When the post office leaves

Hey, who needs a post office anyway?

The United States Postal Service is exploring the possibility of selling its downtown building -- which only seems to have been there since before the British landed at Compo Beach -- and relocating it, well, somewhere else.

Don't put it past the postal pooh-bahs. They've already done the same with the Saugatuck Post Office, though that is still being called a temporary measure. As if.

The downtown post office is on the chopping block for several reasons. It's old and big. Parking is tough. So is handicap access, despite the construction of a long ramp extending halfway to the Saugatuck River.

Oh, and the USPS has lost $7 billion in the past fiscal year, despite annual creep-ups in the cost of stamps. I don't think they're crying wolf on this one. My daily mail is now about two pieces, and for the past month both of those have been flyers urging me to vote for every human being running in the local election.

But when one door closes another opens, so the very heavy post office doors may soon usher in a golden opportunity. A newer, smaller, easier-to-park-at post office could benefit whoever still uses the USPS. So the question becomes: Where should it be?

"Woog's World" has scoured the town, and come up with a few possibilities. For starters there's Princess Jewelers, located next to the old Beacon Electronics and directly across the street from the new Fresh Market. The space is tiny, and Princess is moving out.

Best of all, it's a few doors down from the UPS Store. Customers could comparison shop at UPS and USPS, seeking the best prices for shipping, padded envelopes and twine. They could see which clerks are friendlier, which lines are shorter. And if the wait is long at both spots, they could snag a coffee at Dunkin Donuts.

Already gone: Ben & Jerry's. This is also a small spot. But it has the benefit of being downtown. There's plenty of parking (sort of). It's right by the river, in case the USPS decides motorboats are the modern equivalent of ponies and boxy vans. Perhaps the crunchy vibes still lingering in the Ben & Jerry's air are not very U.S. Postal Service-like, but this is the 2000s. It could be a hip move.

There are many empty storefronts on Main Street. Some are former women's clothing shops; others are former women's clothing shops. If the post office has no problem taking over from a former women's clothing shop, I will be happy to enter my first former women's clothing shop.

Then there is the 80,000,000-pound gorilla: the Westport-Weston Family Y. This hasn't gotten much publicity lately, but apparently the Y wants to leave downtown and move to the boonies. What a wonderful opportunity! Customers would not have far to go; the Y is directly across the street from the current post office, though several buildings block the way. Postal customers who are also Y members would receive the added benefit of not losing their workouts; climbing up and down all the stairs to get to the various postal functions would be healthful. There is also plenty of parking, though Y members love to complain about how far they have to walk to get to the gym.

I know the USPS says the current post office is too big. In many ways, though, that's what's wrong with our country. We think small: Netbooks replace laptops, which replaced desktop computers. Mini-Coopers take over from Hummers. Back in the day, when men were men, bigger was better. Our government grabbed humongous swaths of land, one large territory at a time, and look at the result: America. If we'd been content to grow village by measly village, we'd end up like Europe: a continent filled with countries named Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Andorra.

So I say: Curran Cadillac. Forget my earlier suggestion about Princess Jewelry. Go across the street, to the empty lot where a few excess Toyotas fight for space with tumbleweeds. Take over the building. Put in conveyor belts, sorting areas -- whatever a post office needs. Add spacious customer services areas, and stock `em with so many postal clerks there's never a line. Bring your trucks -- there's enough room to park them all. Extra space? Rent it to UPS vehicles from across the street.

Of course, all these suggestions may put undue stress on the folks at the USPS who have to decide what to do if, and when, the downtown Westport post office actually shuts down.

Let's hope they don't go postal.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer. His blog is www.danwoog06880.com; his e-mail is dwoog@optonline.net.