You’ve Got (Junk) Mail…


The 1998 film featuring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan of (almost) the same title changed the way people used the phrase… For centuries, “mail” referred to letters that were hand delivered or placed in one’s mailbox. In fact, I quote from Wikipedia:

“The word mail comes from the Medieval English word male, referring to a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled that way until the 17th century, and is distinct from the word male. The French have a similar word, malle for a trunk or large box, and mála is the Irish term for a bag. In the 17th century, the word mail began to appear as a reference for a bag that contained letters: “bag full of letter” (1654). Over the next hundred years the word mail began to be applied strictly to the letters themselves, and the sack as the mailbag.”


I used to collect postage stamps as a kid, and had hundreds of them (not sure where all those albums went actually) so it’s interesting to note that we have been using postage stamps on our mail for almost 2 centuries… So it was definitely a bit of nostalgia that drew me to all these wonderful mailboxes (of the last two centuries type) while walking through small towns all over Alba in Northern Italy.


I guess I miss the anticipation, the joy of checking my mailbox and finding real (not junk) mail there. A letter carefully written, taking note of the penmanship, quality of paper, type of pen, the well-thought out content with the occasional crossed out word or words, and folding the paper just so to return the letter into the envelope… I could tell which letters came from my grandmother, parents, family, friends, etc. My college mailbox on campus saw an occasional letter from home halfway around the world, something that I would answer and only receive a reply to almost a month later. I got lots of typewritten rejection letters from potential employers in my mailbox, and an occasional phenomenal offer letter that made up for all the previous rejections. I guess I just miss real mail.


Email is so much more efficient, I will grant it that. But it is often soul-less. Now if only they had virtual mailboxes as gorgeous as these, maybe that would be the happy medium. :)

P.S. That post it note on the last mailbox is a message from the delivery man with a box ordered from It tells the recipient that he/she came by, no one answered the bell, and it wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, so to call them so they could return to drop it off… I know, I read it, no? :)


14 Responses

  1. You are getting old and nostalgic, Marketman. On that note: didn’t your mom teach you not to read other people’s Avviso di Passaggios? :)

    On the other hand, I was talking to a friend who is traveling in England the other day. Me in Brazil, she over there, voice over ip, for the price of the internet connection and it hit me. Isn’t it great? Twenty years ago it would have been prohibitive, impossible.

    The key, I guess, Iike for the handwritten letter that took a month to arrive, is to rejoice in that conversation and to derive meaning from it. The meaning is always in the humans anyways, never in the technology, as Aristotle would have said had he thought about it. :)

  2. A pertinent paraphrase from Herodotus writing about the Persian messaging system is carved on the frieze of the Post Office building in NY, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”

    These precious relics will persist only while people are writing to each other. The whole setup is now under assault on so many fronts, the costliness of the old system, the seductive speed of email, the debate between teaching cursive writing and keyboarding, etc.

    For my part, am still holding on to my small collection of vintage German fountain pens and with them continue what my parents learned to do, write letters and notes instead of resorting to long distance telephone calls. There’s a lot less to mail away now given that email’s swiftness has taken over a lot of my correspondence. It amuses me though that young people immured in their own music and social media devices take a second lingering look at me whenever I say I still cling to these quaint old habits.

  3. When I was in grade 5-6, my mom encouraged me to have girl pen pals from abroad to improve my writing and composition. I have pals from the US, Greece, South Africa, Canada,Trinidad and Tobago. And I remember the excitement and joy I felt everytime I opened my mails. We even sent each other small packets of gifts like stationeries, postcards and stickers. The communication continued until I was in early college then as they started getting married and got busy raising a family, the letters dwindled. My most memorable mails were love letters from hubby! Nowadays, I only get bills in the mailbox!
    So with the holidays coming soon, I still prefer to send christmas cards to relatives and friends abroad than an electronic greeting!

  4. I’ve always loved the nostalgia brought by hand written letters, cards and postcards. The idea that a lot of time is spent on writing them (with the occasional corrections or two hahhaha) is leaps and bounds from the textspeak and wrong gramming prevalent on emails and social media posts. Nowadays, it never fails to make my day when a parcel i ordered from an online shop will contain a small handwritten note of thanks – and yes I continue to hoard them ^_^

  5. Marj, I agree, handwritten notes trump a text or email any day. To this day, for certain things, we still write handwritten notes/thank yous… and we insist that our daughter, a millennial does it as well.

    Ron, thanks, can you tell that quietly we have been CRAZED. That branch opened a week or so late, but I really like the way it looks! Next stop, Manila. Fingers crossed on that one… :) Permits have taken 2-3 months longer to obtain in Makati than in Cebu, and we aren’t done with them yet!! But then again “change was supposedly coming…”

    Betchay, were pen pals a 70’s thing? OMG, I haven’t heard that term in eons. And I think mostly girls had pen pals, I certainly don’t remember any boys having them… is that sexist or what?

    Footloose, I still have a pear wood pen rack on my desk, with a couple of good writing/fountain pens, though I have to admit, I am using them less and less… but they look good sitting there keeping me company while I tap away on a keyboard of a computer.

    Leticia, hahaha, I absolutely do NOT read other peoples mail, but I figured the post it was posted for the public to see, so I peeked. :)

  6. six months before my wedding, I had to go to Japan for six weeks to do a training program. my then fiance’ wrote and mailed me a letter a week before i arrived there, so that i received his letter on the day i arrived. he continued to write me every single day I was there, and my participants and staff got wind of it and teased me and watched me check my mailbox every lunch break. of course i wrote back everyday. too.

    to this day, those letters are among my most treasured possessions. it makes me wonder how one young lovers these days can save text messages or emails in a fancy box tied up with a satin ribbon.

  7. Gee, Millet, that brought back the lyrics of a song current in my time but which might have already flitted away during yours:

    Love letters straight from your heart
    Keep us so near while apart
    I’m not alone in the night
    When I can have all the love you write

    I memorize every line
    And I kiss the name that you sign
    And, darling, then I read again right from the start
    Love letters straight from your heart

  8. Footloose, your comment led me straight to YT to seek out the inimitable Nat King Cole singing that song once more.

  9. O.T.

    MM, from the photos I saw on FB, SM Seaside Cebu branch looks great! I like the high ceiling and the very wide entrance! It’s quite big space you got there. Is it the biggest Zubuchon?

  10. Ron, it’s one of our smaller branches, it just has spectacular almost double height ceilings and an unusually large frontage on two sides of the space, it’s why we chose it. Seaside will take a couple of years to get going so we just needed a presence but not a very large space. Having said that, our first weekend was rather busy since we treated all mall employees and SM staff to a PHP59 lechon meal, that is well below cost. A bueno mano giveaway with the (intended) result that many folks in the mall know exactly where we are located now. :)



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