Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Postal Ponderings

Last week, I accidentally bought air-mail envelopes, and I've been surprisingly hard on myself about it.

I ducked into a "dollar store" because I'd had one of those lightning bolt moments - usually I write my shopping list on my forearm with a sharpie - but for some reason I remembered all on my own.

And I remember standing in front of the shelf, mulling between 25 business sized envelopes for $2.00 or 50 square envelopes for $1.50. I remember bristling over the fact that very little in the store seemed to actually cost one dollar. I remember grabbing the $1.50 box, not so much out of cheapness as out of principle, because these damned grifters had lured me in with the promise of 4 quarters and were now trying to strip me of 6, at least.

Oh, that really puts the lump in my mashed potato.

As fate would have it (is it still fate when the event largely inconsequential?), I did not notice the tacky red and blue border on the envelopes until my dollar-induced stupor wore off at home.

I don't know the rules about air-mail envelopes. If I drop one into the mailbox addressed to, say, myself, will the post office note the postal code and keep it on the ground, or are the blue and red stripes some sort of trump? Will they put that envelope on a plane out of some sort of professional obligation, let my letter wrack up a few frequent flier miles, and have it take the scenic route back to my front door? Or does the most direct route win? I mean, how much credit can we give our postal workers when they are, by definition, pretty unstable to begin with?

Just what is the point of the air-mail envelope? Ostensibly mail is routed according to the address affixed to it, and also by the postage paid. Common sense seems to indicate that if a piece of mail is to be delivered within the same city where it was posted, planes are pretty excessive, but if it is to be mailed overseas, then perhaps a truck is insufficient. But it is a FACT that this air-mail envelope does exist - does its existence prove that postal workers cannot be trusted? Or just that they have poor geography skills? And what if a postal worker is colour blind? My god, just think of all the pornography that might get lost in the shuffle!

So yes, I have been contemplating the fate of mail a lot recently, and while I may test out some of my theories in the future, I thought it prudent to get some regular envelopes in the meantime.

This time I went to the Dollarama, which is worth the extra walk when I need some piece of crap that I am unwilling to pay more than a dollar for. It makes me wonder what we ever did before these dollar-meccas sprang up everywhere. I mean, I don't know about your shopping habits, but there are a few things that I consider to be strictly dollar store purchases. Now that I know I can get it for dirt cheap, I am unwilling to pay more than a loonie. But it made me wonder - how much would a box of envelopes cost anywhere else?

I suppose it's possible that I could get them for 77 cents at Walmart, and equally possible to pay $4.99 at Shopper's Drug Mart.

Anyway, you'll be glad to know that this time I didn't cheap out. I even got the self-sealing kind. I stood in line to pay, and at the dollar store, I always like to have my money in hand. Ever since I can remember, taxes where I live were 15% - 15 cents for every dollar. So if I bought one box of envelopes, my purchase would total $1.15, and I don't have to wait for the cashier to tell me so, I could get rid of some nickels and dimes, have the money ready even before it was rung up, and keep the line moving quickly. And I'm particularly good at knowing my intervals of 15 because I used to work at a bar in a trailer park where Wednesday was "wing nite" , 15 cents each (with the purchase of a beverage).

But ever since the dumbest Canadians conspired against me and elected a crappy conservative to government, taxes are down to 14%.

That really puts a dent in my fender.

Because, you see, today when I bought my envelopes, I did not celebrate the penny in my pocket. As we all know, pennies are meaningless. Totally irrelevant. There is not a single Canadian who is walking around feeling richer because of this 1%. Even on larger purchases, the savings are not noticeable because even if you did save a chunk of change, chances are you didn't actually "save" it, chances are you spent it. That's the way it goes with money.

But while my penny is insignificant, and even the collection of pennies in the bottom of my purse, and the pennies that spill out into the car, and the pennies that fall out of pockets into the couch cushions...even all of those pennies combined are chump change, but when the government collects all the chump change in Canada, well, that's a lot of chumps.

And I'm sad to say that while I am not benefiting from this 1% "savings", I worry about those who will suffer. We all love to bitch about taxes, but at the end of the day, we do like our roads to be smooth and our hospitals to cure us. And if the worst should befall us, we as Canadians do have that expectation that the government will step in and save us. Single mothers still need housing subsidies, and hungry kids need breakfast programs, and disabled people need the means to support themselves, and the underemployed need resources, and deserving students need grants, and important research needs funding. And how will we pay for those things if not with our taxes? Because between you and me, I haven't exactly been saving my pennies to donate to charity. So the bottom line is, someone somewhere is going without.

I have seen firsthand what a difference our tax dollars can make, whether it's shelters for battered women in our own country, or dollars to end AIDS in Africa. The government expected this 1% decrease to cost them $5 billion dollars this year. Who will pay? The cities? The farmers? The next generation?

It's funny how the Dollarama has made me nostalgic for Chretien.
How a dime and 4 pennies seems tragic compared to a dime and a nickel.
How a box of envelopes can cost so little, and yet so much.

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