By the time that you read this, I will have retired from the United States Postal Service (USPS). I have proudly served as a letter carrier since June of 1984 and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Knowing that I needed a better job, my friend Dirty Al (don’t ask) told me that the USPS was hiring in the Bay Area. I left my wife and son in Madera with my parents and spent three weeks in Berkeley studying for the test. A month later, I was hired and swore an oath to protect the mail. The James Farley Post Office in New York City reads: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Herodotus should have included Tule Fog.
My trainer for a whole week was Earl, an Eagle, Globe and Anchor on his arm. Now days, newbies get three days of training. He taught me how to read addresses upside down and how to use dog spray correctly.
“Watch the wind kid; it will push it back and burn your skin! Certified mail, registered mail, postage due, join the union, walk faster”!
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Delivering mail on one side of the street and then back down the other, it reminded me of picking grapes back home. I made the mistake of wondering what was in a foreign package one day, and he said, “Never mind what’s in it kid, just deliver it!”
After the week, he walked off into the sunset, retiring to Eureka. I missed his grumpiness immediately. As soon as I put on the blue uniform of the USPS, I was transformed. I was no longer some guy, I was a letter carrier!
Little old ladies would open their front doors wide to receive me. People smiled wider and welcomed me to their doorsteps. You know how little kids get all excited when we come up the street and they yell, “Mailman, give me the mail”? That’s how grown-ups get, too.
“It’s hot, want a bottle of water?”
“Hey, mailman, how about a cold one?”
People know and trust the uniform and I am just fine with that.
My days started at 6 a.m. I would carry a route and then pick up mail from the blue collections cans until 7:30 p.m. My paychecks were the biggest I have ever had, but I was too tired to spend them.
My wife and child joined me, and I got hooked on espresso, bagels and cream cheese.
We drove Jeeps back then, flimsy clunkers that you could unlock by just looking at them.
Watching me get burned out on the long hours, a supervisor asked me if I wanted to carry the University of California route. I found myself delivering mail to Boalt Hall Law School and the Paleontology Department at UC Berkeley. It was a shorter day, and I found myself getting to relax a little more.
The campus was a small city in itself. Music played in the square every day, bookstores everywhere, food from all over the world. I was in heaven.
But all good things come to an end, and my wife and I missed Madera. Nana and Papa would fuss over our kids (three of five at the time) whenever we visited, and I soon made arrangements to transfer back to Fresno.
Assigned to Cardwell Station, I delivered mail on Blackstone Avenue. Hey, I know this street! It got even better when I was loaned to Madera for six months, and I walked to work.
I was then sent to Hughes Station and got my first dog bite. Folks, this is no joke. Dogs are territorial, they protect their turf. Sam, Winston and Dee love me but I keep them behind our fence. Please do the same with your pets.
My experience as a letter carrier in Berkeley paid off. I was soon training newbies just like Earl taught me.
“Pick up the pace! Deliver all the mail! This ain’t no warehouse!”
As I deliver my route on Marks and Belmont avenues for the last time, I think of Earl and think he would say, “Good job, kid.”