Saturday, February 9, 2013

Mr. Postman...Wait!

Oh yes, wait just a minute Mr. Postman
Wait Mr. Postman

Mr. Postman, look and see
If there's a letter in your bag for me
I've been waiting a long long time
Since I heard from that gal of mine

A couple of weeks ago my work brought me to New York City.  For those that do not know, NYC can be a tough place to drive unless your car is yellow and says Taxi on top.  So, this time I choose the train.  As I exited Penn Station and stood in line for a taxi to midtown I noticed the historic New York City Post Office which as you can see looks like a building you are more likely to see in Europe.

When admiring the building amongst the hustle and bustle of the street, my eyes were drawn to the words carved above the columns.  

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

I've heard these words on a TV ad or two in the past, but like some things I never paid much attention.  However, for some reason this time they stuck. This time they made me think way back to the early 1970s and a story about a little boy, his brothers, and of course a mailman.  

I guess I was about four or five at the time of the story and we looked a little like this.    

From right to left you have the handsome one (AKA your author), my brother Joe (who by the look of the white tie and shirt was celebrating his First Holy Communion), and the "Instigator" as my mom called him or the "Mastermind" as I preferred.  His name is Mike.

Back then, our mailman didn't deliver mail from the comfort of his truck.  He walked. I used to sit outside and watch him saunter up and down the street in his shorts and tennis shoes and think he had a pretty good gig.  He was outside in sunny Southern California where the temperature rarely dipped below a chilly 75°F, had a good tan, and always seemed to be in a good mood.  In those days there was no FedEx, no UPS, no email, and no texting, so not much competition.  If you wanted to reach someone outside your local area you either had to drive there, call them (from a phone attached to your kitchen wall - - gasp!) or send a letter.  So, business was good and our mailman was in no hurry. 

I almost forgot one little detail.  In our neighborhood, the mail wasn't delivered at the street.  We had a handy slot in the front door so each day he had to come up our walkway and slide the mail inside the house.  My mom loved it because she didn't have to go out and brave the mean streets of So. Cal. suburbia.  And, three mischievous boys loved it because it spurred an idea on boring summer day.  

For my older brother Bill's birthday I scrapped together whatever spare change I could find and purchased the finest Batman squirt gun I could afford.  As you can see below, it was a thing of beauty.  

To this day, I swear I had no intention of using it, but as it sat, pristine in its shrink wrap, I could not resist.  Keep in mind this was summer so any chance to cool off was taken seriously.  Sure, we could have dove in the pool or ran through the sprinklers, but for a young dude, the chance to be armed with the most technologically advanced squirt gun in town, could not go to waste.  Plus, the "Mastermind" had a grand plan.  It went a little like this...     

The next day as my brothers gathered and filled up all the squirt guns they could find, I was to be the "scout" and keep watch out the front window.  When our mailman entered the neighborhood I was to give the sign.  Just then, we would quietly sneak out so mom didn't hear and hide out in the bushes near the front door.  There we would lie in wait until he came up our walkway so we could soak him!  As the "Mastermind" explained it with an extra bit of drama, I had visions of John Wayne prepping for a secret World War II mission.   

I think I was in scout position at least an hour early.  As my brothers scoured the garage, toy boxes, and cabinet drawers for squirt guns, I sat, resolute.  As the morning rolled on, the squirt guns were prepared and the target was spotted slowly walking across the street.  We moved into position and waited.  At just the right time, we popped up, and soaked him, half his mail bag and ran around to the back of the house to safety.    

He took it like a man and did not say anything to my mom, but she saw it all go down out the window.  So the next day, after Mom duly explained that this was not something "nice boys do," we waited outside to apologize.  As our mailman approached the house we readied our apology, but just then he pulled out a much nicer squirt gun and surprised us with a dose of our own medicine.  We stood there soaked and realized we had been duped by a better foe.

From that day forward, and throughout that whole summer, we launched surprise attack after surprise attack on our mailman.  Sometimes we were the victors and sometimes we were left soaking wet.  It didn't matter if our mail had to be laid out to dry before Dad came home, we were having a ball.  The next summer, the "Mastermind" moved onto another crazy plan and we left our mailman alone.  He continued his saunter up and down the street at ease without fear of battle. 

It has almost been four decades since I paid much attention to mail delivery.  Over time our family moved to a new house, my brothers and I got older, and we lost interest in squirt guns.  Life moved on.    

These days, we live on the East Coast, our mailman drives a truck, and probably would not take too kindly to a squirt gun sneak attack.  I no longer spend my summer days sitting watch for him to enter the neighborhood because the only thing he seems to deliver me are bills, credit card applications, and advertisements which quickly find themselves in the recycle bin.  If there is anything important to be delivered, my friends at FedEx or UPS visit the house.

So while I don't stand watch any longer, I do think about my old mailman every other Saturday morning.  Like those days from long ago, our guy walks right up to the door and delivers the important information for the day.  Unlike the past, he doesn't hold letters from a distant friend or even birthday cards with cash from grandma.  No, his delivery is much more important.  These two boxes come from a pharmacy and contain the necessities for our girls' treatment.  There are a few IV bags, a few adapters, some water for injection, a couple tubing sets, and a cooler filled with something that looks like this...

Yep, it's Lumizyme delivery time!

I rush to meet our FedEx or UPS man at the door each time with a big thank you and a sigh of relief.  It may sound strange to you, but despite over a year of bi-weekly deliveries, I am still not comfortable until I've signed for those cartons, unpacked the supplies and placed the Lumizyme vials in the fridge.  Only then I know that our girls will once again get the treatment that keeps them moving and we can go on with our weekend.  

As the vials need to stay cold, I am on the watch to make sure everything goes well.  The majority of the time, the delivery is like clockwork, but when the weather wreaks havoc, things can get a bit crazy.  We've had to cancel plans because deliveries were a few hours late, we've had to meet the UPS truck on his route because he forgot the second box, and once we had to wait nervously for two days until a winter storm's wrath allowed for delivery.  We've seen the effects of missing a treatment only once and want to do our best to stay on top of it.  You should see Donna work the UPS phone lines...impressive!

Looking back, the 1970's in Southern California seemed idyllic.  It was a slower and simpler time, at least for me and my brothers and our friend that walked the streets with a mailbag over his shoulder.  I have no idea where our old mailman is these days.  He was a good man and I hope he is retired, healthy, and living in some warm climate far away from little hooligans with squirt guns.  If I did get a chance to connect with him I would say thanks not just for the fun we had that summer day, but for doing his job.  While we did not seem to care what was in his bag, I'm sure someone did.  I'm sure back then he delivered pills to a nice old lady's house or important supplies to someone's child.    

A long time ago, I could not have imagined that one day I would step foot in New York City.  Also, I could not imagine I would be writing a blog about my family.  And finally, I could not imagine I would once again be so excited to see a postman deliver something to the house.  Sure, these days he may not wear a blue uniform with USPS on the front, but rather with FedEx or UPS.  In the end however, it doesn't matter because...  

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor squirt gun attacks stays these 
couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Great work gents!  Great work!

Credit to: The Beatles, “Mr. Postman”
       Song originally by The Marvelettes