Sunday, May 1, 2011

Questions for the Mailman

Apartment mailbox from 1916

If you know me, you know I LOVE mail; letters, mail art, postcards, packages, quick hellos, fabric postcards, and anything you can put a stamp on. I am a little bit obsessed with mail. This all led to an idea to interview a mail carrier for my blog from time to time. As much mail as I send,  I have somehow never met my own mailman ( I blame this on those new neighborhood security mailboxes...not a fan), but I have befriended my best friend's mailman 1800 miles away in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has had the same mailman for over 10 years and I have occasionally written a little "Hello" or "Thank you mailman" on letters and postcards, and last Christmas I figured he should get his own holiday card c/o Jodi.

So, when I decided to do my questionnaire, "John the mailman" was my first choice! And, to my surprise, he didn't even think I was crazy, and he graciously agreed to answer my questions ( written out properly, stamped, and pop it in the mailbox!).

Here is a little bit about John
Milwaukee, WI 53208

John with a friendly cat on his route

How long have you been a mailman and what did you do before this?
I've been a mailman for 21 years now, as of Feb. 10th. I graduated from Marquette University with a liberal arts/ English degree in 1981. Bad time to leave college with a recession and all. My first job out of college was as a claims adjuster, a job I hated.

What's the most interesting or unusual thing you've delivered?
It's hard to say what the most unusual thing I've delivered might be. I'm a romantic, and I'd like to think that on any given day, I'm delivering letters from one star-crossed, dewy-eyed lover to another. As to the stuff I've knowingly delivered, I suppose it was an urn of a customer's father's ashes. That was a heavy package too.

What's the nicest thing someone on your route has done for you?
There are a lot of nice things people do and have done for me. There's one woman whose dad was a mailman, and he always got cookies and baked goods from the retired ladies on his route. So when she retired she started baking stuff for me. And her stuff is really GOOD! I've started recommending her chocolate chip cookies as an all-natural cure for the blues.

( And my Christmas card made the list!)

One of John's favorites

What do you hate to deliver?
I hate to deliver accountable mail- certified and registered mail- to people whose houses are being forclosed. You can feel the despair.

Do you have a favorite stamp that the USPS has issued?
I like the new puppy and kitty ones. I also liked the "Letter Carriers- We Deliver" ones from 15-20 years ago. I think the old ones- the 3 and 4 centers from the 1950s and 60s are the ones I most like to see. Of course, there were also some Green Bay Packers Commemoratives from '97 and '99 that I liked so much I got First Day Issue for each.
(Green Bay is my hometown!)

Have you ever been bitten by a dog (or person)?
I got bit by one dog-on my stomach of all places. Big target, I guess. If that stupid dog only knew how much I like dogs, maybe he wouldn't have done it!

Anything about your uniform mail carriers wish they could change?
I posed this question to the assembled masses out on the dock having a smoke before work. Most people wouldn't change a thing because, well, we're guys- and since it's a uniform we don't worry about picking stuff out and making it match and all that- we're just not that picky. I actually think the uniform one of the things the Post Office got right.

(hmmm,I will have to find a woman to ask in the future.)

Has anything embarrassing ever happened on the job?
Well, there was one day when I was delivering to a neighborhood, and noticed a huge number of greeting cards for one address,  and said to the woman who came to the door, "Looks like it's somebody's birthday!" Pause. "Actually," she said, "My husband just died." Now, I've said a lot of stupid things over the years, but I've never wanted to take one back nearly as fast as that one.
There was also the time a woman said she'd introduce me to someone she thought I'd like- and it turned out to be her brother. She assumed because I was still single and never married at 40+ that I must be gay.

And lastly, I always love to ask people this; What is something we can't tell by looking at you?
One of the many things you can't tell by looking at me is that I am NOT an idiot. So many people get the impression that mail carriers may be nice, but not so smart. If I had a dime for every person who treated me like I couldn't spell "cat" if I were spotted the "c" and the "a", I'd be retired already with a lake home and a time share in Ireland.

A big "Thank you", John, for taking time to mail these, put up with follow-up emails, and email some pictures from your Milwaukee route. If anyone has a question for the mailman, feel free to leave it in the comments.... I think we could convince John to answer some more! :0)

apartments along the way

And everyone go bake some goodies for your dedicated mail carriers! I know mine deserves it- what goes through his head when he sees another stack of fabric postcards and crazy mail art? Also, according to John, make sure your mailbox is emptied while traveling so they can still fit all your mail goodies (and junk) in there!

*John, hope all your days are 65 degrees and full of sunshine!*


Anonymous said...

I am lucky to have John for a mailman! That's my old apartment building, and I immediately recognized my old mailbox! What a fun way to document your day!
maybe i need to get an updated fun mailbox

Dosfishes at Sparkle Days Studios said...

Great post, I love this interview. LOL about all the assumptions we make as people, too funny. xox Corrine

Sue said...

What a fun blog post! I particularly liked his comment about people assuming he is stupid cos of the job he does....shows you should not assume :)

craftattack said...

This was a good read. Your mailman sounds great! Best wishes from me" My postie here is also a real nice guy, and gets spoilt with the odd cup of coffee or some cookies, and a bottle of winw or spirits or at holidays, and he collects stamps if he can get them, so I give him those I don't need! But the lady in the post office - well, least said, soonest mended!

Marilyn Rock said...

Great post; I so enjoyed reading it - what a fabulous thing to do! Thank you! xxoo

Donna, Doni, Lady D said...

