What if you forget to write the zip code on a piece of mail?

I dropped three postcards in a rush into a blue mail pick-up bin in Union Station in Los Angeles on a Monday evening in December. In my hurry, I had forgotten to write the zip code of the delivery address on two of those postcards (I wrote the addresses down from memory, and meant to double-check the zip codes of two of them later). The sole postcard with the complete address arrived in rural North Carolina on Saturday. A postcard missing its zip code arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the following Thursday. And the last postcard was also delivered around the same time, zip code-less, to Houston. So forgetting the zip code adds about 5 days or so to the journey of your mail.

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Rushed photo at the central train station in Los Angeles

How fast is U.S. mail delivered?

This summer (2018), I had a letter arrive from a town in England to Berkeley, California in 10 days. I didn’t know they can do it that fast! I mean, I thought it was weeks and weeks.

A letter left Washington DC on Friday, August 24, 2018, and arrived in rural North Carolina the next Thursday. Pitiful, yes?

It took a letter three days to travel between a small North Carolina town and a rural part of the state in early September, 2018 (the two locations are about 2 hours apart.)

A letter sent from rural North Carolina on a Wednesday in September 2018 arrived at its destination in Berkeley, California, by the following Monday.

Yet again! a letter sent from rural North Carolina on a (later) Wednesday in September 2018 arrived at its destination in Emeryville, California, by the following Monday.

I sent three letters from rural North Carolina to Small Town, North Carolina on a Saturday in October. All three pieces of mail were going to the EXACT same address — a postcard; a small card in a smaller-than-normal envelope; and a normal-sized letter. I had laid all three pieces snugly side by side in the mailbox, so I thought they’d just stay together from there on out — less sorting for the post people, right? Well, the largest letter arrived in Small Town, NC, on the Thursday. The card in the small envelope arrived on the Friday — and it was all ripped up 😦 The envelope had torn entirely open, and the pretty embroidery on the card was all smashed up. But luckily the two stickers and the little bokmärken inside were unscathed. The post people had stuck everything into a larger envelope with a pre-printed and profuse apology on the side. As for the postcard — I have no idea! Maybe it arrived on Saturday?

Two letters coming from the exact same address in rural Maryland arrived in rural North Carolina after four days. They left on a Thursday in October 2018 and arrived the next Monday. They arrived side-by-side, just as they’d been sent. Why didn’t my letters do that 😦

A letter sent from Small Town, North Carolina arrived in the middle-of-nowhere North Carolina in 2 days! Wow! The letter was sent on the very last Tuesday of October. At least … the letter was postmarked on the very last Tuesday of October. Possibly it had been dropped in the mail on Monday, which would make it a three-day travel time.

A letter postmarked on the Friday before Thanksgiving from Medium-Sized Town, North Carolina, arrived in middle-of-nowhere NC on the Monday.

A letter sent from middle-of-nowhere, NC, to Small Town NC in the beginning of November appears to be lost 😦 I asked the mail carrier about this. He said he has no idea what could have happened. But he said that all the mail that they pick up from mailboxes is sent to the Concord post office; and then a truck takes it to the Charlotte post office the same night. And then it gets shipped to other places from there. Cool to know! Update: the letter arrived 1.5 months after it was sent!

A letter sent from North Carolina to Chicago in November 2018 made it eventually. And I sent a post-card back to Chicago in early December, mailing it off the day just before a big snow-storm hit, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t made it yet 😦 It’s now December 18.

A letter sent on a Tuesday of mid-December from Berkeley, CA, arrived in rural North Carolina the following Monday. That seems a lot longer than when I send letters to Berkeley.

A letter sent in February from rural North Carolina to a city in Australia arrived in about two weeks! And a letter sent back in April also had roughly 2-weeks’ journey. I sent a couple of letters to Australia in 2019, and received several back. Both going and coming, the letters appear to always take about 2 weeks to arrive.

A letter sent from central Houston to the outskirts of Houston at the start of May arrived in 2 days! Monday to Wednesday.

A letter sent from central Houston to rural North Carolina at the start of May 2019 arrived in 4 days. Monday to Thursday.

A postcard dropped into a blue mail pick-up bin in Santa Barbara, California, on a warm Sunday night in December 2019 arrived in a suburb of Chicago on the somewhat balmy following Friday. I had taken the train to Chicago; I beat the postcard there.

I dropped three postcards in a rush into a blue mail pick-up bin in Union Station in Los Angeles on a Monday evening in December, 2019. In my rush, I had forgotten to write the zip code of the delivery address on two of those postcards. The sole postcard with the complete address arrived in rural North Carolina on Saturday. A postcard missing its zip code arrived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on the following Thursday. And the last postcard was also delivered around the same time, zip code-less, to Houston. So forgetting the zip code adds about 5 days or so to the journey of your mail.

A letter sent at the end of December, 2019, from rural North Carolina arrived at its address in a North Carolina town 11 days later. Pathetic! One of those days was the New Years, but still. Apparently, the post delivery person at the destination street is kind of sketchy.

A letter postmarked on a Friday early in January, 2020, from Santa Barbara, California, arrived four days later in Houston, Texas. Compare that to the lagging journey of the letter that never even left North Carolina above!