Retirement Dinner

A couple of weeks ago, we attended the postal retirement dinner held in honor of my husband.  You might think it is odd to have a retirement party five months after the fact, but hey, they don’t call it Snail Mail for nuthin’.  Truthfully, they always have them in March, and all those who have retired during the entire previous year get their moment of glory … unless they have died before it gets a chance to happen.  The party happens even if no one has retired — because of the free dinner.

This year there were two retirees — a conventional one and the not-so-conventional one (my husband).  They both wore suits and ties, much to my surprise.  Beebee and I managed to keep our man from wearing the bowtie, so we were happy.  The conventional guy’s suit was ill-fitting, in keeping with how postal workers normally dress when not in uniform.   I have noticed this tradition before, at every retirement dinner I have attended over the last thirty years.  Mr. Not-So-Conventional looked dapper.  His suit fit him.  It did not sag and bunch in weird places.  My coaching on attire had absolutely nothing to do with it this time.  He pulled off a proper appearance all by himself.  I was proud of him.  (I married him for his elegant figure.)

We ate the standard banquet affair victuals.  Postal parties truly must be abhorred by banquet facility owners, due to letter carriers eating so much.  I do not know where they stuff it all.  Even the skinny ones manage single-handedly to put more chicken in their gullets than a whole pack of foxes invading the hen house could ever hope to accomplish.  I suppose a ten-hour day out in the cold contributes to this talent.  They slide it all down with the help of the cole slaw and jellied cranberries.

They all talked about the ten-hour days. Sixty-hour work weeks are the norm right now for everyone, and have been for the last few years.  It costs less to work them to death and then get new ones than it does to hire more help.  The morale is low.  They all thought the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, but it has not taken effect in the U.S. Postal Service yet.  (They must have an exemption clause.)  Paul was one of the fortunate ones: he had a bum ankle and a consequent doctor’s excuse that kept him to a forty-hour work week.  If that had not worked, he might have tried what some of the others did: mental distress exemptions from the psychotherapist.  (I would have felt bad if he had had to stoop that low, but some did, in order to survive.)

The union representatives’ speeches were all the same as they are every year.  We heard about how much better working conditions are now than they were before the Rebellion of 1970 (the year of the illegal postal strike, which brought the Postal Service, the President, the Congress, Wall Street, and Joseph’s Fish Market to their knees, and introduced collective bargaining).  Even with working sixty hours a week, the guys were encouraged to be grateful that they no longer work seven days a week for $.35 an hour (my slight exaggeration) and live on cat tuna and welfare assistance.  Whenever the president of the union’s name was mentioned, there were little ripples of reverence in the speaker’s voice.  Someone should have played ethereal music to enhance the moments of awe, but I guess they didn’t think of that.

The speakers encouraged us to vote for Obama or Hillary, whichever gets the upper hand, so that all our postal workers do not have to go back to cat tuna or worse.  And the guys were also encouraged to think about using the hours left after working sixty hours a week to campaign for whichever Democrat eventually wins the nomination.  They wanted them to work hard campaigning for the incumbent Democrat in Congress, too, but most of the guys probably aren’t fool enough to do that, because in the last election, he promised the postal workers at our office a big box of free doughnuts if he won, and he never came through with the food.

When the union mucky-mucks got done with their speeches, the retirees got their chance.  The conventional guy made a standard speech of gratitude which was very nice.  He had to behave himself, because he had brought a whole tableful of his relatives to the dinner.  Mr. Not-So-Conventional behaved himself relatively well, considering he can always be a bundle of surprises.  He paved the way for the rest of his speech by telling what a wonderful support his wife had been to him through thirty years.  (I was, too!)  He had gone to all the effort of tallying up how many sandwiches I had made for his lunches in all that time (about 6900, by his count — that’s a lot of Wonder Bread!).  He went on to tell his funny dog stories in his engaging way.  And he topped it off the way they had all known he would, by telling them about Jesus, and how they could be as happy as he is, if they would give their lives to Him.

