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The Mast-Head: Unnerving Mail Mysteries

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 19:10

First cellphone service, next the U.S. mail. It’s no wonder Americans’ trust in public institutions is not stronger.

David Seeler of the Bayberry landscape design company in Amagansett provided The Star with some clear evidence this week of the mysteries of the Postal Service.

Mr. Seeler wrote: “Many people are complaining about the mail, but the enclosed is rather funny. I mailed a check to Drew Bennett 7 May and he sent me a note that he received it 8/26. . . . A bit slow.”

And so it was; the envelope, mailed in Amagansett, was postmarked in Mid-Island on May 7. Mr. Bennett’s East Hampton Post Office box number and ZIP code were neatly written. Yet somewhere between Mid-Island (is that even a real place?) and Mr. Bennett’s hands, about three and a half months went by. If only envelopes could talk.

The Star has had its own mailing problems this summer, bulk bundles of papers supposed to go to Montauk end up at the East Hampton Post Office instead. The explanation provided by our printer’s mailroom staff is that something weird is up with the software provided by the U.S.P.S.

This Montauk problem has occurred more than once, and might be ascribed to ordinary technological gremlins, except that  in the context of a national crisis of confidence about the politicization of the mail service nothing can be ruled out.

If someone, say in the Kremlin, wanted to tamper with the mail-in ballots for the coming presidential election, the way to do it might be to misroute outgoing bundles. Forget about removing mailboxes and sorting machines; if millions of blank mail-in ballots were loaded on trucks and delivered to the wrong post offices, the mess might last long past the deadlines for their return.

Now, I am not saying that Mr. Seeler’s check for Mr. Bennett was part of a test run or anything, but The Star’s own experience with misdirected mail might have been. At any rate, it is an area of vulnerability, a critical software off-switch to a properly run election.


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