Editor’s note: Here is another article by our friend, Ruricolus.
Yesterday on April 20th I got my electric bill for this month — which was dated April 1st, and which I already paid online on April 9th. So I called them this morning just to make sure my payment was recorded. The nice lady explained that a bunch of their bills got lost in a post office in St. Louis for a couple weeks, so everyone’s been calling saying what the hell, and they’ve promised they won’t be charging any late fees for this month. At the end of the call, she said verbatim, “It’s not like it used to be, is it?”
No, it certainly is not. Postal service, at least around here, used to be solid as a rock. Why was a bill from a co-op 20 miles away going through a St. Louis post office 100 miles away in the first place? I looked at the envelope: postmarked as mailed from Winston Salem, NC. So at some point, someone at the local electric co-op, a local business which has provided good service and good jobs in the area for 80 years, decided to save some money by having their invoices printed half a continent away. Why not, everyone was doing it. So now they’re dependent on diverse postal workers in St. Louis, and they don’t even know those people have screwed up until they start getting confused and pissed off phone calls from their neighbors.
The little things are breaking down because they’ve been made fragile in the quest for efficiency and reduced costs, and because bad choices have dragged down the competent workforce that made them work. We can no longer assume that an envelope mailed will get to its destination in a reasonable time. That there will be toilet paper on the shelves when we go shopping. That a bridge we’re driving across won’t collapse. That a vote we cast will be counted.
We have to be prepared, not just physically in terms of food and ammo, but psychologically, so that we’re not surprised and discouraged when the systems around us break. That’s just how it’s going to be now. We may maintain things in our local communities, but even there the fragility brought on by outside dependencies will show up in the cracks. We have to be mentally prepared for things to break, not just so it doesn’t get us down, but so that we can take advantage of it.