They gave us gifts.  Paul received a watch, and I got a green plant the size of a cedar tree.

I think Paul enjoyed his evening immensely, and the rest of his little family were pleased for him.

Funeral Quirks

We all have our stereotype expectations of how people in certain vocations should be.  My experience of undertakers from my childhood on up was that they were very prim and proper sad-looking beings, dressed up in penguin attire, with great big black circles around their eyes.  They floated through the funeral home with soundless steps, bringing comfort here and condolences there, always using exactly right, highly dignified phrases. In the small town where I grew up, this is just what the funeral director who lived down the street was like.  So was his son.  They both had the same sad expression, with the same big black circles around their eyes.  They both knew how to float.  One was a carbon copy of the other, except for a slight discrepancy in age.  As I grew older, my stereotype expectation of people in the funeral trade was continually reinforced — until it came time to make arrangements for Dad’s funeral.

Mom decided to use the new-kid-on-the-block funeral home.  (It has been there for a number of years, but not for decades.)  Our funeral director did not have the black circles around his eyes.  (My older daughter speculated that perhaps the peculiar eye-look was intentional, as in makeup, and that this one did not use it.)  He wore a more casual version of the penguin costume.  He did not float; he swaggered.  He reminded me of a cowboy.  I cast a glance at his midsection — nope, no six-shooters.

He told stories.  I love stories!  But it was very odd to be entertained with them by an undertaker.  I heard why we were fortunate to be using his funeral home, rather than the other funeral chain in the area.  You are going to hear it, too:

Shhh.  Don’t tell anyone.  The other funeral home chain in the surrounding area is not owned by the people whose name is on the outside of the building.  The ________ Family in the _________ Family Funeral Home are all dead.  The ________ Family Funeral Home is now owned by the Spabigliani Family in Milwaukee, and they are — shhh! — Mafia.

The funeral home we were using was standing for truth and justice, the free market, and the chance to spit in the eye of the Mafia.  I rather like the idea of spitting in the eye of the Mafia — as long as they don’t spit back!

Mr. Undertaker told us about his own family funeral home.  He is a fourth generation mortician — started hanging around the mortuary when he was twelve, helping with body preps.  I think this is why people in funereal families do not think it is weird to choose the undertaker profession.  They have lived with the whole idea from the time they were toddling, so it is not odd to them.  (It is a good thing, too, because we need them to help us, and we appreciate what they do.)

Dad wanted to be cremated.  The funeral director explained to us why “Pa” would not be cremated in “the garage” on-premises.  He has an arrangement with a crematorium forty miles away BECAUSE when he was a younger man hanging in the bars around town, he ran into a guy who had a side job as a cremator.  The bar guy incinerated bodies in HIS garage.  And he told stories about the bodies in the bar.  Our undertaker did not think that was right.

“I take them to __________ forty miles away, where nobody knows ‘Pa,’ so nobody can talk about him in the local bars.”

My eyes were wide as saucers.  I forced the lids back down over them, and tried to look dignified.  If he wasn’t going to be, somebody had to.  But I felt relief that “Pa” was safe from the barfly crowd.

We heard about the various cremation ideas that other people have come up with.  You are going to hear about them, too.  Some are pathetic and sad, and we won’t go there.  But others ….

This is Wisconsin.  We have lots of lakes and rivers, and lots of beer.  I am not ashamed of the lakes and rivers, but I wish we did not have to deal with the beer.  One family, whose dearly departed enjoyed his free moments fishing and drinking beer at his cottage “up nort’,” decided to send him out in style.  They put his ashes on a rubber raft and floated him out a few yards from shore.  Keeping him company on the raft was a CD player belting out polka tunes.  Half-a-dozen beer bottles were strategically arranged around the rim of the raft.  The raft was attached to the family and friends on shore via a string, which was wrapped around the air valve plug on the raft.  The family and friends enjoyed a funeral dinner of beer and beer-marinated brats.  When they’d had enough and were tired of the polka music, they gave the raft string a yank, and sent dear old dad to the bottom of the lake.  I don’t think they had a church service attached to all this.  Dear old dad probably didn’t ever get to church, because he was too busy enjoying the pleasures of the cottage up nort’ on the weekends.

