Internal mail

Yes, I know. Of course we still have internal mail. This is the correspondence sent and received between people in the same company. (As opposed to external mail, which actually ventures out into the world.) It’s just that nowadays the internal mail tends to be in electronic format, which, at the touch of a button, can be instantly transmitted to hundreds of recipients. You may even have the facility to find out which of the recipients actually opened it.

Before such magic arrived, internal mail was a decidedly inconsiderate and cumbersome process.

First, it involved the acquisition of a special physical envelope. The envelope must be able to be reused. It needs to have a panoply of address boxes that are filled in in order.

Next, you wrote your mail. (Possibly using actual handwriting or your typewriter.) It could be a memo, a luncheon voucher, a piece of birthday cake, or a touching memento of a Strategy Meeting.

You then wrote the name and address of the intended recipient in the most recent address box on the envelope.

You then placed the envelope in your out tray. (Or, for the truly beleaguered, you wandered down to the post room and found the correct pigeonhole to post it in.)

At some designated point in the day, the employee tasked with this most sacred of duties collected the envelope from your out tray. This employee sorted the mail by department using cunning cataloguing apparatus on his or her postal trolley.

He or she then visited every department in the company, located your intended recipient and thoughtfully and reverently placed the special envelope in their in tray.

The recipient then had a number of choices not available to today’s employees:

  • claim the envelope never arrived, and that it was lost in a intra-departmental corridor malfunction in Dorking
  • forget about the envelope
  • simply not open the envelope
  • open the envelope, acquaint themselves with its message, and respond accordingly
  • open the envelope, acquaint themselves with its message, and ignore accordingly.

No-one would know. (Unless you did what the mail told you to, of course.)

Naturally, there were opportunities in transit, too. The reason that no-one ever put anything truly confidential in the internal mail is that you weren’t allowed to use adhesive to stick the envelope down. This envelope had to be reused many times, after all. There was no reason the postperson couldn’t take a look at whatever it was you were sending to John in Accounts because you couldn’t stop them.

The process could also take several days between the collection from the out tray and the arrival in the in tray. Now that everyone gets the message immediately, and no-one can eavesdrop, one more uncertainty has vanished from this world. One more mystery. I miss mystery, sometimes.

The fastening was never adequate

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