Devilry must also explain the postal shortcomings that readers have told me about in light of my pre-Shafroth paean.

Mary W. Matthews of Chevy Chase: "On September 10, 1981, I put ten letters into the mail. All ten of them were bill payments, and all of them were correctly addressed and correctly stamped. Three of them arrived at their destinations last week (her letter was dated Oct. 19). The other seven of my creditors have sent me nasty letters asking where their money is . . . . "

Mrs. Thomas V. Denney of Alexandria: "The enclosed letter mailed in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 13 was delivered to our home on Saturday Oct. 17 at 1:10 p.m. after the bank had closed . . . Today (Oct. 19) is a bank holiday in Virginia. Which means the check will be deposited on Tuesday. We have lost one week's interest through no fault of our own . . . . "

Jacqueline Atkinson of Arlington: "They used to pick up the mail three times a day on our corner. Now they pick it up once, at 8:30 a.m., and not on Sundays or holidays at all. What kind of service is this?"

The answer, Jacqueline, is: cheap.

E. Dallas Kennedy of College Park and several other readers asked how the 20-cent, first-class rates that went into effect this month stack up against the rates in other countries. Thomas Chadwick of the Postal Service provided the following check list, with the figures translated from local currencies into U.S. equivalents:

Japan: 29 cents.

Great Britain: 33.9 cents.

France: 29.6 cents.

West Germany: 29.3 cents.

Sweden: 33.3 cents.

The Netherlands: 29.2 cents.

Australia: 26 cents.

And so on.

The only Western nation that "underrates" us: Italy, at 17.6 cents.

So kwitchabellyachin'. Things could be worse, and they probably will be worse. But for now, they're relatively better.