), you could send anything from basic letters to packages to rather convoluted and gorgeous mail art.

I imagine this idea working a lot like a rideshare program, with volunteer couriers who are already driving to a particular destination offering to take Mothmail items along for the ride. I can even imagine Mothmail couriers making and selling their own limited-edition postage to help defray driving costs.  Hey, why not?

Luna moth photo courtesy Dorothy Birch/Wikimedia Commons
Yes, Mothmail would be slow and dependent upon arbitrary travel decisions by third parties.  But since any letter being sent through the mail these days does NOT, by definition, contain a high-priority message (if the message were that time-sensitive, you'd be using email, fax or a phone call), why not take the time to write a thoughtful, meaningful, beautiful missive and send it to a friend via Mothmail as the opportunity presents itself?  Besides, really, wouldn't you want to receive a letter or two in this fashion?  I know I would.

Oh yeah, and bonus points to the couriers who come up with some inventive cancellation method.  Any Joe Postoffice can use a time-stamp.  Let's see you create something with style.  Impress us (pun fully intended)!


MarieC said...

Love it! It reminds me of the way people would send letters in the days before an organized postal service. They'd write a letter, and then wait for someone to pass through who happened to be going where the letter needed to go.

(And I suspect, judging from how long it is taking Eldon's letters to arrive from Brazil, that they still employ this method there today.)

Soozcat said...

Heh. Marie, it would not surprise me much to discover that some world governments move mail via Mothmail. It would explain why postcards take only days to get to Japan, and weeks (if not months) to get to China.

Ruthie Redden said...

OOOh i love the idea & the name of you Moth Mail, what lovelier suprise than to be eagerly awaiting a treasure that has been sent this way. Such a shame that more folks dont take the time to sent "proper" letters and such any more, for they are the best.