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News Nots

Abuse Of Postal And Delivery Systems Widens, Gains In Creativity

News Nots Written by Timons Esaias

Faithful readers of this column may remember that we exposed the widespread phenomenon of "postal baby-sitting": parents putting a stamp or two on their children and mailing them to fictitious addresses in other cities, knowing that it would be days until the kids were returned to them as: UNDELIVERABLE, NO SUCH ADDRESS.

Though steps have been taken to curb this abuse of the system, it seems that postal customers have found new and sometimes startling ways to avoid their obligations.

"Postal funerals have become increasingly common," admitted an agent for the Postal Inspectorate. "Some of our employees have had nervous breakdowns once they realized what they were handling."

This trend was started by the late Hackett "Hack" Toliver, Jr., a long-time freelance writer, mostly of pulp fiction. In his last will and testament, Mr. Toliver instructed his executor to see that "my remains are cremated, and the ashes placed in a #5 Kraft envelope and mailed without a return address to a non-existent box number in New York. This is so that I may disappear into the mails, never to be heard from again, in the same way that so many of my manuscripts have done before me."

When Mr. Toliver's unusual funeral arrangements were made public after a decent interval (his envelope has never been located), it seems that many Americans saw a chance to avoid costly burial expenses. A growing number of these gruesome packages have been ending up in Dead Letter Offices all across the country, and in the UPS and FedEx vaults as well. "Sometimes the package contains a note explaining that the deceased had always wanted to visit the city that they were mailed to in death," said our anonymous Postal Inspector. "We've broken a couple of cases because of the family accidentally naming the deceased, but usually they don't make that mistake."

In a particularly unpleasant twist on this outrageous form of disrespect for the departed, some families are going so far as to avoid cremation expenses, too. "Most of the delivery companies have had to refuse to accept a package weighing more than 80 pounds without inspecting the contents first."

The situation has been made even more complicated now that several cemeteries have taken to digging up remains and mailing them back to families that fall behind in their maintenance payments. "Often the addresses the cemeteries have are out of date, which can have embarrassing results," admitted a source in the funeral cartel.

Great confusion has been produced in a number of Western zip codes by a sudden rush of cattle drives-by-mail. It seems that the price of beef is such that it's now cheaper for some ranchers to mail their steers to market rather than the traditional methods of truck or train. This has annoyed postal workers to no end. "Our sorting machines aren't designed for quadrupeds," one pointed out. "And some cattle just don't like to go in the canvas mail bags. We're getting better at handling them, but it takes personnel away from the regular service counter."

If you should see a herd of beef cattle milling around your local post office, it might be best to get your stamps another day.

Another abusive practice originates not with private citizens, but with other Government agencies. NASA, facing bare- bones budgets, has tried to dump some of its expenses onto other organizations and they have particularly victimized the Post Office. "They have been mailing the Shuttle from Edwards AFB to Cape Canaveral whenever the Shuttle lands in California," complained a beleaguered Postal official. "So instead of flying the thing piggyback on a 747, we have to sit it on a fleet of Postal vans and drive it across county. They've also mailed two probes to Saturn and one to Pluto, rather than launching them themselves. We have no idea how we're going to get them to their correct address!"

Clinton Administration officials have proven unwilling to stop this inter-agency expense-shifting, probably because it makes the budget seem more under control than it really is.

The Postal Service's reputation for never being able to find anything has made it popular with various criminal groups. "We have drug distributors using the mails; right-wing militias sending explosives by mail; UFO aliens who make pornographic films of the people they've abducted are sending their filthy videos through the mails rather than over hyperwave communicators like they did in the past; and some businesses are disposing of toxic wastes by mailing them to nowhere. Our estimate is that we have over a thousand tons of cancer- causing asbestos lost in the system right now."

Some observers feel that the continuing success of the Unabomber, who operates untraceably through the mails, is a contributing factor to all this epistolary criminality. But others look on it as a form of legitimate social protest. "Many people feel that their problems are caused by government; and putting things in the mail so that the government will have to take care of it is a thoroughly logical response," explained a spokesman for Americans for a No-cost Untaxed Society.

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