It was not so long ago in Guyana when correspondence by letters was the primary means of communication with relatives and friends in the country and overseas. Telephones or what is known as landlines today were scarce, either because it was too expensive for the average person to acquire or there was not enough equipment available to meet the demands of the population. Today, life revolves around the cell phones, computers and the internet, which keep people informed and connected. Almost everyone in Guyana has cell phones or computers with access to the internet and social media.
Back in the day, writing letters and mailing them were so customary that they made the postman or letter carrier very popular with the people in his district. There were hardly any female letter carriers in those days. Every day, the people were happy to see the postman/letter carrier riding his bicycle through the streets in the city and in the villages in the rural areas of the country. He was recognized by his uniform and the mail bag hung over his bicycle handle. He would ring his bicycle bell to inform families that he had letters for them. They were happy as they anticipated that the letter was from a friend or relative in the country. But if the letter was from the United States, Britain, Canada, it may have a money order. The postman would deliver small parcels to residents or hand them a notice that there is a parcel for them at the post office.
In those days, the delivery of the mail was relatively quick. If a letter was mailed in the country in the morning, chances are, it would generally be delivered on the same day. Mail from the Caribbean would take about three days, but much longer from North America. Christmas was usually a very busy period for the postman because of the high volume of letters and cards, especially from overseas. But things have changed drastically. Today, the postman delivers a greater amount of bills than letters because most people, especially youths, prefer to correspond via texts and e-mails rather than writing letters which is time consuming.
Today, advanced technology, in the form of electronic mail and e-mails, has actually put an end to letter writing. For the older generation, it is the end of a nostalgic era and feeling. Part of growing up in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s was to correspond with pen pals overseas, writing letters and licking the back of the envelope to seal the letter and licking the stamp to make sure it sticks on the envelope before dropping it in the mailbox or taking it to the neighborhood post office.
Technology has had a significant impact on the postal office not only in Guyana but also around the world. Postal entities are struggling to survive and unless they adapt to the changing environment, their demise in many cases seems certain. The future appears bleak.
The local corporation has to diversify its products and improve its image and services in order to remain competitive. Technology has provided instant communication, which makes it difficult for the traditional mail service to compete with electronic mail. Email or texts are not time consuming and do not require paper, envelopes, postage stamps or a pen and ink as in the case of letters.
Today customers are not only receiving their bills electronically but they are also paying them electronically on the internet. As a result, there has been further decline in business for the Post Office.
Naturally, this raises questions about the long-term viability of the post office and job security for its employees. It is a possibility that they are bracing for what’s to come. However, if the use of traditional mail services continues on the path of steady decline, lay-offs could be the inevitable fate awaiting letter carriers and other support staff at the Post Office in the not too distant future. The nostalgia of having the postman deliver mail will be gone.
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