Eat your greens!
Opinion: I love mail, trains…all that jazz
Things that are old and new at the same time and why I love them
March 12, 2021
I think it has been thoroughly established that our generation likes mail. Every person my age that I talk to about receiving letters and packages always wholeheartedly agrees with me- it’s fun. It’s tangible and long-lasting compared to the pixels on our screens, texts that say “hey,” and nothing else.
Mail takes time. Mail takes actually giving a damn about catching up with someone. Writing a letter can even become an artistic endeavor, with stickers and glitter, and cutouts.
I have always loved mail. As a child, when I got mail, it was almost always the toy from the commercial I had convinced my parents to buy me after weeks of chores and begging. As a child, mail and packages were long-awaited treasures delivered by a system that, in my mind, was most comparable to Santa and his sleigh.
Now I love mail because it makes me feel connected to people, my friends across the country, in a more permanent way, more indicative of my emotions than those little texts that just say “hey.”
Of course, there is always the phone call, but that requires scheduling on both ends of the line, and sometimes that’s harder to manage than I might like to admit.
So yes, I love mail. But it’s even more than just the fun of sending and receiving it. I love mail because of how it makes me feel in relation to time. I open a letter, and suddenly a piece of my life, a part of my day, is more or less identical to someone’s day years and years ago. And that’s what I love about so many little things.
I love mail (and mail trucks) the same way I love trains, and boats, and so much more.
I love these things- USPS, the railroad, big old barges—these elements of infrastructure that the United States built up and then built around. Trains, mail trucks, post offices, letters, stamps, because they are as close as I think things come to timeless nowadays.
This is not to go without saying, of course, those big ships sailing in the sea are pumping out toxins that we need to eliminate from transportation, and mail requires paper, and gas, and planes, and even more toxins.
My love for these things comes from a younger version of myself, unaware of the environment and the atrocities that took place in order to get these systems to where they are today.
With that being said, they are elements of life from a time before the world looked the way it looks today. Trains are rumbling steel, technology; they are bustling and loud, not natural, not part of a land before time and man, but a part of a time before me. Before you.
They are old and universal.
A train got Harry to Hogwarts, a train carried soldiers off to war, and Hercule Poirot uncovered a murder on the Orient Express. Trains predate cars. Trains are a staple.
I hear them come rumbling, horns blaring, and suddenly I think maybe I can find kinship in those worlds, those times I will never be able to explore.
Things like mail, trains, and steamboats connect me to the past, even to fantasy and fiction. I like that.
Mailmen are old, ancient, magic, like Santa Clause. Trains are steel, ancient, powerful, magic, gentle metal giants pulled from the past. Boats fly across the sea, steadfast, no longer wooden, but still, vessels created long ago, bound to sail from coast to coast. All these things, these pieces of the past that have managed to maintain a place in my life, in your life, are things that I marvel at.