Friday, July 18, 2008
I have two weird and useless anecdotes to share. One is about the United States Postal Service’s lock box and one concerns finding lost bungees on U.S. highways.
Christmas presents in July
The first anecdote is how the U.S. Postal Service just delivered a couple of packages containing Christmas presents to us – like, last week – that were mailed by family members in mid-December 2007.
We received a letter in our mailbox from a local USPS supervisor, which read as follows:
To Whom It May Concern:
We recently retrieved a package from your parcel locker lock box. This package has been in the lock box for some time. In the future there will be a key in your mailbox which will be an indicator that you have a package to pick up from your parcel lock box.
Supervisor, Customer Services
Gee, thanks, Al Gore. (See lock box, if you missed the reference.)
You know, it would have been just swell if they’d actually given us a key to the parcel locker in question seven months ago, back when Mom’s Christmas cookies were still edible and the photos didn’t have heat and moisture damage. We’d written those particular presents off as lost long ago. But for seven months they were just sitting in a lock box, mere feet from our apartment building, unbeknownst to us.
The plight of the lost bungee cords
A friend of mine rides his bike a few miles to work each day. On this ride, he says he finds a bungee cord alongside the road every couple of months or so. This has caused him to wonder how many bungee cords are lost on U.S. highways each year.
Based on his personal experience, his conservative guess on lost bungee cords is about four bungees per mile of road per year. Though he says he actually finds more than this amount himself, but not all highway roads may be so bungee-rich.
Before actually doing research, he estimated that about one million bungees are lost on American highways each year . . . because he’d guessed at the amount of highway in the United States. How? By quadrupling the 80,000 miles of highway/interstate system that existed in the 1920s (or so he remembered reading) and then multiplying by four.
Well, I took it upon myself to push this intrepid bungee-calculation effort a step further, by locating modern data on the number of miles of highway in the United States, using what we call “teh internets.”
Here’s some information I found:
- There are 3.95 million miles of roads and streets in the U.S. (as of 2000)
- State and federal roads combined are currently about 0.9 million miles
- The National Highway System (NHS) of the United States comprises approximately 160,000 miles
- The entire Interstate Highway System, as of 2004, had a total length of 46,837 miles
The Google search of beauty that resulted in this useful bevy of data was the following: “united states” “highway system” total miles of road.
This piece of information (while not useful for our current calculations, but interesting for comparison) was repeatedly found accidentally: There are approximately 233,000 miles of railroad track in the United States, and 143,361 total miles operated for all freight railroads in North America.
Given these new, modern statistics for U.S. roadways, our totally scientific estimate for bungee cords lost on state and federal highways is now just under four million per year.
That’s a lot of lost bungees. Perhaps we should establish a nonprofit bungee recovery/rehabilitation shelter and adoption center? No bungee left behind!