Mr. Mortician showed us an urn alternative, also for the river and lake lovers.  Beer had nothing to do with this one, but the paper-making industry, which Wisconsin is famous for, did.  The urn alternative was made of thick pressed paper.  There was a bottom section that the ashes rested in, and a lid with a grotesquely ugly floral design painted on top. “You float it on the water, and it lasts just long enough for a quick speech and a short song!”

He told us about the unique urn of one of our prominent business owners: they put him in the first milk bottle that ever came off the line of the family dairy.

I was overwhelmed, and very glad my mother chose a traditional box for Dad’s ashes, rather than a paper float or a milk bottle.  I am conservative by nature, and Appointment #1 was a total information overload.

The next day we had Appointment #2, which continued on in the tradition of Appointment #1.  It started out in a subdued fashion, but then Mom started asking some questions about legal things.  The funeral director was most helpful and knowledgeable, but the questions triggered an unfortunate train of thought in his mind.

“I suppose you read the bad press about me in the papers the last couple of days?”  (This elicited mystified stares from us, concern creeping into my wrinkles, a slight negative shake of the head.)

He went on to tell us about his personal family woes, involving a very close relative who ran off with $$$$$$ from the funeral home because the bank did not check carefully into who could still sign checks on the family business and who could not.  (It was part of an instructional comment  on how to take care of bank business when death or divorce certificates were needed to prove authorization.)  I felt very sorry for our undertaker, but he was messing with my stereotype expectations, and I was having trouble processing.  I mumbled that it must be very hard for him.  I think we had some role reversal going on for a moment or two.  The comforter and the comfortees accidentally got switched.

I breathed a sigh of relief on our way out to the car.  The funeral director came highly recommended by many people.  I’m sure he did exactly whatever funeral directors are supposed to do these days, but, the stereotype expectations!  What about my stereotype expectations?  Maybe if we had gone to the __________ Family Funeral Home, now run by the (shhh!) Mafia family from Milwaukee, I would have gotten my penguin with the big eye circles who could float noiselessly across the carpet.

Stay in Touch, Mr. Bell

We are decidedly phone-challenged at our house.  For years after everyone else had touch-tone phones, we still had our old rotary model on the kitchen wall.  We had it so long after the rest of the world had pitched theirs, that once a repairman needed to use it and had to ask how it worked.  Although I am not very technically savvy, I would have thought the process was obvious, but perhaps there are some repairmen who are less techy than I am.

We finally kissed the old rotary goodbye when it got to the point where we couldn’t get through to businesses with automated systems anymore.  For a long while, they had an option at the end of the “press 1, 2, or 3” messages that said, “If you have a rotary phone, please stay on the line.”  But eventually they abandoned the stay-on-the-line option, and just hung up on us.

My husband is the most phone-challenged of the two of us.  I am not far behind him, but I manage to avoid phones that I don’t know how to work so that I don’t look silly, while he plows ahead and tries, revealing to all the world that he doesn’t know what he is doing.  Some of the phones around our house require hitting a talk button in order to proceed.  Some require that you don’t hit any buttons to answer them.  Inevitably, Paul gets them mixed up.  He cuts off calls by punching buttons when he shouldn’t, and stands there yelling, “Hello?  Hello?” with the phone still ringing in his ear on the ones where he should use the button.  We can’t seem to get him trained.  Sounds like something straight out of The Addams Family, doesn’t it? 

I think we need to write our congressman and see if he can do anything about getting all phone manufacturers to standardize the way the equipment works.  We’ll present it as a senior citizen issue.  Maybe we can get AARP to enter the fray on our behalf. 

