When I was a kid I remember our neighborhood mailman. He used to read all our postcards and comment on every one of them. He knew all the people in the neighborhood and all about each one of us.
“I see that Nancy had a great trip to New York!” he’d say to Mom and Dad.
“How did Chrisi like her visit to Pennsylvania with her cousins?”
“I see Rosanne is working as a park ranger at Mt. Rainier this summer!”
He had all the dogs conned because he knew their names, and he brought them doggie treats, too. They’d jump for joy when they saw him coming, the traitors. He knew all the sports scores so he could talk with the dads and teenage sons, and he knew gardening secrets and great recipes so he could chat with the moms. He knew all the teen idols and the latest hit songs to talk to the daughters about. He would accept snacks, sodas and cups of coffee to go. He always asked for cookies. He was quite a character, and we all looked forward to seeing him.
When I left home I figured that a postman like that was an anachronism, a vestige of a Mr. Rodgers neighborhood, something I’d never see again. I moved to Auburn and we had many different mailmen over the years, but they were all in a hurry. Being a postal carrier is a demanding job with little time to stop and talk, and their workloads kept getting bigger.
Then one day the greatest of all mailmen arrived in our neighborhood. He is silly, engaging, comical, completely irreverent, and quite wonderful. He knows everyone’s name, and he toots his horn when he delivers the mail. He has the funniest stories, the craziest Halloween costumes, the goofiest laugh, and the most hilarious attitude of any postal carrier we’ve ever known. He always smiles and laughs no matter what the weather. He has amazing anecdotes to share. I can’t name him or he’ll get me good.
Our postman doesn’t dawdle because he can’t; he has too many stops to make. But the few seconds he spends with each of us is worth a lifetime of joy because he is such a character. He pokes fun at everyone. When we leave on a trip he says:
“So, you’re going on vacation AGAIN?” You think you can just waltz off and leave me to deliver all your packages someplace else? I’m just gonna give your stuff away. Who do you think I am, your mailman or something?”
And when we return home he catcalls:
“Wait a minute: do I know you? Oh wait: you were gone on that long trip! So now you’ve decided to come back? What? You think I have mail for you? Nope, maybe later.”
When it’s scorching hot outside he’ll say:
“You know: SOME people think to offer their mailman cold drinks in the summer heat.”
Sometimes he’ll taunt me:
“Your daughter and her family are talking about you over on the next block … you should hear what they’re saying about you, ha ha!”
When he sees my husband outside working on the yard he can’t resist teasing him:
“I’m gonna steal your weed eater and destroy your neighbor’s bushes. Then he’ll think you did it!”
Or when he catches us sitting on our front porch:
“Whaddya mean you’re retired? I’m gonna have to work until I’m 200! Wait: how old are you guys, anyway? Did I ever tell you about the time I …”
Our postman doesn’t miss a thing. He knows us, our families, our comings and goings, our lives. If there was a new Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood show, our postman would be on it. And he would have everyone laughing out loud.
I spoke with a postman named Daniel today. He delivers mail in South Georgia. I was telling Daniel about our mailman and asked if things were the same in his neighborhood. He said that most dogs hate him, and he rarely sees the homeowners because the houses are all rentals. Sometimes he gets to wave to a kid, or pet a cat. I suggested he start carrying dog treats since the dogs probably smell the cats on him. I told him about our area, and now he wants to come deliver mail in Auburn!
To all our patient, hard-working postal carriers and postmasters all over America: Thank You for what you do! Getting a letter in the mail is a small miracle, and we owe you all a giant thanks!
Rosanne S. McHenry is a local author and former park ranger. Her award-winning book Trip Tales: From Family Camping to Life as a Ranger is guaranteed to get you laughing out loud.