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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Chiang Mai: Where did all the stamps go?

Once again, I'm in a country that has abandoned beautiful stamps for machine printed, metered, ugly things. They get my postcards where they should go, but give me no pleasure in the buying, affixing, or dropping in the mailbox.

In fact, I no longer get to perform the latter two tasks. The clerk at the counter peels them off a strip that streams from a small printer and puts the stamps on the postcard for me. Those blue and red and white par avion stickers are gone. The clerk will do that for me, too using a rubber stamp.

Since the clerk counts the postcards, and enters the number into the computer, there is no chance of a mistake. No more frustration at discovering I bought too many of this one and too few of that. There are no struggles to fit the stamps onto the postcard without obliterating the message or part of the address. The old traveler's rule of 'stamp first, write later' no longer applies. There are no complicated directions. No more "two of these and three of these and one of these'. I miss all that.

Some countries printed their stamps in denominations, like money. When the postage for a letter increased, all anyone had to do was add another stamp of the proper denomination. Some countries were just using up the old stamps in the old denominations, as we do in the US. For others is was permanent, cheaper way of printing postage. I'm sure the meters save money, too.

I've heard that you can buy stamps at some stores. I'm going to ask. I'm hoping they don't have machines, and the stamps are pretty.

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