The cellphone video told the story. A U.S. Postal Service van was parked beside a ravine. The driver was systematically taking packages from the back of the vehicle and tossing them down the hill. All in a day’s work.
When the video was made public, the worker was tracked down. He immediately resigned. According to a notice from the Postal Service: “The USPS Inspector General has been notified and is conducting a full investigation of this incident. They will provide their findings and recommendations to the Postal Service and the United States Attorney’s Office for any further action.” I suspect that guy’s nightmare has only just begun.
In a world speckled with security cameras, dashboard cams and cellphone technology that makes every middle-school kid a potential Spielberg, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an upswing in good behavior. After all, private moments aren’t that private anymore.
There’s even a website titled Don’t Throw My Package. It is devoted to videos of delivery people behaving badly. They’ve been caught tossing boxes up steps, onto balconies and over fences. They’re seen leaving packages out in the rain and snow, making a mockery of the unofficial USPS creed that reads, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat …”
But if you think this is a column slamming the Postal Service, you couldn’t be more wrong. This is a fan letter.
Everyone’s experience is anecdotal. I’m sure the folks who had their Zappos shoes or books from Amazon or, heaven forbid, prescription drugs casually tossed into a Birmingham ravine are hard pressed to summon up praise for their particular carrier.
But here in North Hall, we got lucky. Our regular carrier is Gary Dover. He’s been delivering mail since Ronald Reagan was barely settled into the Oval Office.
I’m not the first to sing Gary’s praises. Last summer, The Times profiled him in a piece about the changing postal service. He was labeled “Superman of the mailroom.” In our neighborhood, he’s a fixture. Folks don’t say, “Has the mail come?” They say, “Have you seen Gary?”
If a muckraking cinematographer-wannabe were to spy on Gary for a day, he’d only end up with dead batteries. He’d get to see lots of smiles and energetic, efficient service. He’d see packages left with care in a spot that protects them both from the elements and potential theft.
He’d see neighborhood dogs waiting patiently for Gary’s arrival. Our Ginger knows the sound of his truck and begs to be let out whenever he pulls up to the mailbox. She practically turns backflips to get one of the dog treats he carries. I thought she was an isolated case until my neighbor, Wyoma, mentioned how much her husky looked forward to the mail delivery.
This is the sort of experience that doesn’t just create good service. It builds community. It’s the kind of cohesive detail that helps make a neighborhood special.
I do some selling and buying on eBay. Only once did I get a damaged item. It wasn’t because it was hurled onto my porch from a moving van or first tossed into a gully. It was because some folks really think they can ship a ceramic vase without benefit of bubble wrap.
Never, in the 15 years I’ve been shipping items, has a package failed to reach its destination. Never have I failed to receive an item I ordered. That tells me there are many, many more folks like Gary out there, quietly and pleasantly doing their jobs while we allow that Birmingham ravine video of tarnish all their good work.
That “snow-rain-heat” quote that we all immediately identify with the Postal Service dates back to 500 B.C., when the Greek philosopher Herodotus described the ancient Persian Empire’s courier system: “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road… and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.”
And now here we are, more than 2,500 years later. The descendants of those determined couriers are with us still.
In 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks and anthrax mailings (please note that two postal workers died after handling anthrax-laced envelopes), the Postal Service aired a commercial with this sentiment: “We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.”
Gary Dover personifies that creed. So do countless others.
Thank you all.
Teressa Glazer is a Gainesville businesswoman. Her column appears biweekly on Fridays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.