Hope you weren't in a hurry

Michal Szybalski is an information technology specialist with a special interest in math. He also apparently has a lot of extra time on his hands. If you haven't heard, Szybalski decided to demonstrate that surface mail in his native Poland travels at more or less the speed of a snail – sometimes less. His opportunity came early last month when a letter arrived at his Warsaw home whose sender had paid for priority handling. That's supposed to result in faster delivery, right? Not in this case. Elapsed time between the Dec. 20 cancellation of the stamp on the envelope and finding it in his box Jan. 3: 15 days. Well, you say, but there were two holidays – Christmas and New Year's – in between, plus two Sundays. OK, but that still left 11 days, and the letter had to travel only 6.9 miles. So Szybalski did some research and uncovered the factoid that, at top speed, a common garden snail travels at 0.03 m.p.h. Then, calculating the distance his letter had traveled and the number of hours it took to arrive, he came up with a speed of 0.02 – or 1/100th of a mile per hour slower than the gastropod. It's not known whether the letter was perhaps delivered to the wrong house before Szybalski finally received it or whether there's some other explanation. And no comment from the Polish postal service on Szybalski's mathematical skills. Nor, for that matter, a defense of its own performance.

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