It could even become the deciding factor in the presidential race!  Mr. McCain, looking very grandfatherly, could do commercials saying that he understands how it is.  He could bemoan his own difficulties with technology, and promise every senior citizen in the country a standardized, easy-to-use, free telephone.  Mr. Obama (the young whipper-snapper!) would not be able to relate in the slightest, and would lose that election hands-down.

But I digress.

My husband has a cell phone.  As I have said in a previous post, he has it, but he does not know how to answer it.  He can call home just fine, but when I try to reach him, I get a computerized voice telling me that the user of this phone is unavailable.  He’s not unavailable!  He’s strolling the aisles of Menards or Home Depot!  He’s either got the phone accidentally turned off, or else he can’t hear it ring.  And he cannot figure out how to set up voice mail.  (I probably wouldn’t know how, either, but that’s neither here nor there, because I’m the one picking on him, not vice versa.)

Paul’s cell phone is usually off when it should be on, and on when it should be off. This morning we were at a family funeral.  In the middle of the service, we were all treated to some music that was not part of the program — The Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite.  It went on for several seconds.

“Paul, is that your phone?”

He gave me an innocent, vigorous shake of the head that indicated, “Uh-Uh.  Not me.  I wouldn’t be doing that in church!”

I listened to it for several more seconds, and finally decided, since no one else was turning it off, that the dance music must be emanating from Paul’s pocket.  (Besides, no one else in the whole world has Tchaikovsky as their ring tone.)

“Paul!  It is TOO your phone!”

He decided I might know what I was talking about after all, and got it shut down before it finished playing the entire piece.   It  flowed rather nicely into How Great Thou Art, or whatever we sang next, but it’s good he got it stopped.  Everybody knew the words to How Great Thou Art, but they didn’t know how to sing The Russian Dance.

Family Visits, Bathroom Takeovers

After a week’s visit, my older daughter and the grandkids went back to Pittsburgh.  It’s always wonderful to see them, but I think we all breathe sighs of relief when we part company and go back to our own little routine again.  We cry and we smile at the same time!

Our house is small, with no extra bedrooms, so when family comes to visit, our younger daughter must leave behind the luxury of her own room and bath, and take her nightly repose on the living room couch.  This is somewhat inconvenient for all of us, especially when she waxes imperious in ordering the rest of us to bed when she feels it is time to get her beauty rest.

However, three of us all using the downstairs bathroom is the most traumatic part of the whole experience.  Have you ever had to share your facilities with a teenage girl for a week?  Our bathroom suddenly looks like the health and beauty aisle at Wal-Mart.  I do not know why one small person should need so many products to keep herself looking lovely.  When she moves in there is not a square inch for any of the rest of us to so much as store a toothbrush.  There are skin cleansers here, oil-absorbing papers there, makeup to the left of me, hairspray to the right of me – and many other foreign objects too numerous and mystifying to describe.  The shelf fills up and the residue spills onto the floor beneath.  The tub holds whatever the shelf and floor cannot contain – and it is a mighty big overflow, let me tell you!  We have to pick our way carefully along the narrow path from the door to the commode, if we want to avoid stepping on something.  Even my older daughter, a beauty queen in her own right, wonders at the magnitude of it all.

Even worse than the clutter is the amount of time our teenager spends hogging the bathroom.  Two-hour showers — I kid you not!  Now, the hot water runs out after about the first half hour, but Beebee gets in some great cogitating time while waiting for it to heat up again.  If she doesn’t eventually solve at least half the world’s problems, while waiting for phases two and three of her shower, it will all be a total waste, but I am hoping it will all bear fruit somewhere down the road.

There are times that the wait has been so extended that I have had difficulty remembering what it looks like in that bathroom.  And woe betide to anyone who has not planned carefully to use the facilities before the teenager commences her toilette!   The only solution is the gas station down the street.

The Cremains

My father passed away a week and a half ago.  This was decidedly not a funny event in my life, but my older daughter and her two children came for the funeral, and life in our little cottage with the three of them added in for the past week has provided plenty of funny things to write about.  I will be busy in the next week or two, recounting it all.

