Dear Mr. Postmaster: The problems are inside the building
OK, everyone who thought the problems at the Aspen Post Office were outside the building, please raise your hand.
Just as we thought.
There is a long history of unhappiness with various aspects of Aspen’s postal service.
People have complained for years about grumpiness and incivility on the part of postal clerks; about slow service and interminable lines due to inadequate staffing at the windows; about slow delivery of mail from one Aspen address to another; and about many other examples of the post office’s lack of concern for the needs and desires of its customers.
Added to that have been occasional stories about rampant dissatisfaction among postal employees, sexual harassment charges filed by one employee against another, and more.
But we do not recall many – if any – complaints about what went on outside the building … except for occasional grumblings that whoever designed the entrance off Puppy Smith Street and the Clark’s Market parking lot access road must have been stoned, stupid or just plain mean.
In particular, people have not complained about the presence of newspaper racks across the parking lot from the post office, or about political activists and candidates stopping passers-by to obtain signatures on one petition or another.
In fact, the post office has well served this small mountain town in the way that post offices have always served small towns – as a gathering spot, a place for social interaction. It has provided people a momentary respite from their busy lives, time to stand and talk with friends, catch up on family news, or discuss the latest political controversy. And that vital interaction has been enhanced by the collection of signatures from the backers of various political causes and (dare we say it) by people stopping to pick up – and even read – the local newspapers.
The Aspen Post Office, in short, has been a social and political hub of the community for years.
Thus it is baffling, not to mention irritating, to contemplate the barrage of changes wrought by our new, interim postmaster.
In a clear demonstration that he is no traffic engineer, he has made far worse what already was a tangled mess of cars and people by closing off the rear exit from the post office parking lot.
In ordering the removal of the newspaper machines, he has only made it that much more difficult for hundreds of local residents to get their daily fix of the news.
And in prohibiting petition gatherers from using the sidewalk in front of the post office, he is interfering with the free flow of ideas and throwing a wrench into the local machinery of democracy.
One might protest these last two unfortunate actions on First Amendment grounds. The Bill of Rights, after all, prohibits the government from interfering with the freedom of the press or limiting the “right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government.”
But such an appeal would be fruitless – since no one has as much contempt for the Constitution as the various arms of the federal government itself.
And so we might wish to appeal to the new postmaster’s obligation to be sensitive to the needs and desires of the community he is supposed to serve. And we might point out that, in his promise to call the cops on anyone caught seeking petition signatures at the post office, he is further demonstrating his inability to understand small-town life and politics or to see beyond his own narrow agenda.
But, in the end, all we can say is that if it is the goal of Postmaster Jarman Smith to alienate and anger the populace to the point where they avoid using his facility, it seems he is headed in the right direction.
And perhaps that is what he has in mind. After all, if he could just get rid of all those pesky customers, imagine how smoothly the Post Office would run!
One cannot help but wonder whether his superiors really brought him here to declare war on local sensibilities. If so, he has made a good start.
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