April 30, 2009

Maybe It's Me: PO Box 666, or, El Postino es El Diablo

When I was younger I associated The Postman with El Chupacabra.

EL Chupacabra is a legendary cryptid rumored to inhabit parts of North and South America. He’s a creature said to visually resemble a lizard, but have the movement of a kangaroo. His face resembled that of a puppy, but with fangs and glowing eyes. When upset, he attacks, usually sucking the blood out of local livestock, preferably goats.

There is no scientific proof that the creature exists.

There’s no scientific proof that the creature doesn’t exist.

Growing up, I had never seen The Postman. I just knew that like clockwork, every day, mail showed up at our house. I knew that my parents had reportedly seen him and were as nice as possible to him. I use to ask why we left our postman Christmas cards or goodies.

“Because, The Postman holds all the power in the universe,” my parents explained to me. “If you’re nice, you get your mail on time. If you’re not nice, he has the power to torture you, by delaying packages, or worst, bills that need to be paid off promptly.”

This, in my head, was in fact the equivalent to sucking the blood out of small cute animals. What cruel sick jerk would hold off on delivering important packages – like birthday gifts! - to people?! To me?!

When I moved to my first apartment, The Postman was a genuinely kind middle-aged man who had brown hair and a brown beard. It was the first time in my life that I had ever actually seen The Postman in person. He moved, at that point, from El Chupacabra to The Toothfairy.

The Toothfairy, while nicer than El Chupacabra, was still someone you didn’t want to make irate. I mean, seriously, the creeper snuck into children’s rooms in the middle of the night collecting teeth. If you were a good kid, you got a better currency exchange. If you were naughty, you got less cash for your teeth, despite the importance or size of the tooth.

So, I made sure that I always waved and smiled at The Postman whenever I saw him. My parents had taught me well – be nice and you’ll get your mail (won’t have your blood sucked/will get more money for your teeth). Be rude and you won’t get your mail on time (will have your blood sucked by a weird lizard-kangaroo-puppy-vampire thing/will get pennies for your teeth by some crazy lady with a bag of bicuspids).

When I moved to Ireland, I actually befriended my postman. His name was Noel. The first time we met, I was outside painting our front door, and he came right up to me, asked me if I was "Steff," and made sure that I got my letter from home handed to me directly. It was odd to see an American living in the area of Dublin I was located (the Russian ghetto), and he wanted to make sure that I got my mail.

I took the wrong bus once while bebopping around town, and ended up sitting next to a lady who was also in the post service. She knew Noel and said he had taken a liking to The American in the Ghetto. I was happy to hear this, and realized that Noel The Irish Postman was not El Chupacabra or The Toothfairy, but my own UN Good-Will Ambassador.

Noel always made sure to smile and wish me well as I collected my mail from him daily. One day he actually knocked on the door. “Bad news, lass, they’re openin’ yer mail now,” and handed me a package from home that had been riffled through by customs in Ireland. “Sorry ‘bout that, love.” It happened several times, and every time it did, Noel knocked on the door to hand me the decimated remnants of my package and apologized on behalf of his country.

I moved back to America and got a new apartment, the apartment I’m sitting in right now. My Postman was a Postlady the first year I was here. She was neither El Chupacabra, The Toothfairy, or a UN Good-Will Ambassador. She was A Professional. She had short-hair, sunglasses, and a no-nonsense style. Our mail was delivered no later than 10am every single day. If you nodded in acknowledgement when you saw her, she’d nod back. Otherwise she was totally focused on one thing and one thing alone: to deliver my mail. Because she lived by the policy that “neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

This was exceptionally important to me as I had just discovered the wonders of internet shopping. I was getting packages every other day.

She always made sure I got my packages.

And then, one morning, I woke up, bounded down the stairs to check my mail.

But there was no mail.

And at 10am the next day there was no mail.

That entire week the mail arrived at 5pm.

The entire next week the mail arrived at 5pm – one day, a pink slip was left in my mailbox claiming that the post person had knocked on the door but I wasn’t home, and that I now needed to head down to the post office to collect my package.

I had been home all day.

I never heard a knock on my door.

On our daily walk the next day, my neighbor (who lived across the hall) and I discussed the sudden change in our post service. I told her about the pink slip, and she was just as annoyed as I was. As we turned the corner, there sat the white USPS truck. And inside was a white haired, white mustached middle-aged man. Just sitting there. Not sorting. Not doing anything. Just sitting there.

It was 4pm.

We nodded at him as we walked past, he glared at us. And when we were out of earshot, I blew up, “HE’S SITTING IN HIS TRUCK NOT DOING ANYTHING!!! Oh, I am so not impressed.”

This is when I realized that this new Postman was not El Chupacabra, The Toothfairy, a UN Good-Will Ambassador, or A Professional.

He was The Devil.

A few days later I was standing in my kitchen in front of the double windows that were wide open, watering my plants, singing my heart out, until I heard a noise. I looked down, and there was the bitter white haired, white mustached middle aged Diablo Postman. He looked up at me. We made eye contact. Without breaking that eye contact he, filled with contempt, deliberately slid another pink note in my mailbox.

I never heard him knock on my door. Or ring my bell. We had looked each other. He knew I was home. There so few apartments in our building it wasn’t hard to figure out who was who.

On our walk the next day, my neighbor and I rounded the corner and found the white USPS truck again just sitting there. With El Diablo Postman just sitting there twiddling his thumbs.

Twiddling. His. Thumbs!

I’d never been more frustrated with my mail carrier than I had at this point.

“I wanna say something,” I growled, glaring at that man through his windshield.

“So say something.”

“I can’t say anything! C’mon. Don’t you know about The Postman?! If I say something, I’LL NEVER GET MY MAIL AGAIN!”

“Hah! I’ll say something.” So, my neighbor took the bull . . . or the devil in this instance . . .by the horns, marched up to him and said, “You leave a pink note in my mailbox?!”

He shrugged.

“I didn’t hear you knock! I didn’t hear the doorbell ring! Been home all day!”

He shrugged again. “I rang the bell.”

My neighbor leaned forward into his truck, “NO. YOU DIDN’T. WHERE’S MY PACKAGE?!”

He sighed. “You have the pink slip?”

“NO, I DON’T HAVE THE PINK SLIP.”

He sighed even heavier. “Well, if you don’t have the pink slip, I’m gonna have to write up another one.” He looked from my neighbor to me, uninterested in actually doing this. I looked down, studying my feet. My neighbor started snapping her fingers. “Well, let’s go then!”

He rolled his eyes, and spent a clearly agonizing four seconds to write up a new slip. My neighbor signed it, ripped the package from his hands, and hissed, “Have a good one!” And stormed away.

As we walked back to the apartment I started laughing. “Thanks. Now he hates me.”

She handed me my box. “No, he hates me.”

I shrugged. “Technically he hates you by sight. He hates me by name. I’m never getting my mail again.”

Over the past few months, El Diablo Postman, after several times of being stared down by my tempermental neighbor, has begun to deliver our mail a little earlier. Like 3pm instead of 4pm.

While I still really dislike my new postman, he now always makes sure he nods to my neighbor, who he thinks is me, and always makes sure that “Steff Deschenes” gets her mail – ALL of her mail – despite the effort it might take on his part to actually carry my packages from his truck, ten feet to my mailbox.

My parents taught me well: respect your postman.

For the most part, it’s worked for me over the years.

But recently I’ve learned a valuable lesson – while, yes, you should be respectful, sometimes you just need to instill the fear of God into El Diablo Postman to get your packages on time.