It was sometime last year, that my younger daughter asked me how she could post a letter. Looking at her, I wondered where that was coming from. Apparently, in her Creative Writing Class, they had been taught how to write formal and informal letters, and also how to address envelopes. My guess is that they discussed posting letters.
It instantly took me to pleasant and not so pleasant memories, down memory lane. I loved to write letters, but I do not do much of that anymore. I used to be quite excited when I received letters, because it gave me the opportunity to read and reply to letters. Back then, we mostly wrote on beautiful writing sheets, that had matching envelopes; there were the airmail writing sheets also. During my secondary school days, we looked forward to coming into the hostel after lunch, on most weekdays, and stretching our necks to see if we had any letter on our beds. By ‘Uni’, I felt I was now a big girl and even progressed to securing my own post box at the Post Office on Campus. It was such a delight to go to the post office and open my box, and pick up letters – from my parents, brothers, or friends in other schools. I was always quick to give out my post office box number, each time friends asked for my address at school. I actually still have a post office box here in Lagos, but very little goes on there – the advent of electronic mails, seems to have slowed things down.
So back to my daughter and her plan to write a letter! I promised her we would go to the Post Office during the holidays; but then I asked myself who she would write a letter to? I have this friend, a former colleague, who had relocated with her family; her daughter is older than my daughter, but they had developed a friendship. I told her my daughter wanted to write a letter and she sent me their address. Soon as I told my daughter I had the address, she began to pile pressure.
Days, weeks, and months passed, but we just never got round to doing this. She had not even written the letter, all I did was to save the address somewhere – there was no way I would go back to the lady and say I had misplaced the address.
Then about a month ago, the matter came up again, I suspect something may have happened in her Creative Writing Class again, and she remembered. So, this time she got to write the letter and I gave her an envelope and the address, and everything was set. Now to post the letter; another long delay.
So last Thursday, I told her we would go to the post office on Friday morning, with schools on holidays, it was easy to arrange.
When we arrived at the post office, the gate was partially closed and that confused me a bit. Why was the gate closed? I stayed there for a few seconds before it occurred to me to sound the horn of my vehicle. A security guard walked lazily towards the gate and opened. As we drove in, I could not help but notice the dilapidation of the building and the general unkempt state of the premises. I found somewhere to park, and then got out of the car.
Walking towards the main hall, it was dirt on every side. The main hall itself was mostly dull, there was poor lighting, I cannot recall if there was power. There were a number of staff, though some were clustered in one corner engaged in some kind of merchandising.
A man walked up to us and I told him we had a letter to post and then he directed us, who to approach. As we walked towards the Counter, I noticed the man was in conversation with another man, but approached us as soon as he saw us waiting. I told him my daughter had a letter to post to the US, and he told us the cost and then went to get us stamps. The minute I pointed out to him that it was a learning experience for my daughter, he took his time and showed her the various denominations of postal stamps and even explained the whole process to her. She had a few other questions, which he kindly responded to. Once stamps had been affixed (it costs N1,600 to post a regular letter to the US, by the way), he told us we should drop the envelope in the post box outside the main hall. We thanked him and we left as there was another man who had come in and was waiting to be attended to.
As we left, it was mixed feelings; happy that I had been able to take my daughter through the process, she now knows how to post letters, not only email and those other digital means of communication. Secondly, and sadly, I did not understand why the post office building and premises had to be so run down. Did I mention that there were motorbikes parked within the hall!
Is there no longer a Ministry of Communications? Is there no budget for the Post Office? Why all those staff, if a befitting place to work cannot be provided for them? Is there work for them or not?
Certainly, this is not the fall out of the advancement in technology, it is clearly human failure; after all there is still the need for postal services, albeit minimal. If the current trend does not support the need for big post offices as they currently exist, then why not scale down and have decent, befitting post shops, where people are able to go into and complete any postal transactions they may have.
Nigeria sha; we must destroy everything!