Two months, twenty-three days

Posted on August 1, 2017

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During some research that I was doing about Mexican president Benito Juárez’s first years in office I came cross a notation concerning the “incredibly slow” transmission of a document sent from New York to Oaxaca, the capital of the state by the same name in the southern part of the country. The document was received two months and seven days after it left New York in 1868.

Yesterday I received a document (literary magazine in which a work of mine was published) that was mailed from New York to Oaxaca two months and twenty-three days before.

Mail service was faster in 1868 than it is in 2017!?

There are reasons for it, of course. Both the federal governments of Mexico and the United States have cut back the number of postal employees. Odd-sized mail (i.e. other than business envelopes) requires personal handling and accumulates in distribution centers. In this era of instant messaging mail has low priority. International packages services, though more expensive, have diminished the public use of postal services. Etc., etc., etc.

Despite propaganda to the contrary a lot of other services take longer than they did twenty, thirty or forty years ago. As a young and not very well paid journalist in New Orleans I had an abscessed tooth. I went to the neighbor dentist, waited twenty or thirty minutes, he examined the tooth, got out his drill and filled the tooth that same day. The first time I flew from Los Angeles to Mexico City, where I was attending college, was four hours faster than today. Not the in-the-air time but the commuting/waiting/inspection/document verification time extended the commute when I made the trip last year. When phoning a government office or bank one dialed and got a reply, not a phone tree. And the coffee one was served in a restaurant was hot and freshly brewed.

No wonder people today spend hours diddling with iPhones. Instant communication. But greater accomplishment?

Perhaps. Only perhaps.

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