Next week my mail route is under inspection. Today, however, we did a dry run to get me used to having someone walking behind me and watching me. There was a Postal Inspector with me every step of the route this afternoon.
Like I don't have enough problems?
The Inspector was a nice enough guy, and I didn't really mind him being with me at all. Especially when we got to the point in my route where I deliver to some old age housing. The old folks seem to love to come out and hassle whomever is following me, whether it's a Postal Inspector from out of town, like today, or simply one of my supervisors giving me my annual Walk-With. Someone always totters to the door, or to the mailbox with an outgoing letter, and they see the guy walking behind me with the clipboard. Nine times out of ten, they just up and ask “Who are you?”
When they're told that their postal route is under inspection, that their daily carrier is under inspection, the observer, whomever he is, usually gets an earful about how wonderful I am. They hear how I'm out there in the heat, and the rain, how I'm always early (though I'm not) and how they've never had another mailman as terrific as I am.
It's like having 150 grandmothers out there, I swear to God.
Well, today I was being followed by an honest-to-God Postal Inspector, and as I was moving from unit to unit in the old age housing, who should open the door to hand me some mail, but the Terror.
She came out shouting, very loud in the close confines of the hall. She got all the way through her spiel about how much postage she was putting on the envelope and why (she had just gotten off the phone with my Boss with her questions) and where it was going and why before she stopped for a breath. On the inhale she noticed my tag-a-long with his clipboard. Her eyes got squinty. She rotated slowly in place to face him full on, an act that reminded me strangely of a tank bringing its main gun to bear.
“Who are you?”
He jiggled the clipboard her way, as he said “Oh, we're just checking out the route.”
“You are?” Those two words had enough gravel in them to fill a quarry, and I found myself automatically clearing my throat. She leveled a finger at him like a nun with a ruler singling out a naughty child.
“Wait right here,” she said in the bellow that belongs to those who insist that they can hear just fine, it's everyone else who's mumbling all the time. “I have something to show you.”
She turned and bustled into her apartment, and though the door closed behind her we could clearly her her continuing admonishments.
“You wait right there! Don't you go anywhere! Right there! I'll show you what I'm talking about!"
So we waited.
Eventually, the Terror reemerged from her apartment, but this time dressed for the elements in a large coat and hat. She trundled up to the Inspector and took his forearm in The Grip.
The Grip is a strange phenomenon found in some of the elderly. It frequently takes us younger folk by surprise, especially when it's applied by a little old woman. The Grip seems to be an amazing strengthening of the hands that takes place due to hours of supporting oneself with a cane, or walker. The combination of surprise and The Grip has been known to drive strong young men to their knees, and is somewhat of a danger. When properly applied, The Grip can squeeze a diamond from a lump of coal.
The Terror took the Inspector's forearm in The Grip, and the poor man fell back a step. She followed right along, stepping smartly for someone who can recall a time when dirt was new. The Inspector was writhing in her grip, just trying to free his arm before blood loss caused his hand to become gangrenous, but she just wrangled him one-handed out into the yard in front of her unit. She pointed one finger from her free hand high into the air, and from the expression on her face you would have thought she was about to scold God.
"There's a patch of shingles that have all buckled," she old-lady screamed, "right there in the middle, running to the right. And the ... the... what do you call the thing there that runs along the edge there?"
"The gutter?" I supplied, smiling widely beneath my shades.
"Yes! That's it," she roared, sounding for all the world like an attacking 50 foot crow. "The gutter! It's all loose on the end there!"
The Inspector, fed up with the futility of prying at her iron fingers with no sign whatsoever that she even noticed, decided to try reasoning with her.
"Ma'am!" he shouted, "I'm not here to inspect the roof! I'm inspecting the route! The Postal Route!"
For a moment there was blessed silence.
"Oh," she said, the volume turned down just a bit. Then she turned back to the roof and continued with her explanation of what was wrong with it as if he had not spoken. She had two more minutes in her prepared presentation, and by God she was going to tell someone! The Grip ensured that she had an audience for her performance, and it was an audience of two for I couldn't tear myself away.
Two minutes later the Inspector and I were on our way, both with tears in our eyes. His were due to that numb feeling in his lower arm finally giving way to a massive case of pins and needles as circulation was restored. He staggered on, unable to stop and do anything about it for fear that the Terror would set upon him again.
Mine were of laughter, pure and simple.
Talk to you later!