On this trip I walked to the box and saw a U.S. Postal Service vehicle idling directly in front of it. It wasn’t the usual squat kind—this one had a flat bed behind the driver’s compartment.
I said good morning to the man sitting behind the wheel, he nodded back, and I dropped my envelope into the box. I departed to continue my walk.
But two minutes later, I thought: Oh, no. Was that guy the Postal Grim Reaper?
That’s how I’ve come to think of the workers whose job it has been, in recent years, to yank mailboxes from where they’re bolted down and drive them away, never to be seen again. This is unrelated to last year’s controversy about mailbox removals in the runup to the presidential election. Mailboxes have been disappearing for decades, and the reason is simple: Americans are mailing far fewer letters. The Postal Service has responded by auditing how many envelopes are collected from the boxes. When the average daily number drops below 25, a street-corner box becomes a candidate for extinction. This saves on fuel and labor costs.