Only on Vashon- The Weekly Rundown 08/26/2022

We saw some weird lights in the sky and wanted to know what they were. 

Turns out they were from Starlink launching satellites. Apparently, Musk wasn’t satisfied with killing public transport in favor of Tesla-only tunnels, he also had to ruin the night sky. 

And speaking of billionaires ruining public entities, let’s talk about the mail!

We’re getting mailers that are a month old with expired coupons from grocery stores that aren’t on island. This might not be the best use of postal service time. And, without a time machine, we can’t even use the coupons!

When we go to online tracking for our packages, it often shows them as returned to sender. Sometimes this just means they’re sitting in the post office, but other times it’s because Amazon didn’t deliver them to the post office. As one islander informs us, “This happened last weekend also. One of the postal workers said the Amazon driver showed up before the gate was opened and didn’t bother waiting around so they returned the whole truck to the Amazon facility.”

This has happened more than once. The Post office opens the gate to receive deliveries at 5:30 am, and if the Amazon driver gets there before 5:30, he doesn’t wait. He turns the truck around and drives everything back off island. 

An islander linked to an article about the relationship between Amazon and USPS.

It was illuminating in a few respects. In 2013, USPS agreed to start Sunday deliveries of Amazon packages. (Even God took a day to rest, but postal workers have to spend Sunday delivering our impulse purchases.)

At the time, the postal service was losing money due to a strange law requiring them to pre-fund pensions for people a full 75 years in advance, meaning they were funding pensions for workers who hadn’t yet been born. (This law was enacted, presumably, to knee-cap the postal service by people who go into government with the goal of dismantling government services.) 

So the post office makes a sweetheart deal with Amazon. Fast forward 9 years and 40% of Amazon packages are delivered by USPS.

From Getty Images

Amazon has warehouse-to-door delivery systems for dense urban areas, but for suburbs and rural areas, they rely on the post office for the final leg of a package’s trip. It would cost Amazon up to 4 times as much to deliver to rural areas than to urban areas. 

Side note: Did you know the USPS runs a mule down the Grand Canyon 6 days a week to deliver to Havasu, a village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon? I mean, just imagine an Amazon truck trying to manage those switchbacks. 

I couldn’t find exact statistics, but many first-hand accounts from postal service workers estimated that 75% – 80% of their packages are from Amazon. On Sundays, they exclusively deliver Amazon packages. 

Although Amazon pays for this contract, it results in poor service. The influx of Amazon packages has greatly reduced USPS’ efficiency and created a huge workload. Mail is getting delivered as late as 9:30 at night. One islander reports her mail got delivered at 10:45 pm. This is not a livable situation for mail carriers. 

By paying for a public service that ends up devoting so much time doing leg work for a private company, US taxpayers are subsidizing Amazon, a company run by one of the world’s wealthiest people.

If you had ten dollars each year since the beginning of the universe, you still would not have as much money as the CEO of Amazon. 

If you had $1800 for every mile between the Earth and the sun, you would not have as much money as he does.

If you had $100 for every dog on Earth, you wouldn’t have as much money as him. 

I understand the frustration of mail not being delivered. It can be dangerous if medications and other necessities arrive late; some mail is critical for business. I think the answer doesn’t lie in making mail carriers work more and harder. I think the answer lies in making Amazon deliver their own packages or making Amazon pay much more so that the USPS can hire more carriers and make their routes shorter. Instead of putting pressure on mail carriers, who are already pressured by their workloads, we should put pressure on lawmakers to change the situation and stop favoring Amazon at the expense of our public services. 

When we’re done being mad at the mail, we get mad at dog owners. If your dog is off leash and runs up to someone, and that someone says, “back,” you should call your dog back. You should not say, “It’s fine! My dog isn’t aggressive!” while your dog licks their face. 

(Side note: I am 100% okay with strange dogs jumping on me and licking my face. However, some people aren’t ok with that, and we need to respect people, even if they have weird preferences like not wanting to be licked in the face by strange dogs.) 

In the comments, we go to extremes, saying we should carry bear spray or that people should need to get certified to own a dog. 

One person takes a different approach. “Jesus crist folxs! We all share public spaces and this is a rural community. I get that people have anxiety around dogs but smoke some weed!”

We’re getting confused between dogs running around off-leash and dogs running up to someone and jumping on them. These are different things, and we are acting like the person who says “pepper spray a dog” is referring to a dog just running around, and the people saying, “just chill and smoke weed” are talking about a dog biting you and giving you rabies. 

We need to establish a continuum of dog encounters.  

1. Dog is on leash

2. Dog is off leash but it’s a chihuahua walking on only its forepaws and sniffing daisies.

3. Large dog is off leash but is one of those old dogs who sees beyond time and just kinda stares at you with a look of exasperation and sadness.

 4. Large dog is off leash and running toward you with tail wagging and tongue hanging out, coming in for the kiss.

5. Large dark is barking at you and baring its teeth.

6. Large dog is barreling toward you while carrying a knife in its mouth.

These are all different situations that call for different actions. For example, in situation 2, you would take a video and send it to me. In situation 6, you would use Kung Fu to knock the knife out of the dog’s mouth and then quickly go in for the kiss before the dog bit your face off. 

Finally, someone is looking for an adult-sized squirrel costume because they are meeting a family member at the airport, and it is a family tradition to do that in a squirrel costume. Luckily, islanders have a weasel kigurumi and a fox onesie on offer. 

Just make sure the costume isn’t too realistic, or you might get pepper sprayed. 

Anna Shomsky
Author: Anna Shomsky

I'm a former teacher and a data engineer living on Vashon Island. My writing has appeared in Five on the Fifth, Women on Writing and on the Post-Culture Podcast. I wrote and produced the radio show Whispers of Vashon for 101.9 KVSH. I’ve had short stories published in the anthologies Island Stories and Chicken Scratchings, as well as through the Open Space Literary Project.

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