The U.S. Postal Service’s unofficial creed doesn’t say anything about ice and freezing rain. And that’s just as well.
Some people who live in the south Eugene hills are perturbed because their mail delivery was spotty during the past three weeks of ice storms.
Gerry Moseley, the owner of a home-based real estate business, said he went five days last week without mail, or until Monday.
A postal carrier arrived with first-class letters and informed him that magazines, advertisements and packages would be delivered later.
His house on Taylor Street is up a “pretty steep” hill, but it’s passable, he said.
“I drive my car up and down,” Moseley said Wednesday. “My neighbors drive up and down, so you can drive up and down. You just have to have chains on.”
Real estate broker Gail Newton, who lives a couple of blocks west of Chambers Street on 24th Avenue, lodged a complaint with the U.S. Postal Service and penned a letter to the editor, asking whatever happened to the motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”?
The motto, adopted by carriers but not an official post office mission statement, is aspirational, it turns out.
“The Postal Service’s immediate priority after a storm or major weather event is the safety of its employees,” according to the Postal Service inspector general’s website.
Postal carriers de-ice their windshields and chain up their trucks, but it’s their call whether to drive up any particular hill or trod any particular walkway. “If a carrier deems it unsafe, then he or she doesn’t,” said Ernie Swanson, the Federal Way, Wash.-based spokesman for the Postal Service.
Many Eugene sidewalks and streets in recent days have been adorned with ice chunks, rutted mounds of hardened snow, and patches of slick ice.
“We take the mail back to the post office, and we try again the next day. If that doesn’t work, we try again the next day,” he said.
The carriers’ mail sacks multiply as delivery is delayed. “It does get to be a burden — no doubt about it — if they’ve got several days’ worth, but they do what they can,” Swanson said.
Intermittent delivery can be tough on elderly residents, especially those who order prescriptions through the mail or who wait for Social Security checks.
If residents can get to their local post office and ask, clerks will look through bins for critical pieces of mail, Swanson said, although the Postal Service doesn’t encourage this practice because it makes more work for carriers.
Moseley went to his post office and asked the clerk to look for a delivery he was expecting. “He looked for a half-hour or 45 minutes, and (then) said, ‘We aren’t going to be able to find it,’ ” Moseley said. “They were very nice to me, and everywhere I went, they did go looking for awhile.”
The post office — like garbage service and other delivery businesses — was challenged by the ice storms last month and this month. On a number of days, the ice was so thick and implacable, state and local authorities implored drivers to stay off the roads. Last weekend, the state Department of Transportation took the rare step of requiring chains on Interstate 5.
The complaints about spotty mail delivery may be generational.
“It’s pretty common knowledge that our mail volume has been declining significantly over the last few years,” Swanson said. “More people rely on the Internet to pay their bills and correspond and that sort of thing.”
The use of first-class mail dropped by more than one-quarter during the past decade, according to a Postal Service inspector general report, and the declines were steepest in the youngest households.
Moseley expects to get mail every day but Sunday. “If there’s no mail for a day, that’s just unusual,” he said.
Millennials — those born in the ’80s and ’90s — check their phone upwards of 150 times a day, but they’re less likely to send a letter, check their post office box daily or open letters promptly, according to U.S. Postal Service research.
Millennials, on the other hand, like the idea of delivery-by-drone by a two-thirds margin, compared with baby boomers, nearly half of whom are sour on the newfangled air mail, the research found.