Going postal

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

This phrase was a translation by Prof. George H. Palmer, Harvard University, from an ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers c. 500 B.C. The motto so engraved in all of our minds as the Postal Service motto is actually engraved on the outside of the James A. Farley Post Office building at 8th Avenue & 33rd Street in New York, New York.

Wait. Did you know that the Postal Service doesn’t have a motto? The well worn “neither rain, snow, etc.” phraise is just associated with the USPS because of its location on that building in New York. The Postal Service doesn’t subscribe to the notion of “no weather will stop us.”

Trust me. I now know first hand.

We’ve been lucky in the past to have great mail carriers, most specifically, a woman that delivered our mail every afternoon up until about a month ago. She was really very nice – one of those people that would wait for you to put a couple stamps on some mail, or would stop and pet the overanxious and ultra-excited dog in the front yard. She recognized us and delivered a little small talk with the mail whenever I would be outside. It was also nice to get our mail delivered around 3 p.m., especially since I’m a late sleeper when I’m on night hours, and (frankly) I never remember to get the mail until about 2 or 3 in the afternoon anyway.

For the past few months, though, I haven’t seen any part of our new mail carrier. He comes earlier, and even when I’m home he’s in and out without any notice.

I can’t blame him for this – his schedule is obviously different, and it’s been pretty cold out so I can’t imagine he’d be hanging around much. In fact, I had hardly even given this a passing thought.

Until today.

In our mail today, along side the catalogs and bills, was a little note: a copied half-page form note.

The note...

It read: Please help your mail carrier avoid slips and falls by clearing SNOW and ICE from sidewalks, steps and driveways used to get to your mailbox. If SNOW and ICE are not removed your mail will be held at the Post Office until the problem is solved. Thank You for your cooperation.

Are you kidding me?

I understand the concept of this note. There could be nothing more annoying than to have to wade through two feet of snow to get to a mailbox, or to have to navigate a treacherous sheet of ice just to deliver some poor sap’s Sports Illustrated magazine. That’s fine. I’ve got no problem with that.

This, though, was uncalled for.

Why, you ask? Well, we’ve got hardly any snow on the ground. And it’s not slick. At all.

Here are some pictures. First, you’ll notice our front yard. You can still see the front path under the snow. You can also see that it’s still snowing – in fact, it had been snowing off and on for the past 24 hours. I’m not going to shovel when it’s just going to snow again. It’s not that thick – in fact, I’d venture to say that if you can still see the lines of the sidewalk, you’ll be okay walking through it.

The house...

Speaking of walking, here’s a picture of me standing in the snow. It doesn’t look that deep, does it?

The feet...

I know it’s not that deep. I measured it. Here’s the ruler: 0.25 inches.

The ruler...

That’s it – a quarter inch of snow! A quarter inch of snow stopped this poor weather-burdened man from delivering our bills!

Finally, check this out – our neighbor has his walk shoveled already. Notice the difference between the shoveled walk and the snow addled walk. Hardly deep enough to hold our mail back, I’d say.

The walk...

Sorry if I sound upset, but I am. This guy’s pulling strings that he doesn’t have any business pulling.

Maybe our new mail carrier has something against our dog barking at him periodically when he comes up the walk. Maybe he’s been tenured; a 40-year veteran of the Postal Service that’s so cranky about his position that he’s got to take it out on the innocents. Personally, I don’t care. I don’t appreciate it when people take their job a little too seriously. He’s got this power to hold our mail, and he’s using it to get a clearer sidewalk – a sidewalk that was going to be cleared anyway. A sidewalk that wasn’t that snowy to begin with.

Part of me doesn’t want to clear the snow. I know, it’s the male ego in me that wants to stand on the front step as he comes down the walk and see if he’ll deliver the mail, to refuse to shovel the walk because this guy told me to. The other part of me, though, wants the mail. I’ve got a bunch of MP3’s coming from an old St. Cloud friend, and I don’t want this turd to keep a hold of them.

So, forever taking the high, yet passive aggressive, road, we followed up with this note:

...and the response!

Thank you for the note. We apologize – I understood we have 48 hours to clear snow. For your knowledge, this is the first time we didn’t clear the first day. Regards, Vilhauers.

See? We are the victims here.

In one day, the allure of a postal service carrier – the ability to buck up and take on the elements – has been shattered. I know now that some of them can be as temperamental as a tenured college professor, not caring one way or another how things get done as long as their personal needs are still being met.

Nothing can stop their delivery, eh? Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay a courier?

Not as likely anymore, I guess.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 11th, 2006