HA! You most certainly entertained me today, Katie, as did John. Thank him for me for letting us in to his private thoughts and life on route. Such a treat. And thank you, for a great original interview. I"m still smiling. hugs, Donna

The Pen Thief said...

Such an awesome idea!! And such wonderful questions to ask of a letter carrier. =)

Julie said...

Awesome post. :) I think I will need to make my mail carrier some cookies.

Kris said...

I totally wish John was our mail carrier! Say *hi* for me :)

Anonymous said...

Katie! You really are quite extraordinary. You write so well you make me seem almost human, in a way. It's great to see Max the Cat. He was awesome.
Jodi, don't change a thing. You, and your mailbox, are just fine the way you are.
You guys rock!
John the Mailman

Emma said...

That was a lovely story of someone elses perspective on life. Thanks!

Jill Eudaly said...

I'll be smiling all day. what a great interview!
Hats off to John for being such a good sport.

Pipiluciana said...

That was so good! So entertaining, that makes me smile. What a cool guy! Good job to both of you!

Joanna said...

What a lovely post and a great idea! John is clearly a great guy and I wish he was my mailman. We don't have the same postman for long, they seem to move around quite a lot, so we just build up a rapport with one (and they know where to leave packets if we're not in, and that ISN"T ON THE DOORSTEP FOR ALL TO SEE!) and then they're off.

I really enjoyed learning about someone else and their job, so often taken for granted.

Sorry, but I had to laugh at his embarrassing comment moment (the one when it wasn't a birthday!).


maria kovalenko leysens said...

Well, you are certainly entertaining and I am now a fan. Keep up the wonderful exploration, observation and documentation of your world around!

Glennchuck said...

Three things this blog's readers probably don't know about John the Mailman:

1) He invented Al Gore so Al Gore could invent the Internet so that, one day, John would appear in a blog walking next to a cool cat.

2) Recently, a retired employee of the Milwaukee Brewers died, a guy who'd been an usher for decades, among other small jobs. He lived on John's route and they talked Brewers baseball every so often. During a Brewers radio broadcast shortly after the man died, announcer Bob Uecker--"Mr. Baseball"--spoke of the man's service to the team. As always, John was listening to the game as he walked his route. When he got to the late employee's house and the man's middle-aged daughter (a special-needs person) came out to the get the mail, John told her what Uecker had said. To fully appreciate this gesture, you have to understand that Bob Uecker is a god in these parts--a Hall-of-Fame announcer and national celebrity who does a ton for local charities. For Brewers fans, his word is solid gold. So when the daughter heard that Uecker had said some kind words on the air about her dad, she was thrilled, as John knew she would be.

3) John believes the Packers and not the Detroit Lions will win the NFC North in 2011. John is incorrect.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post!! Have you seen the Old Paper Art blog?? You can find a link to it on my blog. You'd love it!

MrCachet said...

Katie!!! Thanks for stopping by. I'm a fan of Jodi's because of her calligrams. I'm a fan of yours because you're a MAIL fan! I liked the interview - a lot - and yes, I do mail art. Browse around when you get a chance as I've labels on all my posts so you can easily separate the postage from the posts...

MosaicMagpie said...

Great Post and a great idea for a post! It is amazing someone that visits us most every day of the week, we know so little about. I am surprised by John thinking that we think mail carriers are idiots! Anyone that can sort out all that mail, drive from the wrong side of the car, stop and put mail in the correct box and pull back onto the road all in the middle of busy traffic, is not an idiot. Mail that is halfway addressed or incorrectly addressed still manages to make it into my box. After thinking about all this my mail carrier deserves lots of fresh baked cookies and a couple of bottles of wine!

Leslie said...

I am lucky to have a mailman I know by his first name. He also knows my dogs' names, and always, always brings packages to the door. I feel so blessed to have Bruce handling my mail!

Lori Saul said...

What a wonderful post and interview! I think it is so important to reach out to the people in our daily lives- we can become enriched by getting to know them. Thank you for this wonderful lesson in caring!

Terri Kahrs said...

Wow! What a wonderful post! John's story made me think about my mailman, Joe, who's been our letter carrier for 20 years. He's an awesome guy and a very nice man. Thanks for telling John's story - makes us think a little bit more about the people who touch our lives. Thanks, too, for your blog visit and your lovely comment. Hugs, Terri

Dogwood said...

It seems like our postperson is always in a hurry hurry to get the job done of delivering all the mail.
Interesting question and answers!

Gaby Bee said...

What a fun post...smiles. I enjoyed reading it.

Thanks for your kind visit!

I wish you a happy rest of this week and a fun upcoming weekend. Hugs, Gaby xo

Anonymous said...

That is a nifty idea. I should try that with Kathy, our mail lady.

Cassie Shella said...

That was an awesome post! I have the girls leave our mailman a bag of candy at Halloween, and a bag of Christmas cookies at Christmas time. He seems to enjoy them. He also helped us get the dog one day when she had wandered down the street! Loved this post:) Have a great day.

Annie said...

John the Mailman is my mailman, too! He pointed me toward your blog the day he delivered a large pile of craft supplies and yarn.
What a nice interview and pictures of my new neighborhood. :D

John the Mailman said...


This has been a wonderful experience for me, and I hope for you, too.

Thanks for choosing me to be your first mailman!

Continued best wishes to you,
John the Mailman

Karen Christensen said...

I read your blog often and yet this is the first time I saw this! As a letter carrier in Chicago let me say THANK YOU for writing such a nice post.

Teresa Kline said...

a great blog post...luv this!

enjoy *~*