This weekend I visited the Maryland Board of Elections website and applied for a general election absentee ballot. I know, I know, my hard right friends will be sure I’m throwing my ballot into a swampy morass of leftist vote rigging. My leftist friends will be offended that I had to actually apply for the ballot instead of them being airdropped from one end of the state to the other. When both sides are pissed off, I generally feel like I’m getting something right.
Due to circumstances, I’ve voted absentee in presidential elections at least twice previously. Licking a stamp doesn’t give me the same warm fuzzy that I got from walking into the old-fashioned voting booths, throwing the lever, and closing the curtain behind me, but then again neither does the little scantron forms used with “modern” voting machines. Still, when possible, I like voting in person when it’s possible. It makes me feel like I’ve done something a little more important than sending in a rebate or paying the phone bill.
Look, you’re free to do whatever you want, but the idea of standing around for half an hour or more with several hundred of my closest neighbors, touching all the same things they touch, breathing in the recirculated air, and watching them argue for their “right not to wear a mask” has very little appeal. That’s especially when there’s a simple and effective alternative – although how effective it will be across each of the 49 other states remains to be seen. This feels like a good time to remind everyone that we don’t have national elections in this country – but rather a host of state elections by which we decide who represents us and forms that national government.
Frankly, influencing an election to determine who makes up that government by hacking into an electronic machine feels a lot more likely to than doing so via pen and ink ballots, so I’m a little perplexed at why it’s even a thing we’re supposed to worry about. Then again, everything has to fit someone’s narrative so I’m sure there will be plenty of coverage about how both options are awful and we’re all doomed.
1. The US Postal Service. I probably shouldn’t say this out loud while my taxes are in transit, but they should have arrived at their destination by now. Emphasis on the “should have.” In any case, I’ve just received a Christmas card. It was postmarked on the 20-somethingth of December and delivered to me here on the homestead just in time for Valentine’s Day. Maybe I should award points for it getting here at all based on some of my other recent experiences. Increasingly the expectation that products and services should work as advertised feels like something that’s just too much to hope for.
2. Baltimore. One of the perennial joys of living in the State of Maryland is the unending shitshow that is Baltimore City. In a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, we somehow are home to one of the world’s largest live action shooting ranges. Year after year the legislature pours ever increasing amounts of money into the city, because surely that will fix all the problems. Let’s not get hung up on the fact that when asked, the city government generally doesn’t seem able to tell anyone where the money they’ve already been given went or what improvements were made as a result. For my entire adult life, Baltimore has been governed by increasingly feckless “leaders” whose sole purpose in life seems to be finding new and more ridiculous ways to convince Annapolis to give them mountains of cash. The city government either needs to get its house in order or the state should step in and get the city into line. Allowing it to continue to swallow prodigious amounts of tax dollars without showing even the most marginal of improvements feels downright criminal.
3. Mind reading. It’s worth repeating from time to time that mind reading is not among my many varied talents. If you tell me you want something, I’m going to proceed from the assumption that you know what you want. I’m going to do my best to give it to you – not some version of what you requested, not something with the flavor of your request, but the honest to God thing you asked for to the best of my abilities and within the time allotted. If it turns out what you end up with isn’t what you want, I can promise you that the issue is almost always with the description of the requirements, not with my being way out off the edge of the map somewhere.
Hey, I know from experience that sometimes logistics can be hard. Getting an item from Point A to Point B in the right quantity at the right time can take a bit of work. When the chips are down and time is a factor, I’m glad I can count on the prowess of the United States Postal Service to let me down hard.
But seriously, an item I ordered landed in Philadelphia last Saturday. In the four days since it has been transferred to Hyattsville, onward to Baltimore, from Baltimore to Washington (where it rattled around the Regional Destination Facility for 6 hours getting scanned repeatedly), back to Baltimore, and reverse coursed back to Washington where it has been sitting since 7:34 this morning. But I suppose I should be confident in the big bold promise of “Delivery by 29 November.”
I mean it’s not like the USPS has been charged with delivering mail and packages for well over 200 years now. Getting a little padded envelope from Philadelphia thirty miles down the road to Elkton is clearly one of the more logistically complex efforts every devised and executed by the mind of man.
Thank the gods that the package in question absolutely does not contain medications that in any way are responsible for keeping me alive.
Sigh. Apparently, in mail, as in war, even the very simple things are so very hard to do.
I’ve seen a commercial on television for the US Postal Service over the last few days. I’m going to set aside the fact that there has been a postal service in this country since the revolution and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t at least bought a stamp or received a letter at some point in their lives and focus on what I really find odd about seeing the post office on TV.
The ad is clearly trying to drum up package handling business for the USPS; trying to remind their customers that they do more than “mail.” That’s well and good. The real issue of the thing is how they go about it. Whatever ad agency they paid millions to for this campaign didn’t focus on things like accuracy, on time delivery, or even cost. Instead they went an entirely different direction, literally having one of the people in the spot say the line “We’re going to be there anyway” while urging us to use them as our parcel deliverer of choice.
We’re going to be there anyway. It doesn’t exactly fill me with lofty visions or assurances of my package getting where it’s supposed to go. It feels like the barest step up from “Give us your stuff and hope for the best.” If they’re trying to swing my business away from UPS or FedEx, I’m afraid the post office is going to need to try something a little more confidence inspiring in their approach.
The truly disturbing part is that somewhere deep in the bowels of Post Office Headquarters, a committee of thoughtful and well compensated people thought that ad was right on point – the very best their money could buy. Maybe it was the least bad of several options, but still I think I’d have gone in a different direction. Then again, they got me to spend a whole 30 minutes thinking about the Post Office. Even if I’m not going to use them, that’s something.
1. Strike 3. With the USPS fighting for it’s life, one of the simple issues they could work on is get things from Point A to Point B when they say they will. The last three items I ordered online that were shipped through USPS all encountered inexplicable delays. Maybe I’m just finicky, but when I pay for second day arrival, I generally expect to get my items two days after I ordered them. It doesn’t feel like that’s an unreasonable expectation. I know it’s a trifle, but logging in to a website a day or two after the “guaranteed arrival date” and still wondering where the hell my package is is just infuriating and just one of the many reasons I don’t use USPS when I have an option. On time and to standard; that’s the way to build a happy customer based. What USPS is doing is pretty much just telling me that they’ve given up.
2. Mission: Impossible. When the assigned mission is to give a 3 minute presentation about what you’re working on, that’s what you should do. Actually, you should wrap it up in two minutes, thirty seconds to allow a moment for questions, but that’s not the point. What you shouldn’t do is ramble all over the damned world while everyone’s eyes glaze over in benign indifference. Remember, it’s called a “brief” for a reason.
3. Dropped calls. Cell phones drop calls. Since they’re magically connecting to far away towers without the benefit of wires, I’ve learned to accept that limitation. When using a land line to connect to another land line, there’s just no justification for dropping the call not once, not twice, not thrice, but four effing times in the span of 35 minutes. After attempt four failed to take hold for more than three minutes, I officially lost interest in whatever was being said. If it appeared to anyone that I had thrown my hands in the air like I just don’t care, well, there’s a good reason it looked like that.