MY WHITE MAILMAN With the Beard and Bad Attitude
—By Frederick A. Hurst—
Mail service is so bad. And getting worse. The cost of a stamp keeps creeping up. Regular overnight delivery that we had become so comfortable with no longer exists. And it is disconcerting to get a letter postmarked out of Hartford instead of Springfield especially when mail arrives one, two or three days later than in the past. And at any time of the day!
And if you run a small business, this absence of predictability causes problems. You don’t know if the mail is coming at 12:00 in the afternoon or 4:00 or if it’s coming at all, especially on Saturdays.
We know the United States Postal Service has financial problems. And we know that the United States Congress has contributed to the problem. But it can be problematic. Especially when money-grubbing bill collectors give you only a few days to pay without a penalty that they all but verbally encourage you to accrue. I’m talking about large insurance companies, banks and credit card companies. Some give you ten days to pay and the post office takes up three. And if it’s before a weekend you lose two more days and add one day for holidays and you pay a penalty for not paying a bill within four or five days that you would have been more than happy to pay on time. And if you are on vacation when the bill comes in, you can’t win. You will contribute to the profits of the money grubbers whether you like it or not. What happened to “Net 30”!?
But you don’t want to blame the mail carriers who are simply doing the best they can under strained circumstances. Unless the mail carrier is my White mailman with a beard and an attitude and sloppy work habits. And probably a level of union protection that makes him not give a damn.
My beef is not speculative. I had spent the morning at work writing checks for about a dozen and one half bills. I left them at the front desk of my office where the mail carrier has picked them up for the last twelve years. And we have always had a congenial relationship with the different mail carriers who would park their truck in our lot and bring the mail into the office and take the outgoing mail from our counter. It seemed like such a direct and safe approach. Even more so than putting our mail in a drop box. So what happened to my outgoing mail with this White mail carrier with a beard and an attitude shook my confidence in the entire United States Post Office system.
I’ve been a mental endorsee of the United States Post Office since reading in my youth about the Pony Express riders who rode through Indian country to deliver the mail at the risk of life and limb. And of course the inspirational movie “The Postman” starring that great actor Kevin Costner added to my adoration. And even my prior use of the now mostly obsolete telegraph and the land-line telephone did not deter my superior confidence in an institution that has never faltered in my mind and consciousness, e-mail and twitter and other social media in general notwithstanding. In my mind, the United States Postal Service was sacrosanct as were its mail carriers whom I viewed as trustworthy to the bone!
As far as I was concerned, if every other institution in America failed, the mail would be delivered. Russia could deliver ten dozen atomic warhead missiles on my hometown with one landing directly on my house and if I somehow survived the holocaust, I still would have awakened the next morning expecting the mail. Tornados? Hurricanes? Nothing could stop my mailman or deter my absolute faith in him/her.
If, perchance, a day of mail was missed, the rarity of it instantly shifted the blame in my mind from the mailman to whatever unanticipated and unusual and absolutely unavoidable catastrophe that caused it. And if there was none that was obvious, I would search the deepest recesses of my mind to find one that would protect my mailman from shouldering the blame. That’s what was drilled into me as a kid and what I just naturally expected through adulthood until my White mailman with a beard and an attitude shattered my confidence beyond reprise.
I guess I should tell you the details. Every month I go through that horrible, despicable and painful process of paying bills. On this particular day, I wrote more than a dozen checks out – probably a dozen and one half – and meticulously placed them in clearly addressed and stamped envelopes and placed them on the front counter in anticipation of the normal office mail pickup. This particular day just happened to be the one and only day of the week that my White mailman with a beard and an attitude is scheduled to deliver and pick up our office mail.
It has been the same routine since we opened our office twelve years ago. The only difference is that our mail person has changed. In the past we had a White mailman and a White mailwoman without beards and with wonderful personalities. And we even have had a Black mailman with no beard and a wonderful personality. And for most days of the week our current mail person is a White woman with no beard and a wonderful personality. And we have never had any problems with any mail deliverer until relatively recently when this White mailman with a beard and an attitude started delivering our mail one day out of the week. And on one particular day the White mailman with a beard and an attitude shattered my heretofore unwavering confidence in the United States Postal Service.
Now, to get to the point, on this particular day this White mailman with a beard and an attitude entered the Point of View office through the door that leads to the front desk, which is down the far end from where my office is located. I knew when he arrived because I was watching for him in anticipation of a reciprocal mail delivery from my debtors, who presumably were writing checks to me. Which is a normal thing for a small business like ours. You carefully monitor what goes out and what comes in. It’s all part of what is called cash flow management. It is a very serious part of running a small business. And if you don’t take it seriously and fail to do it right, you will soon be out of business.
And this particular day was the end of the month when a lot of serious bills come due. So when I left my mail with company checks enclosed on the front counter to be picked up by the White mailman with a beard and an attitude, I had no reason in this entire world to not believe that my mail with all my checks was leaving my office in the hands-on care of a responsible employee of the United States Post Office – I’m talking about the United States of America Post Office! But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
On this particular day, the White mailman with a beard and an attitude delivered my mail to the front desk; picked up my outgoing mail with checks enclosed (some substantial) and walked out as usual. And on this particular day, I happened to be at my glass door at the opposite end of the building looking out at the mail truck and wondering why my White mailman with the beard and an attitude was not in it. I knew he had left my front office.
Before long, I had the answer. He had walked from our office to a next door residence with my mail in his hand to deliver their mail before returning to his mail truck. And I observed him as he walked back to his mail truck. What I didn’t know at the time is that he had delivered the mail next door and left all of my outgoing business mail with all my checks except one piece with the next door resident’s kids who soon began opening my outgoing mail along with their own incoming mail.
I feel blessed because an adult in the house stopped them and made them return the mail to my office that evening. We didn’t know they had surreptitiously returned it until the next morning when we found it on our counter and on the floor. We eventually determined that they entered the office while nobody was at the front desk and left the altered mail and made a hasty retreat. Of course I had to check the contents of each envelope against what was recorded on my computer before re-sealing the envelopes and re-mailing them a day late.
But I was left with a real bad feeling about the reliability of the services of the United States Post Office that wasn’t assuaged when I informed the White mailman with a beard and a bad attitude a week later. He made it clear that he didn’t think it was a big deal. “You got it back, didn’t you?” was his casual and callous comment.
I was stunned speechless as he walked out of the door and proceeded to deliver mail to my next door neighbor again. I recovered as he walked toward his truck and I went out to talk to him again. And I said to him that I didn’t think he quite understood the seriousness of what I was saying. And I was quite civil until he put on his union veil and made some nasty comments and told me, “You can’t prove it was me.”
Well, I wasn’t out to prove anything. I just wanted to make certain he grasped the gravity of the situation. When he made it clear to me he could care less, I enjoyed watching his pained reaction when I referred to him (in the vernacular of course) as the rear orifice of a donkey.
It was not a gracious reference. But I felt much better, although my confidence in the United States Postal System has been dramatically diminished.
(In all fairness, I don’t think it was about race. My White mailman with a beard and a bad attitude was simply a bore and a drag on a postal system that is faltering with folks like him on board.)