How do you like to communicate with friends? Do you use email? Perhaps you prefer to text your friends if you have a mobile phone. Technology has made common instant communication and slower regular mail is sometimes called “snail mail." Even if you're crazy about technology, though, there's still something about going out to the mailbox and finding an old-fashioned, handwritten letter waiting for you.

What kinds of mail do you get in your mailbox at home? Does your family subscribe to any newspapers or magazines? Maybe you get lots of bills and advertisements, too.

But what about correspondence from friends or relatives? On your birthday, do you get birthday cards in the mail? How about get-well cards when you've been ill?

Have you ever thought about how those pieces of mail get from their senders to your mailbox? When you stop to think about it, it's really incredible how so much mail can go so many different places in such a short time.

The process starts when the United States Postal Service takes possession of a piece of mail. This can happen when you put a letter in your mailbox to be delivered to someone else. You can also drop a letter in a drop box or give it to an employee at a local post office.

After someone verifies that the letter or package has the correct amount of postage on it, it is then sorted for shipment. The U.S. Postal Service uses advanced technology to scan mail for zip codes. Using this information, bar codes are then printed onto pieces of mail that can be read by routers that separate mail into different areas for further sorting and shipment.

Depending upon how far the piece of mail is traveling, it may need to be sorted and re-routed several times. It may end up on huge trucks or even airplanes. Eventually, it will reach a regional and finally a local post office, where it will be sorted and routed for delivery to a particular address.

Although much of the work is done by advanced computer systems, the final piece of the puzzle — delivery to a specific mailbox — is still done by hand by a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier. And they carry a lot of mail! Over 700,000 U.S. Postal Service employees work hard to make sure that over 200 billion pieces of mail get delivered every year!

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