Wednesday, August 3, 2011

ZIPpity-do-duh: A postal money maker (from 2008)

I've vowed to blog nearly every day unless I don't feel like it. I feel like it every day, really. I enjoy it. But today a friend's in town and we've scheduled an afternoon of South Side Pittsburgh debauchery and I have my priorities.

Still, I can't help but fret the day I do not blog will be the day President Obama or any of the congressional big shots read my blog for ideas on how to straighten out the messes routinely addressed here.

In case that happens today, here's a really good idea of mine from 2008.

I'm confident it could earn the federal government billions in revenues.

Too bad it hasn't earned me even a dime.

For the sake of mental convenience, I’m thinking of packing up the family, all our stuff and moving the whole shebang to Newton Falls, Ohio.

That way I could age into eventual muddle-mindedness in the town that has perhaps the easiest zip code to remember in the entire United States.

Yep, welcome to Newton Falls, pop. 4,892, zip 44444. I don’t think the town, about about 30 minutes west of the dormant smokestacks of Youngstown, gets the acclaim it deserves.

I’m in the midst of a comprehensive study about zip codes for pin heads. It’ll be four years ago in February we moved one mile from near Latrobe, Pa. 15696, to postally proper Latrobe, Pa. 15650, and I still occasionally find my password-cluttered mind stumbling over the difference. It has me wishing I lived someplace where my zip had some zing.

Some place like, say, Schenectady, N.Y. 12345. Of course then I’d forever have to be spelling Schenectady and that would never do.

We are a numerically obsessed nation that shells out precious dollars for vanity license plates and fret whenever the fickle phone company threatens to bump us from our familiar urban area codes to something less comforting.

For the good of the nation, it’s time we extend that obsession to the humble zip code. I think it’s time the government begin selling zip codes to communities that stand to profit from the postal panache.

Why, for instance, is Las Vegas 89123 -- a lousy hand of a fold ‘em number if ever there ever was one -- when it could contribute $1 million to the national cause by paying for the unused 77777? Just think how much publicity it would get from the news if it paid for those lucky numbers, instead of having the ones randomly assigned by faceless bureaucrats at the U.S.P.O.

(Trivial Aside: The father of the zip code is a postal employee named Robert Moon, who submitted the proposal for a “Zone Improvement Plan” back in 1944.)

It’s a sure money maker and many cities and towns could have contests trying to claim one of the many unused numbers still available. And there are plenty of them. The post office only uses 43,000 out of the 100,000 possible 5-digit combinations.

Many of the good and obvious ones are still gathering dust on the postal shelf. For instance, 44444 in Newton Falls is the only five-of-a-kind zipper in circulation.

According to my research, the lowest number in the system is Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, with 00601, which begs the questions: What happened to the first 600? Did someone think we’d someday annex Cuba and might need 00001 through 00600? The nosebleed award goes to Yukutat, Alaska, with 99589.

Bond, Colorado, appears to be perfectly insignificant to the rest of the world, but how much publicity could it gain if someone with a puckish sense of humor bestowed them the perfectly obvious 00007? Reporters from all over the country would descend on Bond with each new Bond movie to write reviews that would appear under headlines like “Bond on Bond,” or “Licensed to Deliver, Bond 00007.”

Same goes for Salem, Massachusetts, which labors under the clumsy postal designation 01970. Why not cash in on their witch-hunting history and brand the local post office with the mark of the postal beast, 00666?

My wife Val speculates stratospheric bidding between Houston and Cape Kennedy would launch over who most deserves the available countdown zip of 54321?

Little Rest, Massachusetts looks like a line of binary code with 01010 and is the lowest aggregate total of any zip code because there is no reverse 10101 in the system and nothing with four zeros and a single 1.

I could retire to Sunrise, Florida, with its full house zip code of 33322. That’d be easy to remember.

(Trivial Aside #2: Sunrise is a planned retirement community that was originally named Sunset. But developers quickly found out that creaky retirees don’t like being reminded that the sun is setting on their lives so they nominally swapped the astronomical actions and sales grew robust. Sometimes perception is everything).

How much would Philadelphia pay to liberate 01776 from North Sudbury, Mass? Philly is the birthplace of the greatest nation in the world. 01776 would be a constant mail reminder of that proud history. Why surrender it to North Sudbury which gave the nation what? Geographic balance to South Sudbury?

For as long as I live, I’ll never forget the phone number of a man who left a thriving dentistry practice to become a shepherd (long live National Enquirer!). I asked him the best way to get in touch for a story and he told me, “Just dial GOD-PISS.” That’s what his number, 463-7477, spelled. I would think something similar could be done with zip codes.

New York could claim the unused 27753 (APPLE), coffee mecca Seattle could splurge on BEANS (23267) and the beer makers in Milwaukee would doubtless bubble with enthusiasm at the opportunity to snatch SUDSY (78379) from Riviera, Texas.

(Trivial Aside #3: Trivial Aside would be a dandy name for this blog if I ever get tired of 8Days2Amish. In fact, it practically nails the sum accomplishments of what I’ve been doing my entire life).

These kinds of trivial matters fascinate and distract me. Apparently, it is a zip code of enthusiasm I share with few others. I’ve pitched this story to numerous magazines over the past year or so. Would you like to know how much interest I’ve gotten from discerning editors?

You guessed it.


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