Jacob D. Cooper
Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to England, to India or to Australia by guided missiles.
Postmaster Arthur Summerfield, 1959

"When the pall of familiarity lifts, as it occasionally does, and I see the Theorem of Pythagoras afresh, I am flabbergasted." What Trudeau felt of the Pythagorean Theorem, I feel about the USPS.

The USPS hand delivers letters. Is that incredible, or is that incredible? They hand you the horizon for a stamp.

Before the Civil War, you had to go to the local post office to pick up your mail. (Open seven days a week! But that's another story.) In 1863, Postmaster Montgomery Blair petitioned congress to "promote the public convenience" by providing free home delivery. (That's where your address comes from!) The cost? Some argued that the postal service should be more concerned with civic duty than profit, while Blair argued - correctly, it turns out - that the resultant increase in postal usage would actually yield a profit.

For over 200 years, the USPS has been America's warhorse in our battle stay united. It is the triumph of community over the solitude of miles. (Eat your heart out, Ken Burns.)

Project USPS

I was cleaning out my car in 2006, and found 3 pennies minted in the 1940's. I thought they were neat, and decided to mail them to my dad. (Obviously, I'm a big fan of mailing stuff. And gentle frivolity.) My folks live at 820 Greenleaf Ave, but I was feeling goofy, so I addressed it to 282 + 62 Greenleaf Ave. Lo and behold...

Neither rain, nor snow, nor encryption? That delivery opened the door to Project USPS. For the past few years, I've made an annual attempt to get some playfully addressed letters through the mail.

No markings, no nothing. Does Rain Man work at the 11222 post office?

The 60022 post office - my home town! - is the undefeated champion at speedy delivery. (The giant's been felled! In 2011, Seattle's 98103 bested the 3-year favorite.)

The fleet-footed message to 98103. (And sudokus rarely make it through.)

When an address can't be read by a computer, the letter goes to a person, who either deciphers the address or puts on the dreaded yellow sticker.

Returned, unopened. Some people are no fun.

My brother wonders if there's a "Return to Sender: Santa is your parents" stamp.

I'm just proud of this map.

What a beautiful aquarium. What a view!

There are three reasons I didn't think this would get a response. (The third is that she's dead.) And yet...

She told me that, of all the feats of humanity, love is "the beautiest". But 5 days from Italian postmark to Seattle delivery - economy class! - has gotta be a close second.