My father wished to be cremated.  In discussing the memorial service preparations with the funeral director, I learned a new word.  When you are cremated, not buried, they do not call the body the remains.  They call it “the cremains.”

I did a little cremating myself tonight, and I almost served it up as supper.  Apparently, I am not very good at multi-tasking, especially if part of that multi-tasking involves talking and cooking at the same time.  I had come up with a lovely, creative plan to feed the tribe: boiled potatoes with broccoli tossed in, with cheese and cream of chicken soup slopped all over it, and the whole thing thrown into a casserole dish and baked in the oven.  And bacon.  It was going to have bacon in it for flavor.  It was guaranteed to be a real winner.  How could one go wrong with all that good stuff blended together?

Everything was steaming along just fine, until my daughter wandered into the kitchen.  We got into a theological discussion.  We ALWAYS get into a theological discussion.  This is what we enjoy talking about.  A conversation between us is not complete without solving all the doctrinal controversies of our day.

The bacon that was nearly done to perfection one moment became charcoal the next.  I had left it sizzling on too high a temperature, and poof! Cremains.  I was disgusted with myself.  I haven’t smoked up the kitchen like that since I burned the chicken soup dry a few years ago.  We were teetering on the verge of a grease fire for a few minutes.  Everyone came to the rescue.  My husband bounded into the room to turn the kitchen fan on, disconnect the smoke alarm, and deliver a lecture.  Beebee ran to get fresh bacon.  She did not relish the idea of the cremains being tossed in with the rest of the casserole, and insisted that since at first I did not succeed, I should try, try again.

I did try.  But first I needed to get rid of the grease from the burnt batch of bacon.  By this time, it had cooled a bit, so I dumped it into a plastic yogurt cup and left it to solidify.  Things were starting to look a little better.  We had disposed of the porker cremains in a suitable urn (the wastebasket), and the second batch was busy poppin’ and a-cracklin’ in the fry pan.

“Mom! — Oh, never mind.  Just don’t look.  Don’t look.”  Susan calmly pushed me out of the way so that she could get to the stove, while I thought, “Now what am I burning??!!!”

It wasn’t burning.  It was melting.  The bacon grease was still too hot, and it had melted that plastic yogurt cup down to half its size.  It looked a bit like Frosty the Snowman in the middle of a spring thaw.  Fortunately, the cup collapsed from the top down, rather than springing a leak in its bottom.  Susan deposited the awful little mess in the wastebasket, next to the cremains.  How fitting.  The crispified pork rinds reunited with the fat they had left behind.  Very touching.

We managed to get the second batch of bacon done and in the casserole with the spuds and green stuff.  Other than scorching the cheese on top, we had no more mishaps in getting supper on the table.

A Double Portion of Mercy

In still another of my many quirky moments, this is what was rolling around in my head.  It was in answer to one of those writing challenges at a Christian writers’ site  — the theme, “At the Pulpit.”  I don’t know how anyone could get more “at the pulpit” than this.  (I take things way too literally.)  And I don’t win any prizes for this kind of stuff, either.  They probably want something morally or socially redeeming, and by now the judges are probably recognizing my entries, and thinking, “Oh. Her again!” — even though it’s anonymous until after they judge it. 

A Double Portion of Mercy

When I was a lad,
I often was bad
And resourceful in the extreme.
The parson, though oldish,
Could preach rather boldish –
He’d rant, and he’d rave, and he’d scream.

God’s man for the hour,
He’d preach with great power.
Appreciate it, I did not.

Not wanting, back then,
To be born again,
I thought it all nonsense and rot.

I slipped from my pocket
A spit-waddish rocket
And rubber band launcher, to boot.

He paused for effect.
I aimed at his neck
And waited my moment to shoot.

I let my piece fly —
Missed his neck, hit his eye.
A most stunning silence set in.

He looked quite surprised,
As he mopped at his eyes
And searched for the doer of sin.

I saw a grim smile
Ply his lips for awhile,
And then his eye lighted on me.

The culprit was found!
He’d prob’ly expound
And then take me over his knee.

I’d be thrashed in great shame,
In humiliated fame
Fore’er in church hist’ry renowned –

And what would my folks say?
A bitter price I’d pay,
Now that my sin had been found.

He just cleared his throat,
Said, “And on that note
We’ll end, for the sermon’s been long.”

He prayed a short blessing,
The people still guessing
Which wicked young boy did the wrong.

I went home relieved –
Great grace I’d received.
My gratitude much overflowed.

I repented of sin
And Jesus came in –
And now I am on the right road!

Please Don’t Make Me Write Anything!

The retired mailman continues to do a good job of looking convincingly busy.  I don’t know what he does all day, but whatever it is must be impressive — or else he is an extremely fine actor.  He is so busy that I cannot seem to get him to do what I think is important.

Some mailmen bag groceries to avoid boredom once they retire.  Mine, to my great delight, is going to enroll in the River Church School of Ministry (RCSM).  They used to call him Pastor Paul and Parson Paul at the P.O.  Now he’s apparently going after the real thing.

I had been bugging him for days to get his application for RCSM done, since it is due tonight.  He couldn’t see what the rush was until, GASP! we noticed he had to write a 250 to 300 word testimony as part of the application.  Last night he finally worked up enough gumption to get it done.  I heard a whining sound, like unto what a humongous disgruntled mosquito would make, coming from the direction of Paul’s chair.

“What’s the matter?”
“I think they are being awful hard on us, expecting us to write all this!”   Whiiiine!
“Paul, 250 words is not ‘all this.’  It’s a very little bit of writing.”
“I don’t know.  I haven’t got that much to tell.”
“Well, talk about what a great inspiration your wife has been to you in your Christian walk, then.”

I encouraged him to do it in Word on the main computer.  He insisted on doing it in Wordpad on his laptop, and then copying and pasting it into his e-mail, and sending it to himself, and then opening his e-mail on the main computer.  From there, he pasted it into Word.  Of course it did not come out the way it was supposed to.  Too much paste will turn anything funky-looking.  I sat down to fix it for him, knowing he would not have the first idea how to make it look right.  The word count — 495 words!  This, from the man who was sure he wouldn’t be able to come up with 250.  (I knew it!)

I proceeded to hack at it to get it down in size. Acid-free paper is always best.  This would not be an acid-free paper, as the editor-wife was being quite caustic. All the poetic phraseology had to go — including the flickering candles in the military chapel where he gave his life to Jesus.  Description of the guitar-playing lady who led him to the Lord — hack.  Explanation of his search for God through Eastern religion — hack.  How long his hippie-looking fellow converts’ hair was — hack.  Paul likening himself to the Apostle Paul in his religious good intentions previous to conversion — hack, hack, hack!  My husband, the budding Charles Dickens.  It wasn’t a testimony; it was an epic saga!

The testimony is ready to go now — respectable, likely to qualify him for inclusion in the school, and not nearly as interesting without the Apostle Paul thrown in for color.  At least we know that Paul will have no trouble whatsoever completing the required five-page term papers.

Accidents Will Happen

Once upon a time, there was a handsome young mailman named Paul.  Every day he kissed his very lovely wife Lee Ann goodbye, shouldered his mailbag, and courageously headed out into the concrete jungle to deliver vital pieces of junk mail to every home.  Daily, many dangers faced him, but he laughed in the face of hardship, as he did his duty to his country and neighborhood for, “The mail must go through.”

The difficulties that opposed him came in various shapes and forms, most of which would not be appear, to the uninitiated, to be dangers.  There were bird feeders and ladders lurking around every corner, hoping to smack him in the forehead and knock him silly.  (But his official postal jungle helmet always saved the day and his noggin.)  There were ankle-biting Chihuahuas hiding behind the petunia patches.  In the winter, there were sidewalks with hidden ice patches, just waiting to rise up and bang the honest man’s backside or cranium.  AND there were dump trucks.  Dump trucks here and dump trucks there, all waiting to run into our handsome hero’s mail vehicle and flatten it into a pancake.

