03 August 2007

The Postman Cometh. Loudly.

Jeff Culbreath's recent post about a wonderful children's book, The Jolly Pocket Postman, reminded me of something I've been meaning to post about for some time: rural mail delivery.

Do you know your mailman's name? Do you know anything about him? Out where we live, everybody knows Ron Dudley. He's been buzzing around the country roads, delivering mail, ever since retiring from the military and taking this up as a civil service job. There are many more like him in these rural areas, driving a huge territory to make sure the mail gets to everyone. In some cases, the rural mail carrier is the only human being that some isolated people see in a given day. Because of the stability of the population out here, and the stability of postal employment, rural mail carriers end up getting to know just about everyone on their route. And when mail unexpectedly piles up in an elderly person's box, carriers have been known to get out of their cars and investigate whether the resident is alright or not. If you don't know how much postage a large envelope requires, or if you accidentially don't put enough postage on an envelope, many rural carriers will afix the proper amount when they get to the post office --- and then collect the money the next time they see you.

Mr. Dudley has a new automobile which he occasionally uses on the route, but he's usually out in his old blue compact car. Picture a Ford Fiesta or something similar. The thing has no muffler, so it's louder than a motorcycle. We thought at first that it lacked a muffler because he hadn't been able to get it fixed or find a replacement part. Turns out, he deliberately removed the muffler. Why? So people could hear him coming from a mile away! As it turns out, this is a wonderful way to signal that the mail has arrived. Also, there have been countless times that I've heard the "Dudley Drone" coming down our road and I've remembered that I forgot to put the outgoing mail into our box. If I jog slowly down the driveway, I can intercept him at just the right time. We'll exchange mail, joke around for a moment, and then he'll be again droning down the road (with Rush Limbaugh blaring from the stereo, if it's between 11am and 2pm).

At Christmas time, we always bake extra cookies so we can give a dozen to Ron Dudley. Ditto for our UPS driver, Scott. He's been driving this same rural route for many years, and like Mr. Dudley knows everybody. When I'm ordering something and have a choice of shipping options (UPS or FedEx), I choose UPS because that means Scott will be stopping by in his big brown truck and we'll have the chance to talk with him.

These guys are definitely part of the glue that holds a rural community together.

1 comment:

Jeff Culbreath said...

Great post, Chris. Sounds like a good fellow to have handling your route. Cookies and pies for holidays is a time-honored way of solidifying friendships among neighbors. We should do more of that.

A few months back our own postman noticed that we receive a lot of Catholic mail and asked where we go to Mass. Turns out he's also Catholic and attends Mass regularly. We don't get to chat much because our home is back quite a ways from the road, but he always waves when we see him making the rounds.

The sad thing is that, these days, turnover seems to be pretty high for mail carriers, and I suspect the pay is tough to live on in California.