I love to brag about how the air service pilots, and the fishermen with their own boats, show up with everything islanders need from life-saving prescriptions to new boilers. Then, hand over hand, block-and-tackle or just muckle-onto, any islander within shouting distance normally helps move it up the wharf or off the plane (or off my U-Haul) into somebody’s truck. We can tell stories about unloading new refrigerators at the wharf by moonlight because that’s when the tide happened to be up. Bully for us.

From the comfort of a home computer most Americans can now order a three-piece upholstered living room suite and a button battery for their hearing aid. They will be mailed to the customer’s home in the same box.

Boxes that are larger than a comfortable Winnebago routinely arrive on the “station wagon of the air.” Some weigh a regular ton; others weigh little because they, for all their cubic volume, are mainly bubble wrap and air pillows. These contain a few stainless steel screws or a pound of apples.

A hundred years ago people who lived near the railroad but not near much else could order a house from a catalog and have it shipped as a kit. That made sense. Ordering things for delivery that most consumers can pick up at the store makes sense when there’s a reason, and that reason is usually remoteness. Maine islanders might be entitled to a degree of “special delivery” that maybe we used to think excessive.

Nobody considers it excessive anymore. It may be that not everybody needs to order their corn flakes online for shipment to their doorstep by FedEx or UPS or the postal service. Maybe a few of us could still walk to the store and lug our cereal home as we used to. But why should we, when the neighbor just got a new diesel engine delivered? It came in the same box as a 3⁄32" replacement Ikea Allen wrench.

It might possibly be that the whole business of ordering things that nobody in their right mind used to think could be delivered by the friendly neighborhood letter carrier such as, oh, I don’t know, cottage cheese, and expecting to receive shipment of the same the day before yesterday, is potentially unsustainable.

Just-in-time delivery also has its place in manufacturing. The Toyota plant down the block doesn’t need a truckload of ball joints until it needs it, and heavy industry has its parts and delivery subculture carefully engineered these days to cut way down on warehousing. If they had a small-town post office nearby they wouldn’t have to worry about warehousing, because unlimited storage of massive items would be free. With a smile.

I mailed a good-sized box of Legos to my nephew in Washington state last week for $27. That, I ignorantly thought, was a rather hefty freight bill for something neither heavy, nor delicate, nor necessitating speedy delivery, but such was the option. A friend of mine who works where she would know about these things says stuff gets lost if you ship it cheap, and even cheap isn’t cheap.

In the interest of comparative sociological research and thorough journalism, and at the risk of filling my own and all household computers with unsolicited advertisements for delicacies from far-off realms, I checked into my options were I to order fresh groceries for home delivery. Pshaw on going to Rockland and strolling the supermarkets aisles. Specifically, I looked at my options for ordering eggs. To their credit, a couple of home-delivery grocery companies welcomed my inquiry but admitted that they didn’t serve ZIP code 04851 “yet.” (I actually had to enter 04851, because the technology thinks I am on Swan’s Island 04685, the location of our telephone switch. They don’t ship there, either.)

The dozen mail-order eggs from California sells for $4.46, which is a perfectly normal price for organic eggs. It’s less than I pay when I get eggs from my chicken-keeping neighbors. The shipping bill would have been $22.99, or $32.98 for expedited delivery. This is as it should be. In my opinion, should I expect to have eggs (eggs, for cryin’ out loud … in the mail!) shipped all the way across country, it ought to be gosh-darned expensive. Also, it makes perfect sense that some of these companies don’t ship to my ZIP code. I wouldn’t either, but Amazon will.

What made me sputter was that it still cost less to ship the eggs across the continent than to send those Legos, which were neither delicate nor perishable. I looked it up: there was only 70 miles’ difference between the two cross-country spans in question, so that shouldn’t be the hitch. Different shipping companies? Perhaps, but come on.

The Legos wouldn’t even require twenty fathom of bubble wrap.