As you may have guessed, most of this is exaggeration. And most of the rest of it is downright lies.

There is a kernel of truth in there if you look carefully. I did tell about my pants falling down. And I did crow like a rooster. I put my rubber nose on before I left. There were crayons and coloring books and sheets of stamps and talks about dogs and bee stings and neighborhood mailmen.

I do love my job. It’s a good honest job, and I have lots of opportunities to help others. (There were three occasions when I actually helped others in life-threatening situations – a woman who had fallen inside her house and waited two days till she “heard the mailman” before she called out for help. Another older man who had a heart attack and fell between cars on a sub-zero day; a much older woman who tripped on an uneven sidewalk into a snowdrift and couldn’t move.) I’m very proud of my career. And that’s what it is, a career. You can’t say that about a lot of jobs. But I also see the humor in the work that I do, and the people I work with, and the situations that I find myself in. So I am using this “re-telling” of an actual event to express some of that humor.

I assure you that no actual children were harmed in the presentation.

Someone, I forget who, but it must have been one of my kids, because they inherited my sense of humor, once joshed me, saying “You don’t have to worry about my grandchildren growing up to be mailmen, because by the time that they’re old enough, there won’t be any mailmen.”

Well, first of all, I wouldn’t mind at all if they became mailmen (or mailwomen).

And secondly, they’ve been saying that since they invented the telegraph. I remember it well. “Nobody’s gonna need mailmen anymore” I think it was Mark Twain.
Or maybe Shakespeare. “I thinkest a nail, in the career of the mail, has now so surely been put; a message that hails, with the speed of a snail, makes the need of a mailman kaput.”

So say a prayer for your mailman. If he knows you’re in need, most likely he (or she) will say a prayer for you.And leave him (or her) some cold water on a hot day.

May you be blessed

I know that many of you have been waiting with baited breath for a report of my Kindergarten COMMUNITY HELPER presentation - "Mailmen: why they are the Backbone of our American Society. A modest evaluation of the contribution these hardworking and simple-minded individuals toward maintaining - nay, IMPROVING - the political, social, economic and moral standards of this great nation, in the face of a top-heavy bureaucratic outdated and short-sighted administrative hierarchy."

In all honesty and humility, I think the presentation went very well.

The following if a succinct and pithy, albeit somewhat exaggerated, account of the high points of Tuesday's presentation in front of my grandson's kindergarten class.

I had already spent several hours gathering information, drawing up an outline, composing speech and practicing my presentation and polishing my performance when I received devastating news on Monday in the form of an email informing me that my COMMUNITY HELPER time slot was being pushed back 15 minutes because the FIREMEN were going to give THEIR presentation just before me and felt they needed extra time to bring in the Dalmatian and give a full scale re-enactment of burning building rescue....

Needless to say that I had some qualms about being assigned to follow-up THE star act of the COMMUNITY HELPER curriculum unit. But, being the professional that I am, I sent back a reply, saying, "Sure! No problem." And I quickly went to work re-writing my entire presentation.

I had originally planned to awe and inspire them with a series of bar graphs and time lines and pie charts displaying some of the more amazing information regarding the Post Office.

For example:
Did you know that the United States Postal Service had it’s origins even before the United States existed? Back in 1775, the Continental Congress authorized Benjamin Franklin (our first and finest Postmaster General) to begin organizing a government agency to ensure prompt and efficient delivery of the post through the 13 original colonies as they broke away from England. That was only a seven years after I was born! (I won’t take the cheap shot and say that Ben was also our last and only great Postmaster. Abe Lincoln also served as Postmaster as well, so that makes TWO! Ben was just our last and only great Postmaster General. Go ahead – name another!)
Or did you know that the Postal Service employs 650,000 men, women, and children in various capacities. (Well, technically speaking, the children are all unpaid volunteers.) Or that we have 28,000 Post Office Stations around the country and in its territories? Or that we make deliveries to over 149,000 stops six days a week (for the present, at least, as our current Postmaster General is still diligently working to get our level of customer service cut to a mere five days a week.)
Or did you know that we deliver about 200,000,000 (as in 200 billion) pieces of mail each year? (That includes not only first class letters but magazines, advertisements and parcels.)
Did you know that the above information is terribly outdated, because the Postal Workbook Handout hasn’t been updated since 1999??

Anyway, I decided that, in view of my Fireman Fred competition, I had to re-evaluate my presentation. So I searched my memory for clues about just what types of presentations were popular with kindergarten kids. (Actually, these were more like PTS flash-backs to my substitute teaching days.)

