Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.
Which Mailman is Yours?
I am appalled, quite frankly, by the lack of letter carriers that I have seen on the TV and the radio. We've got cop shows frisking us down from all directions, and fire fighting dramas run a distant second place, but there is little if anything on the TV or on the big screen that portrays the life of the good old American Mailman. Letter Carriers probably save more lives than any other service employee that is not a police officer or a firefighter. Mrs. Smith on Maple Street slips in the bathtub and can't get up, and it is only when Joe the Mailman comes along with her Good Housekeeping Magazine that at last her cries for help are heard and the rescue workers are brought in to save the day. There are legions of stories about letter carriers who go above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of their customers, but our trade remains conspicuously absent from TV and the movies.
When the Mailman is sometimes grudgingly portrayed it is always as the supporting actor, never the star. To add insult to injury, in this minor supporting role he is usually depicted as goofy, slovenly, absent-minded, ill-tempered, boastful, and sometimes borderline psychotic. At times even his membership in the human race is called into question! It is an unfair treatment, but I will do my best to remedy it here by summarizing the most noteworthy among a meager handful of Letter Carriers that have been portrayed on TV and film; and will do my humble best to explain what they signify regarding America's attitude toward this iconic American employee. If I miss any important ones, let me know! it is a very short list, by the way.
Mr. McFeely - Speedy Delivery!
One of my earliest impressions of the Mailman was Mr. McFeely of the Mr. Roger's show, the legendary Speedy Delivery himself. No Mailman has measured up since in my eyes, including myself, which is perhaps why I am still in therapy.
A Google search for Mr. McFeely will reveal that he was portrayed by the actor David Newell on the long-running TV series "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," which aired in the US between 1968 until 2001, but here is the untold story of McFeely's postal career that will not show up in any Internet search:
Mr. McFeely was definitely what we label "a runner" in postal parlance. His T-6 hated him at first because of the outrageous expectations put upon him by McFeely's remarkable performance, but once McFeely became aquainted with Mr. Rogers his street time slowed down considerably, so much so that his supervisors started to follow him on the street. Unfortunately, Mr. McFeely was busted exceeding his break time lounging around at King Friday's house in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. He was put on emergency placement and afterward copped an attitude and became a problem carrier.
In spite of the rather shaky end to his postal career, Mr. McFeely remains an iconic small screen Mailman who definitely created a positive image in the minds of the American public about letter carriers and the postal service. I don't recall any episodes where Mr. Rogers complained because McFeely lost a package or misdelivered his mail to his neighbor's house. Mr. McFeely is definitely a postal asset.
The Postman - We Deliver the Apocalypse
I admit that I have never seen this movie, even though I am a big Kevin Costner fan from the time I first saw Bull Durham in the theatre what must have been a quarter century ago. The Postman was one of those less than memorable movies that Costner made when he was coming down from the heights he achieved with films like "Bull Durham," "Field of Dreams," and "Dances with Wolves." It was made during what I call Costner's "apocalyptic" period, which included other less than inspiring films that depicted the end of civilization as we know it, such as "Waterworld." All the same, letter carriers everywhere should applaud the fact that such a big screen legend like Costner elected to portray our kind on the big screen, even though he was actually impersonating a letter carrier in this movie.
From what I have read, the basic story line behind "The Postman" is that Costner's character finds a dead mailman and steals his uniform in order to give himself an air of legitimacy. The fact that the presumed dead letter carrier might have actually been an unusually lethargic one never enters into the plot, from what I understand. There have been a great many letter carriers I know of that have been presumed dead by concerned customers along their route; only to have it discovered later that they were simply napping away their lunch breaks. Hopefully Costner did not leave a letter carrier who still had a pulse buried naked beneath his LLV. I guess I will have to watch the movie and find out.
What does The Postman mean to Letter Carriers in particular and to the Postal Service in general? It means that apocalypse or no apocalypse you are still going to get your Pennysaver on Tuesday. In the event of nuclear holocaust your Get One Free coupon books might be delayed a few days, but I guarantee you that Pennysaver truck is going to back up to the dock on time at your local delivery unit..
Men in Black II - Are Postal Workers Really Space Aliens?
It is true that the face of the Postal Service has changed drastically in the past thirty to forty years or so. The faces you see delivering your mail every day are now of a more multi-colored palette; it is no longer a white-bread dominated industry. I contend that this change is definitely for the better, but the film Men in Black II takes this concept of Postal diversity to disturbing extremes. In very alarming fashion it plants the seed of doubt that some of our postal workers might not even be from this planet. The fact that no one has come along yet to disprove this notion is even more damaging to the reputation of the United States Postal Service.
In MIB II Tommy Lee Jones plays his recurring role of Agent K. In the beginning of the film agent K has now retired from the Men in Black and is serving as postmaster of some mid-sized delivery unit. K doesn't retain any conscious memories of his time in the Men in Black, but his suppressed subconscious memories are still in place and cause him to actively seek out the company of aliens. For this reason the employees of his Post Office are definitely of an other than Earth flavor.
