June 20, 2006 - The Ed Flag
We've all seen a lot of flags lately. With the World Cup kicked-off and full speed ahead; the flags of the nations of the world (at least 32 of them) are being waved from side to side, from coast to coast, and from sea to sea across the globe. Yesterday, the dedicated staff of edhat.com was looking at a different type of flag, one that isn't much good for waving, but has a purpose just the same.
The flags we're talking about are ones on the side of mailboxes. People put the flags up when they want to tell the mail carrier that they have a letter for pickup. Ed tells us the raising of the flag is really an empty gesture. He can't remember the last time that he didn't get some mail
- a bill, a catalog, a flyer from the grocery store, a postcard showing a lost child, or maybe a letter from a long lost friend. Just kidding about the letter. Ed and the dedicated staff can't remember the last time they got a letter from any friend, lost or found. Email killed the pen-pal star.
Ed figures if the carrier is going to open up the mailbox anyway to put stuff in, then she'll see the outgoing mail at the time. But, Ed also acknowledges the fact that putting up the flag is pretty fun – not only does it signify the completion of a mail-sending event, but putting up the flag is also one of those down-home feelings that connects us with our past. It's a distinctly unplugged moment – no remote control, no message at the beep, and no call ahead for pick-up. All we need to do to communicate our intention is to raise the red flag.
And here's an interesting fact - the flag itself is a mini-version of the hook used by the railway mail system in the days before Air Mail.
Stations where the train didn't stop put their outgoing mail in a canvas sack and hung it from a hook. Without even missing a chug, the train would take the sack off the hook as it sped by.
In the postal world, the word “flag” means “got mail”, but in the digital world, the word “flag” refers to a small bit of information on a computer chip or in a data record that refers to one specific thing, like “delete this” or something like that. Hard to describe, but we mention it to show that the flag concept is pretty basic to a lot of things.
In our flag search yesterday, we encountered a couple of flag positions guaranteed to confuse even the best of mail carriers.
Some flags were at half-mast, some were broken, and some were pointing down. Once again, we used our dedicated judgment to categorize the flags. The ones we couldn't determine were flagged for subsequent review. Overall, 10.7% of boxes indicated mail inside. The other 89.3% offered no indication as to what was inside the box.
It is an Ed Letter Day for Var805. His/Her guess of 10.5% was the closest to the actual number, meaning that he/she is the winner of an Edhat t-shirt. In order for contest winners to get their t-shirt, a simple flag raising won't do. They need to email us so we can drop it off on Shirt Patrol Friday (SPF).
We want to hear from you ... tell us what you think of this tidbit
Want to get instant fame and cool prizes? ... enter today's contest