Receiving and Sending Mail in the Finger Lakes
Mail, often referred to as "snail mail" to distinguish it from e-mail, is the same in the Finger Lakes as anywhere else in the United States. Postage stamps are issued by the U.S. Postal Service, an office of the federal government. You can buy them at post offices, stores, and on-line. The stamps you buy are usable anywhere in the country.
Rates, as well, are uniform throughout the country. For example, if it costs $.39 to mail a letter from one town to the next, it will also cost $.39 to mail that same letter clear across the country. That's because the cost of mailing something is determined by the weight of the item, not by the distance it will travel. (This is for mail traveling within the United States and doesn't necessarily apply to mail being sent to other counties.)
Addresses can be confusing, even for Americans. A typical address might look like this:
101 Main St.
Palmyra, NY 14522
The first line is the name of the person to whom the mail is to go: a person whose given name is John and whose family name is Smith.
The second line is the address to which the mail is to be delivered. St. is the abbreviation for street. The name of the street is Main, and the number on that street is 101.
The last line is the name of the post office whose job it is to deliver the mail to 101 Main St. It may also be the name of the town 101 Main St. is in, but it is not necessarily so. NY is the abbreviation for New York, the state the Palmyra post office is in. 14522 is the zip or postal code for Palmyra.
Because the last line of an address is only the name of the post office that delivers the mail in that area, it is wise, especially when traveling in rural areas to ask, "Are you actually located in Palmyra?"
For example, the address for the Southern Cayuga Planetarium is:
2384 State Rt. 34B
Aurora, NY 13026
But the planetarium is actually located in a town called Popular Ridge. It just gets its mail from the Aurora post office, the postal/zip code of which is 13026.
Let's say you want to stay at a bed and breakfast in Ithaca because your son is graduating from Cornell University and you want to go to commencement. You will notice that there are many bed and breakfasts listed as having an Ithaca address. But if you knew the Ithaca area, you would realize that, although some have an Ithaca mailing address, they aren't actually located in Ithaca. So, it would be wise for you to ask, "Are you actually located in Ithaca?" and "How far are you from Cornell University?" Sometimes a bed and breakfast in another town may be closer to Cornell than a bed and breakfast that's actually in Ithaca.
How are postl/zip codes determined? Good question. A state is divided into postal districts. Each district has a district post office that sorts the majority of mail sent to and from that district. The Finger Lakes is divided into five postal districts. The zip code of all the post offices in a particular district all start with the same two or three numbers. Then all the post offices in a district are put in alphabetical order and given two more numbers based on their alphabetical order.
For example, Rochester is the largest postal district of the five in the Finger Lakes. All the mail in the Rochester district sent from one post office to another first goes to the Rochester post office to be sorted and shipped. All the post offices in the Rochester district have postal/zip codes starting 144, 145, or 146. Then the post offices in the Rochester district are alphabetized and given numbers. Adams Basin is 14410, Albion is 14411, Alton is 14413 (there is no 14412), Avon is 14414, and so on. To find a post office's postal/zip code, you can either check the postal service's Web site, look in postal/zip code directories that are in every post office, or check here.
Receiving Mail in the United States
Most people get mail delivered to where they live. If they live in an apartment building, there are usually individual mail boxes in the lobby for each apartment. If you live in a house, the mail carrier will either put the mail in a recepticle outside the front door or in a recepticle out by the road. You can also rent a box at a local post office. If you are just visiting for a short time and want to receive mail, you can have the mail sent General Delivery to the post office of your choice. You will have to go to that post office and ask the clerk if any mail has come for you general delivery. Mail is delivered to apartment buildings and houses once per day Monday through Saturday.