Island time generally brings to mind warmer climates and more relaxed life styles than we have here in Maine, and yet I find that phrase frequently applicable to some of our ways of doing things. Mail for instance. We lthink nothing of using mailboxes to leave notes to neighbors, or to gift someone with cookies, or return the sweatshirt someone’s kid left in our car. I hear that is frowned upon in more sophisticated areas. Or even risks the possibility of theft. How inconvenient.
Yankee ingenuity is a phrase associated with this climate. And meshes very well with island time.
Some of the smaller islands have lost their post office. And some never had one. Getting to the mainland for mail is a nuisance. Besides, once you are on an island, where time really does seem thicker and slower, why jump into a boat to face the bustle of that one window PO in the nearest mainland village? Islanders are really very cooperative. They leave each other alone, but are quick to be right there if there is a need. And find ingenious ways of dealing with problems. Getting mail when there isn’t a post office. Is such a problem. And so it was arranged that someone would pick up all the mail for everyone on this particular island, haul it out on the ferry, and leave it in a specific garbage can on the island for distribution. You might think that somehow it got tossed out as garbage. But no, this went on for many years, simple, no government regulations, a tiny population who shared the garbage can as their post office. Yes, mail went out too, if properly stamped. All in all, an efficient, no fuss mail service. And everyone knew which garbage can was the mail garbage can.
This casual neighborly system worked on island time. People were just happy they didn’t have to motor out for their mail. Most people that is. One person, who was of course allowed to join this long-standing system, felt it could be improved. And without consulting those who had been carrying on this tradition decided to improve it. Where she came from she probably had fed ex everyday, even Sundays, and maybe even had two mail deliveries a day. So she called the postmaster of the village where the island mail came from. And this official complaint exposed the island-style mail delivery. In spite of an extremely high record for accurate delivery, and requiring no government funding, the little post office in a can was shut down. Wonder if she’ll be invited to the next island pot-luck.
Our Otter Creek post office? Gone, sadly. It was a tiny cubicle in the corner of the market. The seniors used to sit on the step and chat, or in cold weather they would park front of the store in their trucks, talking to each other with the windows down. Now it is a pizza and sub counter. The United States Postal Service was no doubt delighted–one less of those little offices to maintain. And it is unquestionably more profitable for the market But it was a blow to the identity of the community. As capital of the world, center of the universe, we really should have a postmark.
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