Sliding Down With The Post Office

A couple of months ago, in Going Down Easy, Sarah Hoyt spent some time talking about what she called "the gentile slide into chaos", where she noted:

This post comes from the fact I was talking to my husband and said “the first thing is usually the post office going unreliable.”

The post office?  Really?  She went on to explain:
The slide goes like this – it begins with mail distribution twice a day six days a week, and the mail fairly reliable in the sense that yes, you do get human error and things delayed a bit.  Then it goes to once daily...
Then slowly the mail becomes more unreliable.  Then one day is cut out.  Then delivery is every other day.
BUT the most important thing is how unreliable it gets.  We’re already pretty unreliable, the reason they’re mostly used for spam.  (Though their tendency to misplace stuff doesn’t help.)
But along that slide comes the time when the mail is COMPLETELY unreliable.  Anything you entrust to them has a fifty/fifty chance of arriving, and anything even vaguely useful/valuable WILL get stolen, unless you’re very, very crafty.
An interesting idea: post office reliability as an indicator of societal health.  I wondered how reliable an indicator this would really be, though.  So the post and comments got filed away into corner of my mind that records all the various bits of trivia that I come across on a daily basis.

It might have stayed there for a good long time, except that it got dragged back into daylight by this recent post from Peter [1] at Bayou Renaissance Man:
I ordered some business cards to take to Libertycon, which Miss D. and I will be attending this weekend.  To my intense displeasure (euphemism!), the package was shown by the courier service as having been delivered, but I hadn't received it.  Inquiries proved fruitless.  This evening Miss D. and I went for a short walk, and found the package ripped open at the side of the road and my business cards thrown into the nearest storm-water drain.  Clearly, someone had hoped to find something valuable inside, and tossed the contents when they proved worthless to him.
Emphasis mine.  Hmmm.  What did Sarah have to say about that?

This is a sign post on the way down.  When you start seeing outright unabashed theft by postal employees, and no attempt to track down your registered package, it’s time to have your preparations for the rest of the slide made.
Because that type of theft is a “societal strictures have broken down.”  It’s not “the neighbors will rape and pillage” but it is the “people will pilfer from strangers as a matter of course.”  A package, entrusted to strangers to carry across the country is, of course, at high risk.
Bad delivery person?  Bad neighborhood?  I don't know.  The "pilfer from strangers" idea does seem to be gaining some traction with government employee now, though.  Just look at the TSA.  Which makes me think that it might be prudent to keep a closer eye on news reports about the postal service (and the TSA) for a while.

[1] Speaking of which: take the time, go to Amazon, buy his book, and enjoy.  Srsly.  "Take the Star Road" is good, solid, classic, Heinlein-esqe SF.  You'll be happy, Peter will be happy, and - best of all - he'll be encouraged to write moar books, which will make us all happy.  It's a win-win-win situation, all for the low price of $2.99!

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