When I was a young man in our rural home there were only two households with landline phones. These doubled as phone shops and people would queue for hours to make brief calls over poor lines that buzzed like bees due to static.
If you think today’s mobile operators are ripping you off then you should have seen what those two charged. The actual figures are lost in a hectic decade of currency changes but it must have been in the region of a hen every two or so minutes.
Understandably for the majority of us the most popular means of communication was via the PTC’s postal service. It was not fast or overly efficient but it was cheap so everyone, including us kids, could afford it.
For a fraction of a dollar – the US dollar I mean – one could send entire pages of messages to their loved ones. I remember my family and I used to stuff several letters into the same envelope as we sent messages to my father whenever he was deployed abroad.
There was none of this bundles nonsense. Every now and again I have to explain data pricing models to my maternal grandmother. She hasn’t really grasped the meaning of data and megabytes so I spent a good amount of our time making up crazy analogies about letter weight and stamps.
Bundles are like special stamps that can only be used to sent and receive special types of letters. The response is always invariably a why? And why do I have to buy a stamp to be able to receive a letter? Is it because the messages are marked Pay Forward?
Zimbabwean statistics are hard to come by so I can only speak for myself-I have only received a total of three letters in two years. Not counting parcels, I have received only one letter through the post during this time and it was a business letter.
I haven’t posted a single letter in almost 8 years. The red painted ZIMPOST letter box that used to be a prominent feature of every shopping centre from Machipisa to Hauna has now been relegated to memories. When was the last time any of you sent a letter? I am not referring to those “Final Notice” demands that are hand delivered to your debtors every month. I mean by post.
Old Mr. Dodzo the Postmaster, one of the many postmen in our village used to deliver every letter to its recipient in the village. He didn’t have to, but he preferred that personal touch and delivered every letter and with it, pieces of village gossip in love and with relish.
Postmen were ubiquitous then and as an important a job as any. They were at par with our teachers, policemen and soldiers acting as the nervous system to our great nation.
I cannot help but think that part of the high unemployment rate in our country has been brought about by the increasing redundancy of the postman. I haven’t seen anyone in a Postman’s uniform in a while, they have become more rare than swallows in July.
Most have no need for a postman now. They send their messages through email, IM, Facebook, Twitter and increasingly less through SMS and MMS. In the name of progress these “letters” are transported, sorted and delivered by machines in real time.
The flesh and blood postman is giving way to the digital postman.Disturbingly with the decline of SMS and MMS usage more and more of these tasks are being handled beyond our borders. Old Mr. Dodzo would never have approved of such an impersonal method of delivery.
But he is dead now and almost certainly the postman’s post (pun intended) will soon follow him to the grave. With the increase in the uptake of courier services it seems even the parcel delivering niche that they have enjoyed for so long might also fall to the prey.
Image Credit: Herald.