by Brian Rudnick

Despite the surge in email and corresponding drop in postal mail, “snail mail” is far from a thing of the past. Especially during the holidays when many people prefer to send greetings or gifts that their recipients can hold in hand.

In recent years, in response to the decline in letter mail, the Post Office has removed many corner collection boxes and, according to spokesperson Cathy Yarosky, periodically conducts density tests to gauge use. A box will be removed if there are fewer than 25 items deposited [daily] during the test.

“It costs the Postal Service money in fuel and time for our letter carriers to drive to that mailbox and collect the small amount of mail,” Yarosky said. “Removing the box is simply good business sense in that respect.”

The so-called “snorkel” box at 13 West Gravers Lane is the only one of its kind in the the Chestnut Hill collection area and very popular with drivers such as Kathleen McDevitt and Rose Malley who work nearby and swung by one afternoon to make deposits.

Customers can deposit envelopes either through the regular, pedestrian-side mouth or from a car window through the street-side extension slot. Pedestrians sometimes unnecessarily walk into the street to use the opening meant for drivers.

Letter collector Patrick McKenna arrived about 5:30 pm one recent evening shortly after a customer was seen to have trouble stuffing her envelope inside. He emptied a box crammed full to the top. The box is three-quarters full other times of the year, McKenna said.

McKenna was unconcerned about handling stamped packages weighing over the limit in violation of the “13 ounce rule” affixed to the box, which says that due to “heightened security,” mail over the limit must be taken to a retail service counter or will be returned to the sender. For security reasons, Yarosky would not comment on what makes a 12.9 ounce package inherently less risky or how postal employees avoid risk when they handle mail weighing more than 13 ounces.