“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” reads an inscription carved above the entrance to the 1914 New York City Post Office on Eighth Avenue. Though it’s not the official motto of the U.S. Postal Service, the phrase has become a sort of creed for those who deliver the mail. Now those public servants can add COVID-19 to the list of conditions that do not prevent their vital work.
Tim Orson has been a mail carrier in Asheville for 27 years. Along his route through Biltmore Town Square and the surrounding neighborhoods, he now sees a strange combination of empty storefronts and bustling blocks.
“It’s like a ghost town. It’s almost a little eerie driving through there,” Orson says. “But then once you get up into the residential areas, there’s kids and people out walking and jogging and lifting weights and throwing footballs.”
Many of Orson’s customers, who would normally be at work, now meet him at the mailbox as he makes his rounds, eagerly awaiting the arrival of their packages or perhaps a chance to say hello.
“People are so friendly right now, it’s unbelievable,” Orson notes. “Everyone is saying, ‘Please be safe, thank you. Here’s some hand sanitizer, thank you. Here’s some gloves.’ I’ve got so much stockpiled in my front windshield right now.” In addition to those offerings from customers, he says, the Postal Service has provided plenty of supplies, and he feels safe performing his duties.
“There’s a sense of normalcy to see that red, white and blue truck rolling down the road,” he says. “The world is so different right now, but that is the one familiar thing they see. It gives people a sense of normalcy. It really does.”
This article is part of COVID Conversations, a series of short features based on interviews with members of our community during the coronavirus pandemic in Western North Carolina. If you or someone you know has a unique story you think should be featured in a future issue of Xpress, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.