Wall Street Journal reporter Barry Newman pens a piece on the "Remote Encoding Centers (REC)" of the U.S. Postal Service— "...where hundreds of clerks sit in silence, day and night, staring at America's worst-addressed envelopes."
There are two RECs— one in Salt Lake City, Utah and one in Wichita, Kan. where 1,900 clerks cope with machine-unreadable mail from the whole country. Last year there were 714,085,866 chicken-scratch "nixies" according to the article.
"A nixie (it's in the dictionary) is a letter with an illegible or incorrect address," writes Newman, "Salt Lake's nixies land on a table where nixie clerks take a last stab at divining where they're supposed to go."
If they can't figure out the nixie's return address and/or destination, the nixie's next stop is a hamper marked "dead letter office." From there it goes to the last remaining 'Mail Recovery Center' in Atlanta. There clerks will open any letters that might look important or contain cash. After that, it's "hand-delivered to the shredder," according to the article.
Shown above, Debbie Holender and Jonathan Berry, at the Salt Lake processing center, try to decipher an address.
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