Does any group of public servant endure greater indignity than postal workers, in particular, mail delivery persons? Members of the Armed Forces are regaled with respect by a mostly grateful populace some of whom even dress their vehicles in bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons to emphasize their support. We may be envious of health worker salaries but we certainly see them as a valued service and worthy of exceptional compensation not to mention spend hours of our youth pretending to be doctors and nurses (some continue this game into adulthood for admittedly different purposes). As kids we dream of being firemen/firewomen and police officers and despite the momentary loathing when a speeding ticket is issued, we still seek cops when we’re in trouble and at times applaud them. Teachers may get our dander up when contract time rolls around but they too perform a task many of us shudder at the thought of doing ourselves. Why even the oft overlooked sanitation worker gets a measure of respect for doing a most unpleasant task and again, kids love them.
Postal Workers Get No Respect
Postal workers, however, just don’t pluck the population’s cello strings. Children may be thrilled with their deliveries around birthday time but you never hear a kid say they want to be a mailman when they grow up. Adults are more likely to mock the entire profession than admire it. This is not a new phenomenon. Oh sure, in the early days things were pretty good on the respect front. The whole “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” sounds noble enough; patriotic even. In those glory days the postal service used ships and trains and horses and walking to deliver what for most was the only means of communication with loved ones. Plus Gore-Tex and Nike and union mandated limits to work hours and weather conditions tolerated didn’t exist so they kind of earned their accolades. Then again, in those days people wrote letters by hand with pen and ink so everyone was pulling a bit more weight.
But for most of the past half century, ‘going postal’ wisecracks aside, the post office has more often been the butt of jokes than the crotch of respect. Even today the dominant image the public holds of mail carriers comes courtesy of two icons of network television; Cliff Clavin from Cheers and Newman from Seinfeld. Neither would be classified as embodying the epitome of human virtue nor an imminent threat. They’re just harmless nuisances that we tolerate when we think of them at all. Delivering the mail is the Rodney Dangerfield of public servants; it just gets no respect.
Sure, they’re an easy target. They are, after all, literally being replaced by boxes. Being replaced by a robot may rupture your self-confidence and burden your family but at least you know it took one of the most advanced creations of humankind to replace you. Even being outsourced to cheap labour abroad may be deplorable but the reasoning behind it is easily understood if not accepted. But to simply be replaced by a box, that’s just deflating; emasculating, even.
Personally I think the days of door-to-door mail delivery are long overdue for relegation to the history books and I eagerly await my first visit to our community mailbox. Progress relegates some professions obsolete, unfortunately. My great grandfather built a printing business based entirely on products you can now create yourself on a laptop. I’m not so cold-hearted that I have no sympathy for these folks losing their jobs. I try not to kick someone when they’re down and so obviously down for the count.
But, sigh, it can be hard; so very hard. Especially when the easy target drops a kick me note into your mailbox like this one. It’s an official notice from Canada Post informing us that our mail delivery will be suspended “due to the danger posed to [our] letter carrier by an aggressive hawk in the neighbourhood” , ironically delivered to our door. Scary birds are making mail delivery too dangerous. Hitchcock would be so proud.
I suppose this could be legitimate. At our old house the robins were pretty squawky whenever our cat was leashed up in the backyard. The chickadees at the bird feeder are frantic enough to leave me wondering about their mental stability. Ostriches are just weird. So I guess an aggressive hawk could pose a threat if it were stupid enough to mistake a mailman for the mother of all gophers. They’re not exactly eagle-eyed now are they?
This family of Swainson’s Hawks has been nesting in our neighbourhood for a few years now and it makes for impressive sights and sounds each summer. This year the happy couple produced three chicks so our August skies were filled with the squeals of five beautiful hawks soaring on the updrafts as they hunted over our neighbourhood disappointed, no doubt, by the lack of mail carriers to feast upon. Oddly enough, the daily commuters walking to and from the public transit station, directly beneath the hawks’ nest, were never targeted. Moist, lean joggers have had no problems. Even the children and pets in the local yards have yet to be carried off by the winged raptors. I guess hawks are suckers for a uniform, but who isn’t really.
I’m trying to restrain my sarcasm, honest. I mean these birds apparently busted a bicycle helmet one mail carrier donned as protection a few years ago. There’s even a scientific reason for this targeting of the good folks from Canada Post. Am I so shallow as to allow decades of Clavin-Newman stereotyping colour my reaction to this inconvenience in my regular junk mail and flyer delivery expectations leading to a snarky rant about government, unions, and entitlement?
And Totally Redeem Yourself
At first blush it would seem that yes, yes I am. Then these two guys showed. Two weeks after that fateful notice was delivered and my cynical synapses (cynapses?) fired up these guys arrived in our neighbourhood and totally redeemed not only themselves but the entire mail delivery profession. Despite the ever present risk of injury from mad birds of prey raining down blows from the heavens, these two heroes delivered our mail. Helmetless! Just two fearless Canada Post employees proudly dressed in full uniform; one delivering the mail, the other standing guard with a junior sized baseball bat (Canada’s version of the saw-offed shotgun more familiar to our American cousins). Damn! Straight! Come and get some devil birds! Oh Canada! Oh (bleeping) Canada!
I never did see these patriots again. Maybe I missed them. Maybe they were reeled in by bureaucracy. Maybe the hawks cowardly took them out after hours in the parking lot of their favourite watering hole. But for one glorious day they rekindled my faith in the postal service and left me reconsidering my anticipation of the box. Until next year, gentlemen, I stand on guard for thee.
But for now, the threat is over and all combatants can stand down. Canada Post informed us in late August that our daily mail service will resume as per normal. After all, school is back in session and I’ve notice the hawks spending far more time circling above the school these days. Even hawks agree that veal tastes better.
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