It snowed a bit on top of Portland overnight. Schools closed, some businesses did not open, etc.
But, you know it’s our unofficial motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. What you might not know is that it is a translation of a Greek text from Herodotus describing the Angerium, a Persian system of mounted postal carriers, c. 500 B.C.
Here are some pictures that I took for you, all from that 21 February snow day, except this one:
There’s the motto inscribed at the top of the mother ship in NYC (3 October 2016).
And like I said, they pay me, so I had to do it: walk past this on my way to work.
And when I got to the postal station, we had chains installed on our trucks, and I put YakTrax (hearty endorsement) on my boots.
Then, I drove through a winter wonderland all day, “working” on Route number 2201, my “God route”, so-named because I have had close encounters of all three kinds on this route. Today, I was actually being paid to begin work with Olga Kern playing Chopin. I just adore all things piano . . . I think it’s my forte.
First stop, the worst stop ice-wise, I was careful driving down into that shady spot for those houses and then around to an apartment complex where the maintenance guy had not made any effort to clear the parking lot. I was cautious here, so no photos.
But then the second stop was here, outside the facility of a large healthcare provider:
To the right of the tree is a very large office building which has a friendly, but-I-am-wondering-about-her-depth, receptionist. I wonder, because every time I go into the plush, warm building and walk across the nice carpet, she reminds me that I am free to use the restroom and visit the cafeteria where everything is free. Yeah, I know; I am here at least once every week, sometimes twice, I think in wonder. But I say thank you, I really appreciate it. I am also reminded that our healthcare system is top heavy. It’s an absolutely vital, essential service that is out of whack with free food for administrators and mailmen.
Then, it’s up a hill to a series of 17 apartment buildings where I gather the mail for each of those buildings and deliver to some outdoor boxes for thirty minutes or so. Sometimes an apartment has a parcel, and I go up the stairs to deliver it to the door. I did so to number 15, and saw this framed by an opening in a stairwell:
Then I go to the office for the second group of ten buildings, part of the 17. The office gets all of the parcels for those buildings (I leave a little slip in the customers’ boxes to let them know that they can pick it up at the office), and they have a restroom too. And it’s warm. And they are friendly. And I barely have any parcels left when I leave, and THAT is nice.
Okay, now it’s up a hill to the remainder of the buildings, most of which have a nice warm lobby where the mail boxes are. I’ll be here, going from building to building for the next two hours seeing this:
Well, as Dad used to say, “We got that done; now what?”
The apartments all have their mail, so I descend off the hill and stop at the healthcare provider to use the restroom, where the receptionist reminds me AGAIN about that tip of preheating my KleanKanteen (endorsement) with hot water so that my free coffee will stay warmer. Thank you so much for your competence here at this spacious desk where you must meet hundreds of people every day. But only one of them is wearing a postal uniform and actually hands you the mail!
After that, I need a drink.
So my next stop is a honkytonk bar on River Road.
Seriously, they get mail, so I walk in and hand it either to the curt buxom barmaid, or to the other one who is nicer. Too nice, so I run out of there and dust the snow off my feet, and hop in the truck.
Then I get my drink. Of coffee. And OMG it’s like totally still hot after ten minutes. AWEsome!
Then, I continue down along the river with a series of intermittent “dismounts”. The ancient Persians actually dismounted their horses, I imagine, but this official postal term now means that I get out of the truck and put the mail in the box on the porch of a customer who is “grandfathered in” because they have lived there so long that they are exempt from the new regulations of having a box that I can reach from my sorta warm, gloriously music-filled truck where all of my supplies are in reach: veggie burgers, hummus and olives, almonds galore, and a plant-based protein concoction that is in a repurposed organic peanut butter jar. The mix is yellow from all of the turmeric, and delicious with fresh ginger and black pepper. And I have coffee too, so I can drink and drive all day.
But now begins those intermittent dismounts, about every third house or so for the next hour. Stop vehicle in the ice and snow, but with one rear tire on some gravel for traction. Place gear selector in Park. Curb wheels. Set parking brake. Turn off vehicle (as late as possible to keep the heater going). Remove key (tethered to my belt with a small bungie cord). Open door. Walk with Yaktrax across the ice, with limited slip and no fear. Put mail in actual mailbox. Or basket. Or a cardboard box. Or any of quite a number of receptacles that might be unique to that one address.
And then I just shake my head in a different kind of wonder, as I stand in the crisp air and see the sun glint off crystals here and there. And it is still. And quiet. And fires are burning in some fireplaces, and there is a rosemary bush where I pinch off a sprig to keep with me. And, well, I am filled with gratitude and cannot escape the joy that pursues me all of the time that I am duty-bound as part of my job to listen and to look at things and try really to see them.
And to wonder if these people must pray quite well:
And to know that these people understand what really matters:
And to have this comfort, where the path is leading, because I have seen what is at the top and further down the road.
And then it’s under this railroad trestle to four houses on riverfront, spacious lots, the owners of which pay more in property taxes than most of us make in a year. A famous local newscaster lives in the last house, and I know her gate code.
Back out of there and up the hill along River Road, there is an hour left of mail to deliver and more to see.
I like the way that the knitted? crocheted? table cloth hangs off just so:
Interesting optical illusion here. Because of the angle of the grill in the photo below, it appears that the frame is not parallel on the four sides:
Not a good color for a Jag, I know. Since high school, I have thought that if I must drive a sedan, it would be a black Jaguar. But my sorta dream is to drive a restored Jeep Grand Wagoneer around the country and see what’s up. Not sure I’d want to “own” anything like that, but who knows?
Harsh reality that it is still winter, but with a glimpse of spring?
She calls him a blockhead, but he knows he’s cool:
With the heart of a lion? Yep, that is set in stone, regardless of the season.
Well . . . all the mail is gone, so I must be done. I’ll stop by the huge retirement center that is on one of my former routes. There, the receptionists remember me with a smile and wish I was back. Thanks, that’s nice to hear.
And the lobby is warm and inviting and there are two fine restrooms and an extremely well-appointed library that is curated by a retired librarian. Oh, and they have this fireplace with a coffee bar next to it. I’ll sit for a couple of minutes, make that three, and think about it all:
Don’t ask me how I had time to take >100 pictures and deliver all of the mail on a snow day driving a maximum 20 miles per hour because of the chains and still be one of the first to arrive back at the station. I have no idea.
All I know is that they pay me, so I had to do it.
Photographs Copyright 2018 Timothy Waugh