I, looking back on those happy occasions when I had the opportunity to teach kindergarten class, I remembered these two vital pieces of information:
First: Little kids like to be entertained, not educated.
Second: Kids like to get handouts – prizes and stuff.
Third: Little kids have an attention span of about 90 seconds.

Child psychologists tell us that kids have an attention span of 1 minute per year. So theoretically, a 6 year old would have an attention span of about 6 minutes. But if you put 17 six year–olds in one small room, their attention span will be about 90 seconds. (Having observed my fellow letter carriers at our Postal Service talks, I would say that our attention span is ironically also about 90 seconds.) After that, they start fidgeting or poking each other or talking amongst themselves or picking their noses while daydreaming.(I’m talking about the letter carriers here.)

(I also remembered that teaching a kindergarten class is like trying to herd marbles. And I remembered that there are only two ways to control a kindergarten class – sugary treats dispensed for good behavior at short random intervals so that by the time kids are ready to go home, the parents will be greeted by sugar-crazed darlings; or the Arnold Schwarzenegger “Kindergarten Cop” Method “SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! (his “whistle” training method was obviously an artificial Hollywood “feel good” invention that would never have succeeded in real life. I also remember that I once taught a kindergarten class in the same kindergarten classroom that I had attended decades earlier in Scanlon School. Kind of a “Welcome Back Kotter” moment in my life. But I digress, and apologize for the rambling of an old man.)

Back to the ramblings of a nearly old man….
Those three insights – that kindergarten kids like to be entertained, and like to get stuff, and have an attention span of 90 seconds – saved my presentation. (By the way, this is true for adult presentations as well. Try creating your next presentation based on those three principals and see how everyone reacts.)

I decided all I had to do is tell funny stories, give away good stuff, and do something to get their attention every 90 seconds, and I’d be a hit!

And I must say, I think it worked well.
I told them lots of mailman stories, always with the underlying “educational” theme. Educate and make ‘em laugh, was my motto.

I introduced my lovely wife Terry, who accompanied me, as my “street supervisor” whose purpose was to take notes and let me know what I was doing wrong. I told them mailmen need lotsa supervisors, because otherwise we wouldn’t know what we were doing wrong, but that the supervisors never had to work hard, so maybe they could be supervisors when they grew up. (The fact that Terry came in with a walker gave credence to my story.)

I told them about the weird packages that came through the mail
– I told them about the rooster (and crowed loudly much to their amusement – precisely 90 seconds into the presentation.)
And the buzzing bee colony we once got - which led into a long session of hand-raising as the kids wanted to tell their own bee sting stories. (When kindergarten kids raise their hands, it isn’t because they want to ASK something, it’s because they want to TELL something. When they asked if I ever got stung by a bee, I stuck my tongue WAY out and said, “Yeth, an it watsh nat a pletty sssightt!” (180 seconds into the presentation.)
I had also brought a hula hoop to the class as an example of another “extreme” packaging, and used it as a prop (big earring, halo, mirror – “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the best looking mailman of all?” “Definitely not YOU, Mailman Mike.”).

And, as part of my “give away good stuff” plot, I told them they could keep the hula hoop (Yea Mailman Mike!)

I also told them about the strangest package I ever delivered. A DEAD BODY!! (Okay, it was cremated and in an urn, but they didn’t need to know that! Kids love gross stuff! (270 seconds into the presentation.)

I explained to them the only two articles of authentic Postal Equipment I was authorized to bring along – my two hip satchel bags (stuffed with things to give away) and my can of dog spray.

The can of dog spray elicited another round of hand-raising as the kids wanted to tell their own dog stories, and the teacher asked if I had ever been bitten, so I held my hand up high with the pointing finger down and out of sight to the kids, and said, “Yup, a humongous Chihuahua once swallowed this finger and I can no longer PICK MY NOSE! (showing them how hard it was.)

I also said that a dog had once bit off my head (pulling my t shirt up over my head), but I got a new one from a supervisor who never used his. (360 seconds).

I then asked them if they knew why I wore red suspenders? My grandson Avi knew why – “To keep your pants up Grandpa!” And I told them the story of how once I forgot to wear my suspenders and I was crossing a busy street and I was in the middle of the street with a lot of mail in both hands, and all of a sudden my pants fell down around my ankles. (480 seconds)(True story.They were rain pants over my uniform pants, but still a true story.)

I tried to give away the goodie bags that I had in my satchel, but the teacher insisted that they would be too much of a distraction during the talk, so I was left becoming more and more stooped over under their weight as the presentation continued. So I explained what was in the goodie bag.

Official USPS crayons (“We got a bigger box from Freddy Fireman!” several kids chimed.)

Official USPS Coloring Books (dated 2006, long before the kids were born and with pictures of stamps long out of print). (“We got better coloring books from Petey Policeman” other kids cried out.”)

