John Howell’s Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Forever, eternal, whatever; no stamps forthcoming from lobby vending device

“Do you know how much a stamp costs now?”

It was J. Monque’D on the line, inquiring about the recently increased price of first class postage.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

We couldn’t tell him. We couldn’t remember whether it went to 40 or 41 cents. Neither could he.

Rosemary told him that just to be sure we had put two of the old first class stamps on an envelope before we had mailed it. That way we’d be sure it got there.

Good idea, he said.

That’s when he said he would be interested in that new eternal stamp they’re selling.

We would, too, we told him.

The post office calls it a Forever Stamp, but for a few minutes we enjoyed puzzling with the idea that J. Monque’D had named it one better.

I had already thought of a “Forever-plus-one” stamp to be announced as soon as the price needs to go up again, then a “Forever-plus-two” and so on.

Sort of slow on the up-take, it took me a while to catch on to what the post office is doing.

What the post office will do, of course, is raise the price of a Forever Stamp to whatever the going rate for first class mail needs to be. They are willing to accept that a few speculators out there who will rush to buy them at the old price to save paying the new price when it goes into effect.

That’s cheaper than fooling with all those 2 and 3 cent stamps they have to sell to folks who get caught with a bunch of the old first-class stamps and try to upgrade.

My first experience with the new Forever stamp was a disappointment.

I went to the postage machine at the Batesville Post Office after hours. Only Forever stamps were offered in  vending device — every row offered a book for $8.20.

So I put in a $10 bill, fully aware that I was about to receive a dollar coin as part of my change. I heard a “thud” down in the bottom of the machine and then a “ker-ching” eight times in the coin return as it spit out 80 cents worth of dimes, followed by a “ker-chang” as the dollar coin fell down behind them.

I retrieved the coins and then reached for the booklet of stamps.

No stamps.

I  was pretty sure that I had heard the thud of its fall, so I forced my hands into places designed to keep out groping hands. Still no stamps.

I pushed the coin return. No more coins. With the bottom of my closed fist I struck the unyielding machine with a few choice blows. Still no stamps.

Then I noticed that I was not alone in the post office and worried that the lady down at the far end of the post office boxes might become startled by my actions and alert the local constabulary. Or the postal constabulary.

I left empty-handed and bought stamps later at the grocery store.

Just Forever, not eternal.