From the onset of this pandemic to date, I have not seen a single postal delivery worker, privately or federally employed, wearing a mask or utilizing any other such protective equipment as recommended under official guidelines. Recently, I spoke with a shopkeeper who informed me that she had just encountered a delivery driver who became argumentative when she confronted him about not wearing a mask; he claimed he had one out in his work vehicle but refused to retrieve it.
She then expressed further concerns, telling me that she had a 3-month-old granddaughter living with her. I voiced my shared frustration over the incident, disclosing similar domestic circumstances of my own, to which she replied: “We’re all in this together.” Upon leaving, I asked if there was a public restroom on the premises I could use, doubting my luck. She told me they couldn’t accommodate anyone, but that I could use her private, employee bathroom. “It’s clean,” she said with a humble smile.
Of course, her experience, disconcerting as it was, came as no surprise. In fact, on one occasion, I witnessed a FedEx worker delivering a package to my door without gloves or a mask; he opened my porch door and left the package on the floor without knocking. But heading back to his truck, he exhibited such a belabored gait that I couldn’t determine if he was inordinately tired, sick or some combination thereof. He was, indeed, walking so feebly and with such overexerted effort that I speculated whether he might actually have come down with coronavirus or some other such affliction and was nonetheless working due to enormous pressures recently imposed on delivery workers by their overtaxed employers.
I did some research on the subject and found a substantial amount of testimonies from postal workers attesting to the validity of this dilemma. Their stories range from being pushed to keep working without taking sick days to companywide peer pressure to refrain from wearing masks (and the attendant ridicule resulting from wearing them), the withholding of such protective equipment for employee use and even threats of termination if they were to take any such sick leave. The results are evident: Postal employees coming to work and remaining at work despite suffering from and exhibiting acute symptoms of coronavirus, in fear of losing their jobs and jeopardizing the well-being of their families.
I can’t more urgently stress, or thankfully express, for that matter, the vital role our delivery workers play in our local community and throughout our nation as a whole. If one could consider the community as a single organism, then, metaphorically, the postal delivery system is not at all unlike the crucial red blood cells we all rely upon to deliver the much-needed oxygenation for our optimal functioning and survival. If the safety and security of this system is compromised by such a formidable threat as coronavirus, then the possible repercussions could be devastating. Instead of receiving the essential service normally provided, we would, quite literally, be having a deadly virus delivered straight to our doors.
“We’re all in this together.” The shopkeeper with the 3-month-old granddaughter awaiting her at home again comes to mind, and her astute summation of the situation echoed in my bones as I drove out of the store’s parking lot, trying to squeeze my way safely into the stampede of midafternoon traffic, heavy with wet, midsummer heat and the innumerable weight of teeming cars accentuated by various parcel vans.
— George Bazley