Let us examine, a little more closely, just one of these dump truck incidents.  Our dedicated letter carrier was minding his own business, attempting to deliver mail to a curbside box.  Unbeknownst to him, construction workers have a certain quota of mailboxes that MUST become casualties to their construction job, and a dump truck driver had chosen that very mailbox to help him meet his quota.  Unfortunately, the dump truck driver had determined to back into said mailbox at the exact moment that Paul was putting mail into it.

“Beep, beep, beep, beep,” went the dump truck, as it relentlessly bore down on the mailman and his faithful mount.  “BEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!!”  went the mail truck’s horn, as our horrified hero thought, “This is the end of me!”

Fortunately, the dump truck hit and destroyed the front end of the mail vehicle, not the part where Paul was located.  Shaken, but happy to still be alive, he called headquarters to give them a report of how much fun he was having delivering mail.

In the days that followed, our courageous hero found out that he was NOT a hero.  He was the object of wrath, for everyone knows that being in the wrong place at the wrong time is the same as being completely at fault when there is an accident of this magnitude.  The Postmaster General does not like to hear, while sitting at his fine desk in Washington D.C., that another postal vehicle has been demolished and must be replaced.  He worries about the price of stamps going up, each time this happens.  He has a very hard job, poor thingie!  Mailmen are easy to replace, but alas! mail trucks are not.  Had our hapless letter carrier been outside of his truck and been hit in his own insignificant person, there would not have been much problem.  But such was not the case.

Weeks went by, during which the fearless? young mailman tiptoed gingerly around the post office, hoping the postal hotline would not ring with orders from the top command to eliminate the foul perpetrator of the crime (himself).  Ahhh!  But while being interrogated for the umpteenth time about HOW such a thing could happen to a postal truck, the light bulb suddenly went on, and he remembered a very important piece of evidence: the dump truck driver had been wearing hearing aids!  This undoubtedly meant that there was a reason that the driver did not stop backing up when the mail truck’s horn went “BEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!!”  He did not hear it!  Perhaps he had forgotten to replace the batteries in his hearing aids, did not hear the BEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!!  and this was why he destroyed the poor little mail vehicle.

The result of this important bit of data was that the Postal Service went after the construction company to pay for the replacement of the mail truck, the price of stamps therefore did not go up, the Postmaster General stopped treating his stress with TUMS and resisted the temptation to go postal, and …

Our handsome, courageous, completely competent, and perfectly vindicated young mailman hero and his very lovely wife lived happily ever after.

Man’s Best Friend Is Not 

Dogs have always been attracted to my mailman husband, but not in a “man’s best friend” kind of way.  It’s been more along the lines of them thinking he was a giant chew toy, waiting to be pulled apart.  There is a reason that the top-selling bumper sticker among letter carriers is one that announces, “I hate your dog!”

Anyone who has delivered mail for any length of time accumulates mutt stories, and Paul is no exception. There was the beast that took Paul’s daily appearance on the scene as his cue to tone his muscles by doing body slams against the picture window.  The day came when it shattered.  Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle.  How melodic falling glass shards sound!  Fortunately for Paul, the window was double-paned, and Pooch must have decided that was enough exercise for one day.

Then there was the pit bull that was tied to the front porch pillar — and ripped the pillar off the porch in his frenzy to devour the mailman.  He made his dash for the kill, but Paul, not having time to grab his mace can, called out, “Help me, Jesus!” and the dog swerved past him and kept running.

Just like with people, some dogs are sneaky types.  Paul experienced one that seemed to be the model of comportment while his owner was standing nearby, but the moment the man’s back was turned, the dog took a quick look to make sure he would not be discovered, and then wrapped his teeth around Paul’s kneecap.

