Last week I quit another job.
I started delivering mail in Dunsmuir about a month ago, thinking a part-time job with USPS would be an easy way to earn a steady paycheck and get me out of the house after my summer of ditching work to play outside left me broke and craving structure.
And structure was exactly what I got. Paperwork. Training. Supervisors upon supervisors. Pee tests. (I passed. Anything is possible.)
A month was about all I could take of that noise. No more government jobs for this bish.
The real reason I left was the schedule. I was working way more than part-time and had to miss two races because of work: one I was planning to participate in and another I wanted to crew for a friend.
I just can’t let that happen. Money comes and goes, but my time is something I’ll never get back.
After I saw that I was scheduled to work during both races even though I had requested those days off a month prior, I gave my supervisor two weeks notice.
I’m sincerely grateful for the month I spent there. I got to spend my days driving through north Dunsmuir in autumn, watching the river flow and trains pass with the windows down in 80º weather.
The fall colors were also pretty dope.
But the thing I’ll miss the most is the quirky cast of characters I met while delivering mail.
Here are some of my favorite mail customers:
The first character I met is an elderly woman who lives alone and waits outside for the mail every day (even in poor weather.)
She sported a fuzzy beard and told me she was schizophrenic within the first few words we exchanged.
“I was just born that way,” she clarified.
She was always very sweet to me, although I heard from other mail carriers that she could get very… emotional if there was no mail for her.
As I handed her mail to her every morning, I would try to spend a minute or so chatting with her, thinking back to my time volunteering for a suicide hotline in college and all the lonely old folks who would call on a daily basis just to have someone to talk to.
I figured if this lady has been living with a mental illness all her life and freaks out over mail, stepping out of my usual style of avoiding eye contact and small talk whenever possible was probably what my higher self would want me to do.
She would often ask me if the young men at work told me I was cute. When I answered, “No, nobody at work tells me I’m cute except for you,” she would assure me it was just because they were shy.
One day, she told me that she hopes I get promoted to a job inside where I can sit at a desk and tell people what to do because I know ALL THE THINGS.
I’m really lucky there were only two days I didn’t have any mail for her. The first time, I was saved by her phone ringing inside. The second time, though, was on my last day.
She wasn’t even waiting outside that day so I thought I was in the clear. I delivered her neighbors’ mail as quickly as possible and then darted back to the truck. I heard her yelling for me as I started the engine.
The sound of her calling, “wait!” kind of broke my heart but I was too much of a butthead to go back and tell her she had no mail.
I sent her a greeting card for Thanksgiving.
(side note- the fact that I did time in the mental hospital makes it acceptable for me to use the term “schizo” in a completely affectionate and non-derogatory way.)
The first thing I noticed about this guy was his mailbox. It’s the sweetest shade of pale/electric blue and surrounded by 10-foot-tall flowers.
I call him Cartoony Councilman because his voice and mannerisms brought to mind a stoned version of Garfield — the cat that loves lasagna and hates Mondays. When he spoke, it sounded like he was delivering well-rehearsed lines of comedy to some invisible audience hidden in his neighbors’ bushes.
Usually, he’d greet me by shouting, “Aloha!” and come out to take his mail directly from me, holding a fat stogie in one hand and wearing a fuzzy blue bathrobe that almost matched the color of his mailbox. As I pulled away, he’d yell, “watch out for the squirrels!”
His name sounded very familiar, so, naturally, I googled him. Turns out I recognized his name because he once served on Dunsmuir City Council (before my time,) and was recalled.
The dude is clearly enjoying retirement. Good for him.
There was an old Italian gentleman toward the beginning of my route who would often bring me veggies from his garden. We had a long summer in Dunsmuir, so I got hooked up with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers throughout October.
I don’t have much to say about this guy other than it was really sweet of him to trade vegetables for his mail. Plus, they were delicious.
He also had a cute accent and spoke limited English. So, I would cheerfully tell him, “have a great day!” and he would reply, “ok-fine.”
One day, I pulled to the side of a pickup truck that was blocking the box at a house that always got a lot of mail (old people get TONS of mail!)
Before I had the chance to get out, a woman, barely 5-feet-tall and dressed head-to-toe in violet, approached to take the mail.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she said, “I don’t want to make you get out. I’m about to celebrate my 60th wedding anniversary so we have lots of company.”
60TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY!!!
Obviously, we had to stop and chat for a bit.
This woman did not look like she could have been married for 60 years, but then she told me she was born right here in Dunsmuir, “in the old hospital on the hill,” 75 years ago.
So she got married when she was 15 and never got out.
When I told her I was from New York, she said she’s always wanted to go.
I looked at her, this extraordinarily sweet, miniwoman with a full head of Aquanet and a silver cross the size of my iPhone around her neck…
I assured her she’s not missing anything good in New York. She gave me a big hug.
Now, can someone please fill me in on where this, “old hospital on the hill,” was in Dunsmuir???
One day — not just any day, but my very first MONDAY on the job — I was running terribly late and found myself accosted by an older woman from Tennessee.
She was walking her tiny dog (crazy people always have tiny dogs) and asked if she could take her mail from me to save me from getting out of the truck.
People seem to think getting out of the truck is a major problem, but I was all for it in good weather.
After handing her the mail, she started to walk away, then paused, looked up at me and said, “I used to be a mail carrier… that was the hardest test I ever took, that civil service exam.”
** I think that was the exact moment I decided I was going to quit **
She had hair the color of a traffic cone and proceeded to stand there for about 10 minutes, telling me all about where she was from, how all her kids did in school, and what they all do for a living these days.
I explained to her that I was running late and thought I was going to get away when she started talking about her other daughter… the one who passed away at 44. She died of kidney failure after overcoming cancer.
She was crying.
I couldn’t get away.
There must be something about my face that makes people want to tell me EVERYTHING.
Anyway, her dog eventually grew impatient and Crazy Tennessee let me finish my mail route.
That’s all I got for now.
I finished my month at USPS with a new level of respect for mail carriers. It’s a tough job I’m definitely not cut out for.
The good news is, I was offered a new, much better job on my last day carrying mail. Perfect timing!
I’m stoked to be the newest freelance medical copywriter at Patient Pop
Back to working in sweatpants in the comfort of my own home with a dog on my keyboard.
The good life.