This week we all heard or read about the post office and their plans to close offices around the country and cut their services. I just wonder what took them so long to make this decision’ As I’ve said before I cannot find many people who regard going to the post office as a pleasant experience. I know the one I go to should issue mirrors to the folks that work there so we could see their breath and determine that they are still breathing. The word slow doesn’t do justice to how they work at this station.

But I suppose they do have their good points, since you can still mail a letter for about half a dollar and reasonably expect it to get there, sometime. I say sometime since most of our credit cards have built in late fees attached to them so your payments really need to be made about 45 days before they become due in order to insure that your check gets there before the due date. I talked to some of these companies after being charged for a ‘ late’ payment and I always get the same answer. ‘ If you used the post office, then they must be running late..again.’ It makes me wonder if my check really arrived in time and they just held it until past the due date so they could tack on an extra charge. Who knows’ All I know is I’ m sick and tired of it.

Another thing that puts a hitch in my git along is this trend to use robots to answer the phone and then direct your calls. As you know, these go something like this. ‘ Welcome to United Mega Corp’ please tell me your name. My name is Peary Perry. Your name is Harry Kerry’ Press one if this is correct. No, my name is Peary Perry. I’ m sorry I didn’t get that, you say your name is Mary Jerry

This can go on for hours so I have learned how to defeat the system, I merely start saying words such as enchilada’ or ‘ Paris, France’ and within seconds the robot seems to overload and switches you to a real, live operator ‘ which is where you wanted to go in the first place. Then you have to start over with your name and account number, but at least you are on the right track. What really galls me are the systems that hang up on you if they can’t seem to get you to the correct department. ‘ Please try your call again later.’ How late’ Perhaps 3am’ is someone there who cares about my problem’ Probably not.

But never fear, help is on the way. In another news item I noticed last week, scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany are reporting that they have successfully engineered the genes (not blue jeans) of mice to allow them to speak and understand human voices. The article doesn’t say if they understand English or German, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter at this point. These mice’s (mouses’ ) FOXP2 gene has been swapped out for the human version. Dr. Svante Paabo, in whose laboratory the mouse was engineered, promised several years ago that when the project was completed, ‘ We will speak to the mouse.’ He did not promise that the mouse would say anything in reply, doubtless because a great many genes must have undergone evolutionary change to endow people with the faculty of language, and the new mouse was gaining only one of them. So it is perhaps surprising that possession of the human version of FOXP2 does in fact change the sounds that mice use to communicate with other mice, as well as other aspects of brain function. Obviously this information and this research should be of great interest to both the US Post Office and the credit card companies. Imagine all of the money they could save by hiring and training mice to answer the phones and do clerical work. Cheap labor, limited health benefits, no retirement obligations. PETA would probably establish a union for them, but still the overall costs have to come down over what is being paid today. Company provided food and housing would certainly be less expensive.

And who knows, the service would probably improve.