It was raining hard when Mrs. Walter O. Jacobson saw a letter carrier trudging up the walk toward her door.
"Oh, you've forgotten your umbrella!" she exclaimed as she took the mail from him. "Let me lend you mine so that you won't get drenched while you finish your route."
"Thank you very much," was the carrier's reply, "but we are not allowed to carry umbrellas. An umbrella is not part of the official uniform."
If we have finally become so enlightened as to permit carriers to wear short-sleeved shirts and Bermuda shorts during hot weather, who made such a silly rule about umbrellas, Mrs. Jacobson wondered. And how can we get that rule reconsidered?
One of my best contacts in the Postal Service is a southern gentleman who is as kindhearted as Mrs. Jacobson is. "My heavens," he said. "That can't be right. My own letter carrier uses an umbrella. Give me a couple of minutes to look up the regulations and I'll call you back."
Ten minutes later, he called back with the facts. The Postal Service gives each carrier a clothing allowance to cover his choice of such bad weather gear as raincoats, ponchos, hoods, jackets and similar items. The carrier can use his allowance as he pleases. Umbrellas are not included in the items paid for by the Postal Service, but there is no prohibition against a carrier using his own umbrella. "It's strictly optional. Some do, some don't."
Incidentally, I hope you will notice how carefully I refrained from using the term "mailman." The carrier on our route is often a female. We call her Madam Mail Person and try to curry favor with her, but she leaves bills and circulars anyhow.