ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was the butter dish of my dreams.
When you’ve been self-isolated at home so long because of a pandemic, once banal household goods like that become the focus of obsessive contemplation.
After weeks of searching online for the perfect replacement for my slippery, sloppy, single-stick dish, I found it – black porcelain, tight-fitting bamboo lid with a notch for a butter knife.
Two sticks fit inside easily. It kept butter cool and spreadable without melting and without the water those fancy French crocks require.
I ordered it Aug. 17 on Amazon and was told it would arrive Aug. 21. But the postal odyssey that followed was enough to melt my patience.
According to the tracking information, the dish was shipped via UPS from Windsor Locks, Connecticut, to the Tijeras Post Office, arriving Aug. 20 for the last 10-mile leg of its journey to my East Mountains home.
And there it sat.
And then inexplicably the dish was shipped to Phoenix.
That triggered an alert to Amazon, which re-sent another butter dish. Which is to say that to Amazon the butter dish was a lost cause.
This is not the first time for such lost causes courtesy of the U.S. Post Office. In July, for example, my son’s prescription glasses were delayed by three weeks after the package arrived in Albuquerque then took a detour to Phoenix.
We blamed COVID-19 for the mail mix-up, although such delays didn’t begin occurring with regularity until mid-July.
We didn’t know then that about that same time newly appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy had just imposed his “transformative initiative,” which included requiring postal drivers to start their routes on schedule whether or not the processing plants had finished sorting and loading the mail.
Under DeJoy’s administration, the Post Office also eliminated overtime pay, removed more than 600 mail sorting machines and removed or locked up dozens of letter collection boxes – all during a pandemic.
DeJoy, a major Trump donor whose private dealings in logistics and delivery businesses have raised conflict of interest concerns, recently told Senate and House committees and others that he had imposed cost-saving measures that, oops, had the “unintended consequences” of slowing down mail delivery.
DeJoy has since promised to suspend further changes, but many believe the damage has been done and concerns remain on how that damage will impact an expected increase in mail-in voting in the upcoming presidential election because of COVID-19.
I asked readers to share their stories of mail mishaps. The response was overwhelming.
“I had ordered a book a little over a week ago, and almost the same thing happened,” Linda Morton wrote. “It arrived in Albuquerque. The next update was in Phoenix, then it came back.”
Ruby Ethridge said her package sat in an Albuquerque post office then went back and forth to Phoenix two to three time before being delivered.
Even mail that originates from Phoenix was not immune from delay. Jana Lee Aspin said a card she sent from Phoenix to her son in Seattle took more than a month to arrive. Barbara Madera said she and her sister mailed a certified letter July 14 from Phoenix to Nashville that was supposed to arrive July 18 but didn’t until Aug. 5.
“That was the beginning of the slow down,” Madera wrote. “And the purpose is to destroy the USPS by destroying confidence in it and force the public to pay much more for private companies to do the same work.”
Pauline Turtle-Bear Guillermo said she received three USPS alerts that a package was out for delivery one day – but no package was delivered. Tracking information showed that the package was sent back to an Albuquerque facility that night, scanned in Truth or Consequences then spent the night in Williamsburg.
“We got the package the next day,” Guillermo wrote. “But I ask, why this out of the way trip?”
Donese Mayfield ordered heart medication for her dog Aug. 3 from Uniondale, New York, that arrived in Albuquerque Aug. 8 but then bounced around for nine days and received 18 different scans before it arrived. “So lesson to be learned,” Mayfield wrote. “Don’t get your personal medicines through mail order. I’d have been absolutely hysterical – and possibly dead – if I had been waiting on my insulin all that time.”
So how bad is it? According to an internal USPS report presented during the House hearing, the on-time delivery rate for first-class mail fell by about 8% percent from mid-July to early August. Today, the USPS states that just under 95% of first-class mail is arriving on time or no more than a day late.
Let’s hope so.
So lesson to be learned: If you plan to mail your absentee ballot for the general election, do so sooner rather than later, because snow, rain, heat, gloom of night or COVID-19 may not be staying these USPS couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds, but politics still might.
As for the butter dish, the Amazon replacement – sent via UPS – arrived Aug. 22. The original butter dish arrived by mail Aug. 24.
They both live up to my dreams.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, email@example.com, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.