Getting a boot out of postal negotiations

A fellow we know had wet feet for six weeks this year: all that time his rubbers were creeping their way home through the mail system, from New York to Boston.

Every afternoon for a month and a half he sloshed optimistically to the mailbox. And every time he slogged sadly back with but a handful of bills, each mailed yesterday - and wrung his socks out again.

The 208-mile February-to-April odyssey averaged the lightning pace of five miles a day, a slightly slower speed than that of Greece's legendary Odysseus, who needed 10 years to get home. And he didn't have the advantage of the postal service's superswift machinery.

We were reminded of all this by the current hullabaloo over postal negotiations: Hints of strikes surface as everybody insists his salary is too low for the work he does - even the nation's postmaster general. We certainly wish everybody success in reaching an agreement. But along the way maybe they could figure out a way to move the mails a bit faster, too. Except for bills - they're speed-of-light already.

As it turned out, before our friend's rubbers showed up he could have bought old-fashioned galoshes and worn them until the buckles rusted off. But no self-respecting New Englander would have considered such drastic action until all hope of success at the waiting game had vanished. After all, six weeks is a short blip in the timeline of a pair of feet.

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