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Stamped envelopes and packages show up in everybody’s mailboxes or on their doorsteps daily, and that is something people may take for granted. After all, mail delivery is kind of like clockwork and is something postal customers have come to expect, even on Sundays now.
It is not always so easy for mail carriers, however.
All jobs have obstacles to overcome, and the duties of a mail carrier include, among other things, dealing with dogs — sometimes not-so-nice canines at that — bees that buzz out of boxes, icy conditions, unshoveled paths to their destinations, snowplow-leveled boxes, and distracted — occasionally dangerous — drivers on the roadways.
Whether in the rain, snow, the scorching heat, or the bitter cold, postal carriers do their thing in pretty much all weather conditions.
And just like with any job, there are perks that go along with delivering the mail.
Rich Crowther, customer service manager with the Newtown Post Office, who has been part of the US Postal Service for 34 years, said mail carriers get to know families and watch them grow.
“They watch the kids grow up and move on. They become part of the neighborhood,” said Newtown Postmaster Cathy Zieff, who has been with the US Postal Service for 21 years, six of which have been in Newtown,
“They get to see the seasons change,” added Mr Crowther, a former mail carrier himself.
The day begins at 8 am. Mail carriers sort through hampers full of envelopes and packages to organize approximately 4,000 pieces of mail each for about 500 customers on each of their routes. This takes roughly three hours. Then the carriers are out in their trucks and on the road for the next five hours. Mail trucks get hot inside during the summer and very cold in the winter.
“In the winter, it’s like driving around with your windows down for five hours,” Mr Crowther explained.
While the concept has remained largely the same — carriers bringing mail to customers — there have been many changes in postal delivery throughout the years.
Mike Brush, a rural carrier associate and safety captain for the Newtown Post Office, notes that the number of parcels has grown significantly.
“When I started, we delivered out of our own cars,” said Gary Mudgett, a Newtown postal carrier who has been delivering mail for 33 years. Mr Mudgett added that there might be a dozen or so parcels each day, back when he started. “Now I’m delivering 200 parcels a day. That’s how much it’s changed.”
Mail carrier Jerry Sousa says there was no Sunday delivery as recently as 2015.
The driving force behind the increase in parcels — packages that are too heavy for regular mail service — is online shopping, Mr Sousa and other carriers noted.
There is a vast variety of items, from animals to truck tires, that push the 70-pound weight limit that is sent on any given day.
“On Halloween, I delivered a pumpkin,” Mr Brush said.
From Bees To Bears
People mail everything from barbells to bees, complete with the honeycomb. Bees are a welcomed part of the job when boxed appropriately. But when they are in the mailboxes, that is another story. Mr Crowther noted that mail carriers encounter bees that fly out when they open mailboxes, and added that a trick customers can try in order to alleviate the problem is inserting a mothball into the mailbox.
On the topic of wildlife in mailboxes, one of the more unusual memories of the job for Mr Mudgett was when he encountered a small critter during a delivery.
“I opened the old rusty mailbox and a mouse ran right up my sleeve,” Mr Mudgett said.
Mail carriers have also seen a wide array of wildlife, including bears, while out on their routes.
“They’re out there. They have no fear,” Mr Crowther said of bears.
The most common animal-related problem carriers have, however, is with dogs in the yards, or those that push their way through the front screen door, for example, Ms Zieff pointed out.
Ms Zieff and Mr Crowther note that dogs are doing their job, protecting their property, and even if customers think their dog is friendly, it might not be with a stranger, or a mail carrier might not know whether or not the dog is his best friend.
“You can hear the truck a mile away. All of a sudden the truck is in their yard,” Mr Crowther said of the dog’s perspective of the invasion of the mail carrier.
Ms Zieff said there have been three dog biting incidents in town since the calendar turned to January, among thousands of such incidents across the country, and she asked customers to keep their dogs restrained during deliveries.
Mail carriers are also at risk while on the road and in their trucks, of course.
“We’ve had accidents because of distracted driving,” said Mr Crowther, adding that cars occasionally hit parked mail trucks.
The US Postal Service delivers pretty much every day, although very infrequently a day will be missed because of a blizzard causing the state to shut down roads, for example. This past winter included one of those nondelivery days.
In Newtown, there are approximately 45 employees, including close to 40 carriers, to make the process of mail delivery go smoothly in all of the weather elements, along with any other obstacles.
Mr Mudgett, who grew up in Newtown and lives in Woodbury now, is one of those who likes being greeted by dogs on his route, and the best parts of the job, he said are “the people I work with, the people I meet out on the route and talk to, and how excited they are when they get their packages.”
Local mail carriers will participate in the 25th Annual National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive this Saturday, May 13. Carriers and volunteers will pick up donations of nonperishable foods left by postal customers at their mailboxes, requested to be out by 10 am.