“You see everybody,” Dave Stacy said Saturday as he shouldered his 35-pound bag behind the post office in downtown Takoma Park. He was preparing to walk the route he’s been pounding for more than 20 years: the three-block Old Town business district and several surrounding neighborhoods.
“When the weather is good, Old Town is just really hopping,” the trim 55-year-old letter carrier said. “I talk to everybody.”
On this cold, sunny morning, the talk during Stacy’s Saturday mail delivery was about Saturday mail delivery. He was seeing some people for the first time since Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe announced plans to eliminate first-class mail delivery on Saturdays in the face of declining mail flow and collapsing revenue. Unless Congress blocks the move, the 150-year tradition of Saturday mail will end in August.
On Stacy’s appointed rounds Saturday, few said they would miss the mail. But many said they would miss the mailman.
“Hey, gorgeous — what’s going on?” manager Elizabeth Brinkama greeted Stacy as he strode into the Now and Then gift shop, his blue uniform standing out against the racks of cards and the browsing patrons. It took her less then five seconds to cull the stack he handed her: a merchandise catalogue, some credentials for a trade show. Nothing urgent.
“Quite honestly, the bad thing would be not seeing Dave on Saturdays,” she said. “It’s our busiest day, and a lot of his other customers are in here. There’s always a lot of conversation.”
Across the street at Mark’s Kitchen, the tables were packed with weekend brunchers. Stacy was careful not to bump any heads as he and his bag squeezed to the stack of outgoing mail behind the counter. He flipped through, saw an envelope without a stamp and attached one from the supply he keeps handy.
“He’s a total blessing,” said waitress Gretchen Kapuscik.
Love amid the letters
Carriers and customers develop a strange kind of official intimacy. The country’s hundreds of thousands of uniformed carriers are six-day-a-week visitors from the government (and have been known to report crimes, detect gas leaks and check on the elderly). They know your reading habits, your love for Netflix and your speed-camera problems.
Stacy began his bond with Zip code 20912 in the spring of 1983. He was amazed at the zeal with which he was greeted — people running after him, blocking his truck. “I thought, ‘Man, they are really avid letter writers,’ ” he said — until he realized that he’d begun work on April 15, tax day.
Now he recognizes his customers by address (Kapuscik lives on Glenside Drive, he noted), knows their birthdays, and is careful to put the checks and postcards on top of the stack and bills at the bottom. He once brokered an arrangement between one customer who had a downed tree and another who needed firewood. Then he helped split the logs.