(not) getting your mail delivered in mammoth lakes

From the US Postal Service’s Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations (2001):

And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.

They even tout their “rain/sleet/snow” delivery on Twitter, so it’s not like I’m picking some dated notion of delivery services from the pony express era.

Yeah, and maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

Well, down here in Mammoth Lakes, CA, we don’t get mail delivery. Why? Well, the snow of course! To be fair it’s not just the USPS. Being the middle class white American that I am, I ordered a package on my Amazon Prime subscription. A different delivery truck service rolled up and the driver had a conversation with me as I grabbed my box:

“So, you’re the new owners here?”

I looked back at the house, and failing to deliver a funny joke I replied, “Yeah, either that or I’m going to get arrested I suppose.”

She just stared at me with that townie-who-hates-everyone-else look and said, “Well just so you know, I won’t go up this hill in the winter. So consider that.”

There was a part of me who wanted to fire back: “Look, pal. I ferried a god damn $15 fridge part across the Sea of Cortez for some dude I never met and have smuggled more shit across the border than a low level narco trafficker. Sure, it was generally blue masking tape and watermaker membranes, but that’s not the point.”

But instead I thanked her for the advice, realized this was one of those times when I should probably holster my opinion until I have more information on the subject, and have proceeded to try to secure all my winter belongings from the Internet before the snow starts dumping. To be clear though, I’m not the only person to notice the third-world-nature of package deliveries in Mammoth: here’s a good article from June 2016 in The Sheet News.

The Mammoth Lakes Post Office: a place where you will spend a lot of your time getting to know “yellow cards”.

So off we went to secure our new PO Box. Because the USPS doesn’t deliver, after proving that indeed we are residents in Mammoth Lakes, we got a cigar-box sized box for free. There are a couple of rules. First, every year we need to prove that we’re residents.

Second, and perhaps most hilarious, we need to check our box every three days. Mind you, these are the same people saying that they (as a professional delivery service) lack the ability to get to you six days a week, but they do require 8,000 people (+/- a few) to schlep their asses to the post office 100 days a year. Some old lady in a Civic apparently has better chops to getting her mail than the USPS can get it to her.

My suspicion is that the real reason for the lack of residential (and business) delivery is because this is first and foremost a chilled-out-mountain-town. I’ve noted before that Mammoth gets regarded as “a mountain with a town, rather than a town with a mountain.” Recently there was a good article in The Sheet News about whether Mammoth is “.. a Town? a Resort? a Resort Town?

If you look at Long Island, New York, even in the middle of Hurricane Sandy delivery workers still showed up. Hell, even after 9/11 mail delivery was back on schedule less than 24 hours later in downtown Manhattan. From the linked article above:

All Postal Service employees reported to work on Monday morning [following Hurricane Sandy], according to USPS spokeswoman Darleen Reid, and while certain routes will be disrupted (such as evacuated areas of New York City), and a handful of coastal offices are closed, everywhere mail can be safely delivered, it will be. As far as Reid knows, the Postal Service has never failed to deliver mail to an area for a 24-hour period in its entire 237-year history, unless there were physical obstacles — mounds of snow, flooded streets — that made it impossible.

Sure, in some areas of Mammoth Lakes there will be “mounds of snow”, but for plenty of the town the roads are cleared quite quickly. Indeed, the entire snow-spots thing only works if in the midst of the gnarliest conditions visitors can get into town, do some shopping, hit the slopes, grab dinner, and get to their hotels. Mammoth Lakes’ Public Works Department even has a rather well thought out snow removal policy, and bolsters its ranks with part time drivers to supplement the full time staff.

And taking it an obvious step forward, it’s only “dumping snow” typically ~5 months a year, leaving the other 7 safe enough to ride a unicycle through town.

The real reason as I see it is because of the obvious difference between Mammoth Lakes and Long Island: one has the New York attitude towards functioning, somehow, every day, regardless of what the hell is going on. Terrorism, heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes: everyone has a job and needs to get to work.

Mammoth, on the other hand, is a place visitors (and most residents) go to on vacation, for retirement, or to spend more time in a relaxed setting. The amount of people who need their mail delivered on time up here is small. Yes, I know the winter weather is brutal. But I posit that if everyone up here needed to work a 9-5 and get their mail on time in order to pay the bills (including property taxes), this would have been resolved a while ago.