I spend a lot of time thinking about mailmen. And yesterday evening, as the day’s heat sizzled off every surface, I had the occasion to meet two of them in a moment of repose; they spoke to me like I was family, not a beat skipped in our common purpose to connect at levels so uncommon for strangers these days.
One is a woman. A mail woman. The other is her husband. Suffice it to say they were delivered by the mail to each other, and candid as they are about the challenges of being married, and being mail people, the radiance of their being, together, and separate in their own rights, rushed like 17,000 goldfish swimming straight to my heart, then burst into a lotus flower, with petal after petal unfolding as we spoke.I had so many questions. “Do you have Benefits?”
“No—it’s complicated. Postal workers don’t work for the government, really.”
“What would make a carrier’s day?”
“A comment. A thank you.”
“No,” I say, “like cash.”
“Well, if you are someone who really works us, and we go above and beyond for you, a $20 at the holidays makes a big difference.”
“How did you get into it?”
“I always wanted to deliver the mail,” the post lady says, pointing to the place in her chest that says the truth before it ever gets to our lips. “I just thought it was a great thing to do. What I never considered, were the extremes.”
Here’s the truth they didn’t have to tell me, but what I need to hear and hear more about—the USPS is a major revenue provider for the US government, securing massive amounts of secured retirement funds for other government employees. They now deliver on Sundays for Amazon. No air-conditioning in those vehicles. Not a lot of heat when it's cold outside. And the USPS doesn’t shred and recycle junk mail. It has been told to me before the USPS works like many high revenue, not for profit monopolies, to fire its employees almost the moment they train them—perhaps explaining why people in so many "not for profit" sectors, “go postal" and decide to take drastic measures against unethical practices no matter the risk of personal reputation or pride.
Be as You Wear, The Good Hood Company, functions primarily to hijack the emotional processes that result in “going postal,” well, because even when a work induced mental meltdown doesn’t result in murder and suicide, it rocks the foundation of a community, and work induced mental meltdowns happen because a person is at war with her psyche, not with the world or with the company. Work induced mental meltdowns are happening all around us, in large and small ways. From the numbers, it looks like buying things we don’t need is one of the great symptoms of disease of overwork and undernourishment, and the postman, cometh. The postal carrier, sees.
To rely on a service that combines the most toxic elements of bureaucratic and corporate atrocity works hard against the radiant heart which is the signature on every one of our hoods. That the USPS doesn’t recycle—ugh—it tears at me, but the people who carry the hoodies, well they are the ones we are thinking about.
The mail carrier must ignore every injustice. S/he must ignore the weather, ignore the attitudes of ingratitude. Ignore the machine. S/he knows what she does and why. At the same time, as with so many of us who find the joy intrinsic to our work, no one is looking more forward to his chance to retire—the man of the couple tells me, “but in the meantime, we laugh. And have a good life.”
What luck is mine to be a member of this little neighborhood—where I get to meet and be friends with the mail people who are the actual messengers of love and light, and delight—and when they aren’t carrying mail, the woman of the couple carries an infant girl for the days while her mother who desperately needs some roots in order to grow wings, works to make a life in a hood where she is also a transplant. Some people have made it their life "to beach," rather than "to bitch" about all life never gave them, and beach bumming is nowhere in the equation. I came to live for half the year in NC, not to escape the life I had carefully constructed in New England, but parts of it needed to be dismantled, or else. Almost to the day of my own postal size meltdown, I have arrived here, there, everywhere with only one thing in mind—which is how to best carry my good hoodies to every good hood where I become fortunate enough to contribute to its keeping. Every kid has to grow up somewhere, and each of us can influence the environment, regardless of what our "business" is.
If I can survive extreme affluence, extreme poverty and many of the psychological traumas associated with both (which are the same); if I can go postal over the social injustice and inequity I fought along with other educators and civil servants for 20 years without any actual blood on my hands, and return to tell about a time I remember, not so long in the past or in the future, where each of us knows that if we are alive, we are changing the world—then we can, and we will, build good hoods even in places where very bad things have happened. Our hearts depend on it.