One good thing about this job is the opportunity to learn so much about other people’s jobs.
Take mail carrier, for example.
The recent Progress Edition story for our “I Remember When...” series on longtime Creston mail carrier Mark Evans opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t realize about how those cards, bills and magazines end up in my mailbox every day.
For one, the city routes are set up to each last about 8 hours. Each carrier is walking 10 miles a day.
That’s right, 10 miles.
I told Evans that must be a heck of an exercise and weight control program built into his job. He had a surprising response.
“A lot of letter carriers experience this,” he said. “You lose weight right away when you’re starting out. Then, your body gets used to it, and you start gaining weight back if you don’t do something else. So, you still have to work out.”
The standard is to be able to carry a bag weighing 35 pounds, but most of the time the load is 20 pounds or less, Evans said.
The Christmas season is mostly letters and cards, because there is a requirement for companies to hold off catalogue distribution during the holiday card season.
“When Christmas is over, the seed catalogues start coming out, and the tax stuff,” he said.
While mail in general has decreased during this digital age, business is still booming because of an arrangement with growing delivery rate of Amazon.com and the Japan-based distributor, www.wish.com.
“We’re Amazon’s main shipper now,” Evans said. “We’re delivering a lot of packages. Then at Christmas time they overflow into UPS and Fed Ex.”
City Route 3 in north-central Creston is considered the toughest of the six main routes. (There is also a shorter auxiliary route.) Think of the hills on North Spruce, North Sycamore and North Division streets south of Townline Street. Evans had that route for 8 years beginning in 2000.
“That’s probably a good 8 hours and 40 minutes,” Evans said. “It’s the longest in terms of time. My route now is probably right at 8 hours on a normal day. I have a lot of businesses to stop at along Highway 34 and Sumner Avenue to start at about 8:15 or 8:30. I start walking the streets around 10, and I’m usually done about 3:20 if I take a half-hour lunch.”
Each carrier has a $450 annual clothing allowance. Footwear takes a beating at 10 miles per day, so that’s an important piece of the uniform.
“I buy four pairs of boots every year,” Evans said. “By the time you spend money on shirts and stuff, there’s not much left for the good Gor-Tex stuff, so I usually get a regular rain poncho or coat. I do better in the winter than the extreme heat. I’m a winter person, but this winter was too much. It was one of the worst, for sure. It got old. I’ve never seen so much ice to walk on.”
Every mail carrier has encountered loose dogs doing a route. Evans has remained largely fortunate in that regard.
“I’ve always been a dog lover,” Evans said. “Tracey laughs and calls me the dog whisperer. I’ve had some dogs that hated me when I first saw them, but after a couple of years it’s like, ‘Hey, Mark’s here!’ You can win them over if you’re just patient and take your time.”
Occasionally a dog has come out of nowhere to charge him, and he’s had to swat them away and he’s been nipped on the ankles or calves by small dogs that surprised him.
“But I’ve never sprayed a dog,” Evans said. “We’re supposed to have Mace with us, but I’ve never used it. If it’s bad, you just don’t go to the door, and we contact them that the dog was out and mail couldn’t be delivered that day. For every one bad dog there’s like 10 great dogs.”
Mail carriers see and hear a lot while walking through town each day. They’ve reported criminal activity or the sounds of an escalating domestic dispute.
“I’ve smelled things and seen things that look suspicious,” Evans said.
One day he even almost got involved in curbing crime. His collegiate track experience was of value. (Evans ran the 400-meter hurdles at Central College.)
“This was back when Dave Danielson was still a jailer, and he was out front of a house in the 300 block of South Elm Street across from the post office,” Evans said. “There were officers going to the front and back of the house. Dave saw me and said, ‘You stand there, and if anybody runs, you run them down. I’m serious. You can run. Chase them down.’ It didn’t happen, but I guess I would have chased them like he told me.”
Not exactly USPS protocol, I’m guessing, so it’s probably good officers handled that situation. But, it’s a good example that if you’re going to walk 10 miles around Creston every day, you’re liable to see anything.
Contact the writer: