Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

06 Mar 2005, 23:11 p.m.

Don't Get Me Started On The SFO Post Office That's Open 18 Hours A Day Including Sundays

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2005 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

My father, a civil engineer and Hindu priest, and my mother, a homemaker with a master's in literature, founded Amerikannada together. It was a family affair from the beginning. My parents solicited articles from their friends, fellow immigrants from India's Karnataka state. They all spoke Kannada, a language with a rich heritage that my parents wanted to keep alive in the American diaspora. Hence the name. The logo featured a griffin-like creature, half-lion, half-bald eagle.

As my parents processed subscriptions, wrote, and edited, my sister and I stapled, stamped, glued, and sealed bits of paper in languages we couldn't quite yet read. We used the magical bulk-mail stickers, red and orange and green with single-letter codes, and piled envelopes into burlap sacks and plastic bins for the frequent trips to the post office.

It was always my Dad who took the Amerikannada mail to the post office. He was strong in those days, heaving the great bags of mail like an Indian Santa Claus alongside the blue-uniformed workers on the loading dock, the part of the post office most people never use or even see. My sister and I came along, not to help -- how could we? -- but to keep my Dad company.

The magazine died. The Internet entered our lives. My father grew frail. I never saw the bulk stickers again; companies now print barcodes on envelopes for presorting.

Salon moved into Rincon Center in February. I've discovered a post office downstairs. I think my coworkers don't entirely share my glee. Sure, it is convenient for changing one's address and for sending packages. But the most exciting part is the tiny philately department that sells the special collector's stamps. I thought it was a museum at first, since the displays take up so much of the room. I saw stamps of odd denominations, strange shapes, spare designs and colorful ones, and even collector's stamps that are not valid for postage.

A wizened collector stood at the counter, asking for a few rows of a Reagan and a panel of sparrows. He and the seller spoke in code, in mantras, in reverence for these stickers that mean more than simply payment for the conveyance of an envelope.

The next time my Dad comes to SF, I want to take him to the philately room. Maybe they'll have a lion stamp somewhere that I can smoosh together with an eagle stamp. He always did want me to take over the magazine.