Letter carriers keep mace handy for the emergency cases, but putting their mailbag between themselves and the aggressive dog is usually the first line of defense.  Mace is generally a last resort, since dogs who have been treated to mace are not forgiving.  If they merely wanted a little snack of flesh to entertain themselves with before, once maced, their intent is murder and a full course meal.  Most people probably don’t know, but before mace was invented, mailmen packed guns to dispatch any troublesome canines.  Bizarre, but true.

Dog owners are mighty defensive about their darlings, and generally have the notion that Fido wouldn’t harm a flea.  Maybe Fido leaves his fleas alone, but the mailman is another story.  Paul has had the beasties growling and lunging, their lips curled back over their teeth, while the owners stood by doing nothing, except to assure him from a distance that their baby wouldn’t hurt anybody, and is just playing.

On one occasion, when Paul resorted to his can of mace, the dog’s owner suddenly appeared from out of the bushes, and snarled at him that if he ever did that again, she would bite him herself.  Paul’s eyes got wide, but he wisely refrained from saying anything, and just kept movin’ on down the street.

Paul has never had hand-to-hand combat (or shall we say, mouth-to-mouth combat?) with any critter, but one of the other carriers did.  The dog bit him — and he bit back.  It must have been one of those moments when survival instincts rise to the surface and dignity takes a leap off the cliff.  I wonder what dog ear tastes like?

As retirement drew near, Paul began to fantasize about farewell messages he would like to leave for several of his favorite pooches.  He talked about how much fun it would be to finally get back at all the mutts who had tried to nibble his fingers through those mail slots that are on the doors of some homes.  He could just squirt a little mace through the slot and go on his merry way, whistling Dixie, a satisified smirk plastered on his lips — but it wouldn’t have been fair to the letter carrier destined to succeed him.

Fortunately, although there were a few small bites through the years, Paul never had any dog chomp down badly enough to break the skin.  I attribute this to my daily prayers for him that God would protect him from accidents, bad dogs, and terrorists — but terrorists are another story for another day.

Postal Romance 

I don’t know if you have noticed, but elderly people spend a lot of time looking out the window.  No, not just to see what the weather is doing.  They are watching their neighbors for entertainment purposes — much like other folks watch TV. Apparently, our life was an ongoing soap opera for one of our neighbor ladies for awhile.

We’ve been blessed with Paul having a mail route close to our home for most of his postal career.  This meant he could come home for lunch.  It’s been wonderful for the girls and me to be able to connect with him midday.  For the few years when this was not possible, the day was sooo long without him!

Most of our neighbors got the idea fairly quickly that the mail truck parked out in front of our house everyday about noontime was Paul’s, and that he was home for a sandwich.  It was pretty much a no-brainer — except for one elderly woman, who got the notion in her noodle that the lady at our house had something of a peculiarly spicy variety going on with the mailman.  Now, she was partially right; the lady at our house does have a spicy little romance going on with her mailman, but since he’s my husband I think it’s probably OK.

In vain did her son explain to her that it was all right.  “He lives there, Mom!  He’s just home for lunch.  They’ve got a little girl.  She’s home during the day, too.”

But the idea that something soap opera-ish was going on had lodged in her cranium, and there was no getting it to budge. The possibility that the mailman could live in the same neighborhood that he delivered to was incomprehensible.  Perhaps the idea that the mailman lived a normal, ho-hum existence outside of delivering mail was incomprehensible as well.  Every day, she watched for that mail truck to pull up in front of our house.  Every day, she timed how long it sat there.  And every day, she clucked her tongue to her family about the shenanigans going on over at the neighbors’.

We heard the whole tale over the back fence from her son many months later, and all had a hearty laugh over it.  I had never dreamed of being such an interesting character.  That my neighbors would give me more than a few seconds’ thought — and that the thoughts would be of such an unusual nature — was a novel idea in itself!  I doubt if he ever did convince Mom.

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