Column: Computer coding is easy; mailing a letter is hard

This is for all of you people who laugh at those of us of a certain age when we try to get elevator doors to open by pushing the unlock button on our car’s key fob or frequently forget that our laptop computers don’t have touch screens.

There is, however, wisdom that accrues with age, even if it’s wisdom about things that are starting to fall from common usage. For instance: I know how to mail a letter.

It’s a quaint art, and some of us of a certain age are so adept at dealing with the U.S. Postal Service that it’s second-nature, sort of the way more modern whippersnappers can make a boomerang TikTok or purchase an NFT of a bored ape using cryptocoin.

Earlier this week, Sebastian, 26, the Post’s director of membership, was assigned the task of mailing a letter signed by everyone on the Post’s staff to congratulate managing editor Jeremiah Dobruck and his wife Lindsey on the event of the birth of their third son, Peter Riley Dobruck.

Sebastian’s not stupid; in fact he’s been doing a spectacular job in increasing our membership and our members’ generous contributions. An example of his intelligence: While email and direct-messaging and Slack and any number of other computerized methods are free, he knew he needed a stamp to mail the letter successfully. And the person who made the request for the mailing told him there was one in her drawer. So, armed with everything he needed to fire off the card in the antiquated snail mail—the letter itself and a stamp—Sebastian proudly stuck the letter in the outgoing mail slot in the Post’s garage.

Later, it dawned on him: How does the mail know where to go?

He came to work the following morning and sheepishly confessed that he hadn’t put the Dobruck’s address, or any other information that would get the letter to its intended recipient, on the envelope. His embarrassment didn’t abate at all when his news was met with gales of laughter from staffers who have mailed letters before, and even my calming and sympathetic assurance to not worry—“You do a lot of other things right”—didn’t seem to boost his plummeting self-esteem.

Happily, Sebastian staked out the outgoing mailbox for 40 minutes waiting for the postal carrier, who generously allowed him to fill out the address and recommended that he also add a return address, which admittedly is getting into the more esoteric area of mailing a letter.

Jake, our TikTok guy, was sympathetic about Sebastian’s error as well. He admitted that the last time he put anything in the mail was when he was sending a form to the DMV and it never got there. “It just disappeared.”

Hmmm.

Assuming that people who are no longer called whippersnappers (instead, they’re merely Gen Z or Millennials) can grapple with YouTube, here’s an Instagram reel showing you how—or, you can watch the video below from the authorities themselves. And, if you need help with anything else, like how to use a rotary phone or work a clothespin, we’re here for you—for a few more years.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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