Most children, on the rare occasion that they take a moment to ponder their future, share many similar career dreams. Many mention something about wanting to be a professional football or baseball player, or a rock star, or maybe something more realistic like a firefighter, police officer or teacher.
One career that intrigued me in my youth that to my knowledge wasn't shared by my friends was being a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service.
Mostly, I liked the idea of being outdoors so much, in the fresh air. The whole motto about rain, snow, sleet or hail not being able to stop a mail carrier was attractive to me; I liked the idea of having to brave the elements in order to deliver a day's mail to everyone on my route. Even if some of the recipients dreaded the bills and junk mail I had for them, I figured that each day there would be at least a couple people on my route who were anxiously anticipating something I was bringing to them.
I've never been a fitness freak or lover of exercise. I'm satisfied to be active enough to not die about 40 years prematurely, and always figured that delivering a mail route on foot day after day after day would certainly qualify as sufficient exercise. After all, when was the last time you saw an obese mail carrier covered in sweat and huffing and puffing as he lumbers down the sidewalk? (Newman from "Seinfeld" doesn't count.)
I always figured being a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service was the ultimate once-you-get-your-foot-in-the-door gig. It was a government job, it was unionized, the benefits were good, and once you built up seniority and if you did a quality job, you were practically untouchable.
Maybe it's for the best that I never seriously considered a career in the mail industry. The U.S. Postal Service is billions of dollars in the red, hours and services are being cut, jobs are being lost, and now, there's talk of Saturday mail service being nixed.
But maybe the job isn’t all that I envisioned it was in my youth. When my wife and I first moved back to Crookston, we had a mail carrier whom we found quite entertaining. He didn't walk as much as he moped along. Soon we were calling him, not to his face, of course, "Sad Sack" and "Zero Charisma." I'm sure postal carriers despise the worn out jokes about "going postal," But Zero Charisma always struck me as someone who could indeed open fire on a nanosecond’s notice.
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I remember watching polar bears at the Como Zoo in St. Paul a few years ago. After observing them for a few minutes, I realized the two bears repeated the exact same movements over and over and over, without deviation. It was depressing as hell.
The image of those poor bears crossed my mind a couple years ago when I pulled into our driveway as a mail carrier strolled up the street. I exited the vehicle and walked toward him to get our mail at the end of our driveway. "Great, thanks. Save me a few steps," he said in appreciation.
A couple months later, the scene repeated itself, and he said, "Great, thanks. Save me a few steps."
About a year later, our youngest son was playing in the front yard when I observed the same carrier coming up the hill. I opened the door and told our son to meet him in the street and get our mail. "He'll say, 'Great, thanks. Save me a few steps,'" I told the kid.
He gave me a perplexed look but did as he was directed. I watched through the living room window as he met the carrier and took that day's mail from him. Then he turned toward me as the carrier ventured across the street and mouthed to me in very excited fashion, "HE SAID IT!"
Mail carriers = Captive polar bears?