Friday, November 28, 2014

Dog Days (And Nights) of Mail Delivery

By Mel Carriere

"I didn't even know there was a dog there," the regular on the route said to me after I brought back the mail for a house where I had almost been munched by an invisible pit bull one night last week, or the week before.  It's all a blur.

I get tired hearing postal truisms all the time.  At stand-up talks letter carriers are bombarded with truisms.  Your satchel can save your life against a dog.  Don't leave the engine running when you get out the vehicle.  Wear your seat belt.  I've been bombarded by the same truisms for the last twenty years, to the point of weariness.  The most annoying and tedious thing about postal truisms is that most of the time they turn out to be true, and there is a reason why they have to be repeated over and over again.

Case in point is delivery in the dark.  How may times have we been preached to on the workroom floor that we have to be especially careful making delivering on Saturdays and at other times, like at night, when most customers are home, assume that we have already been there, and relax their guard.  By relax their guard, I really mean that they let Fido out in the yard.  Sometimes Fido turns out to be a mailman muncher, and sometimes Fido turns out to be an invisible mailman muncher.

The reason why this particular dog incident happened to me was because they I was sent back out to help on another route where a letter carrier was bitten by a Chihuahua.  The letter carrier who was bitten weighs about 300 pounds and stands approximately 6 foot 4.  He is a big dude.  The little Chihuahua took him out.  The tiny, fuzzy mongrel took him out because he turned his back on it.  There's another postal truism for those of you who are keeping track.  Never turn your back on a dog, not even a Chihuahua.

They sent me in for reinforcements, and I arrived on the scene probably around 5:30 or so.  It must have been at least 5:30 because it was already completely dark.

I am pretty good at delivering at night now, because I have learned how to do it right.  I don't try to finger mail in between houses anymore.  In fact, I shut off my head lamp in between houses because the glare from the lamp blinds me.  I keep the light off until I get to the next house, then I turn on the lamp, finger the letters, and put the mail in the box.  After this I scoot to the next delivery.

Even though I am fairly proficient at delivering in the dark that doesn't mean that it is either safe or good for me or anybody.  There are a multitude of horrors lurking out there in the dark that can take a mailman down.  For one thing, sidewalks are uneven.  If you walk with a Charlie Chaplin shuffle step in the daytime you are liable to trip if you attempt this in the dark.  All fascist politics aside it's better to goose step, or at least do a happy medium between Chaplin and Hitler.  Come to think of it they kind of look alike.  Coincidence?

Anyway, some of the horrors of the dark have teeth.  I was reminded of this as I was preparing to deliver to a house and a pair of glowing eyes popped out to get me.

Thank you Jesus for the tapetum lucidum.  That was my Thanksgiving prayer this year.  The Tapetum Lucidum is the reflective surface in the eye that many nocturnal animals have which makes them glow in the dark. Yes, dogs and cats are nocturnal animals by nature.  We humans have cruelly and capriciously forced these animals to be non nocturnal so they can attend to our needs.  So next time Fido wants to sleep all day cut him a break.  He's not being lazy, you have selfishly altered his nature.  This could be why he's pissed at everyone, mailmen in particular.

To make a long story short, if not for the Tapetum Lucidum I would have been most certainly been munched by the black pit pull that came after me.  I only saw the dog's glowing eyes and because of this I got ready for battle.  Seeing me prepared for battle the dog chickened out, unlike that Chihuahua, and our post office avoided the indignity of having two mailmen getting munched on the same route the same day.  The owner called him off, and the worst thing that happened was my glasses fell in the gutter.  That was kind of humiliating, but not fatal.

In spite of this one close call I can't really complain about delivering in the dark because our District has been really stressing getting carriers back in the office by 5 PM.  The District has hired a lot of new CCAs for the Christmas season and these CCAs have been picking up the slack and getting most carriers off the street before Cinderella's LLV turns into a pumpkin.  I don't know if this is the case in other Districts, especially snowy districts where CCAs go home frozen solid their first day on the job and cannot be thawed out enough to deliver mail again. 

These are my Friday thoughts on dark delivery.  I would love to hear your thoughts too, so kindly leave me a comment. 

The above demonstration of the Tapetum lucidum was taken from:

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