I wanted to ask them if anyone gave them SPANKINGS???? Cause I had a bag full of those!

I brought out my next-to-the-last give-away – REAL ENVELOPES with note cards AND real stamps so they could make their OWN cards and send them to people. (“Homework?? Yuck!! The kids – and teacher - all shouted.) The teacher confistcated those – “for later use” wink, wink. (INCLUDING 37 perfectly good 38 cent “Postcards of the US” commemorative stamps!)

Then I showed them the bag of Smarties candy that I brought and they all yelled “Yeah Mr. Mailman!!” as I started throwing candy out to the eager young souls… (540 seconds)

Next I passed around sheets of commemorative stamps I had bought back around the turn of the century (2000, not 1900). Actually, the kids were very impressed. Not so much with the “fun” stamps – Bugs Bunny, Disney characters, The Muppets (I was surprised that none of them could name ANY of the Mupppets – “The frog guy” “The Pig” “The Dog” were about as close as they could get.

The kids were more impressed with the scary ones…. Snakes. Insects. Movie Monsters. I told them that I think the Post Office should release more scary stamps. The Walking Dead. Inner Body Parts. Donald Trump. (600 seconds)

As I was writing this, I Googled the new stamps for 2015. B-O-R-I-N-G. Ingrid Berman. Flannery O’Connor. MISSING CHILDREN! Come on, Post Office. Have we given up on the stamp collecting hobby?

We next did a bit on “Our Mailman”. This got off to an embarrassing start as the teacher asked a question (The first one of the day!) She asked if there are more and more mailmen driving mail trucks and delivering to curbside boxes (as opposed to door-to-door) now then there were when I first started delivering mail. I answered honestly that when I started delivering mail most mailmen rode horses and just dropped off the mail at the stagecoach stations or (preferably) the local saloon.

Then we got into how many knew their mail man, and how some mailmen are really mail women, and some want to be called letter carriers, but we delvier more partials (“That’s ‘PARCELS’ corrected my street supervisor form the back row – I thought she was sleeping.) so maybe we should be called Par-CEL PEOPLE instead of mailmen.

Most of the kids knew and liked their mail man/lady, though one little girl said that they have a BLIND mailman. “Are you sure he’s blind?” I asked, “Yeah,” she answered, “My Daddy said he must be blind because he sure can’t read the addresses right!’

About then the kids started getting distracted, despite my steady supply of Smarties tossed at random intervals, and I realized that my 90 seconds were nearly up, I quickly shifted gears and said I would teach them a Postal Cheer that we used at the Post Office whenever things were going bad, and that they could use this Cheer whenever they felt sad.

“I’ll say, “Everything’s gonna be…” I explained, “and you pump your first into the air and yell ‘ALRIGHT!’’ So we did a half –dozen Official Postal Cheers
“Everything’s gonna be – ALRIGHT!”
“Everything’s gonna be – ALRIGHT!”
“Everything’s gonna be – ALRIGHT!”

And we added some foot stomping and some hooting and hollering, and I knew I had them in the palm of my hand. (660 seconds) (Note: That is actually a Postal Cheer, originated at our Moraine Valley Post Office by one Jonathan Evans, and chanted on a fairly regular basis – as it is NEEDED on a fairly regular basis…)

Now that they were worn out and attentive, I ended up on a more serious note. I asked them “What would be one good thing about being a mailman?” No one had answer, so I admitted, “Darn it, I asked everybody at work the same question and no one there knew either.”

Then I told them about the Postal Motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor sleet nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And I explained that this meant that we had to deliver the mail no matter what the weather was like – in terrible rainstorms and deep snow storms and sun so hot you can fry an egg, or so cold that it will freeze your toes off. “And,” I asked, do you know WHY we do that?” “For the money” one little girl yelled. “How did you know that?” I asked, surprised that she knew the correct answer. “Because my Uncle Pete is a mailman and that’s what he always says.”

Finally I asked them “How many of you want to be a mailman when you grow up?”
The room went eerily silent, and no one raised their hands. Not one child. “Good,” I whispered. “And that is the reason why you have to work REAL hard in school, and do what the teacher says, and learn everything you can. Because if you do those things, maybe, just maybe, you won’t HAVE to ever be a mailman.” (720 seconds, and not a sound was made as those frightening words fell on fertile soil.)

As my presentation came to a close, my wife and grandson distributed one Solar Powered “Monkey on a Swing” as a giveaway to each child, and I left a big box of good quality kids books (albiet “used” from the Bridgeview) and an assortment of kids games with the teacher, kind of a final “Slam Dunk” to ensure a memorable presentation. (780 seconds.)