What does this mean about the origin of postal employees in general? You can rest assured, my dear readers, that my own planetary origin is good old Planet Earth, and I can produce a birth certificate to prove it if any of you conspiracy buffs out there should so demand. Lately, however, even I have been looking at some of my co-workers a bit suspiciously. For instance; some sort of half-human, half-robot monstrosity appeared in our post office lately with the disturbingly alien name of PASS. This new employee, which speaks in a spooky, monotone dialect, sorts parcels even faster than the multi-armed clerk you see above, lending some credence to the notion that the postal service is accepting candidates for employment from other planets. Is it possible that some of the new CCAs are actually from worlds other than Earth? The world wonders. Just food for thought.
Cliff the Mailman - Or: How to drink in uniform and get away with it
Don't get me wrong, postal workers can thrown 'em down with the best of them, but as an isolated cross section of the population I really don't think that letter carriers drink any more or less than anyone else. However, Cliff the mailman from the long-running TV show Cheers changed that impression forever, so much so that I think most Americans think we're actually drunk on the job most of the time.
This is Cliff Clavin you see above you here, played by the actor John Ratzenberger. On the show he lived with his mother. I'm not saying that means anything, I'm just throwing it out there. Cliff seems to be a know-it-all mailman, dispersing his pearls of wisdom from the back of the bar where he holds court with his rather portly friend Norm. I can tell you from experience that every delivery unit has at least one of these Clavin types; some loudmouth, bombastic fabricator of the utterly unbelievable that supervisors love because he makes all the other carriers leave for the street as quickly as possible. I don't include myself in this "Cliff" category, by the way. In my office I am as meek as a mouse and I never utter so much as a syllable unless called upon.
In certain aspects, therefore, Cliff resembles a lot of letter carriers I have known, but in other ways he is a complete fraud. Letter Carriers are sternly warned not to drink in uniform, as you can free from the poster on the top of this piece, and what kind of self-respecting Mailman would want to wear his postal duds to the bar anyway? Wearing one's Mailman uniform in a drinking establishment in which consenting adults of the opposite sex mingle is a surefire way not to get lucky, especially if you live with your mother. Perhaps this explains Cliff's lack of romantic success on the program.
Newman - Mailman from Hell
Unfortunately, when most Americans think of TV mailmen they think of Newman, played on the long-running comedy Seinfeld by actor Wayne Knight. Newman is the borderline psychopath letter carrier who is the bane and nemesis of Jerry Seinfield. Jerry and Newman live a few doors down from each other and their mutual distaste for one another is legendary. Even more notorious are Newman's get rich quick schemes, which he usually engages in with Jerry's equally off-kilter friend Kramer. In one episode Newman hijacks a mail truck, loads it with five cent deposit bottles and drives the load to Michigan, where he intends to sell the bottles at the ten cent deposit rate in that state and rake in a windfall profit. In other episodes he abuses his postal duties by unscrupulously withholding the mail of people he dislikes. Newman is a prime example of what happens when perfidious individuals of extremely suspect moral character are allowed to wear the blue.
But for some peculiar reason, instead of being offended by Newman and the abysmal public-relations perception he creates for the postal service, postal workers sometimes secretly cheer for him. I think Newman represents the caged up inner beast that every Mailman would like to unleash at times. How many of us dream of disposing of a bothersome supervisor or an annoying customer Newman style, but are restrained by those aggravating moral and ethical barriers that Newman is obviously unhindered by. I believe that the comparatively inoffensive Cliff from Cheers bothers us more than Newman. Cliff is simply a pathetic, loudmouth lout with nothing better to do than drink beer in a bar wearing his postal uniform, whereas Newman represents real action, real retribution, real comeuppance for thousands of us letter carriers who sometimes feel underappreciated or downright abused by postal management or the general public. In this way Newman is a true anti-hero for Mailmen and women everywhere, and is quietly applauded by his peers in postal swing rooms across the country.
A Shout out to my Satchel Sisters! Reba the Mail Lady!
While conducting my intense, candle-burning research for this hub, it came to my attention that I could not think of one female letter carrier that has been represented on television or in the movies. I immediately alerted my slighted satchel sisters via social media, and was prepared to launch a global letter writing campaign against Hollywood to rectify this glaring injustice (Remember, if you are embarking on any kind of outraged campaign against anyone, kindly avoid the electronic media and support your local Letter Carrier by using the good old reliable US mail. Stamps save lives. Thank you.). A few very informative responses rolled in, and my outrage was somewhat abated when a female letter carrier "Satchel Sista'" reminded me of Reba the Mail Lady from Pee-Wee's Playhouse.
I admit I had to read up on Reba a little bit. I browsed all the Reba videos on You Tube, where I became a witness to Pee-Wee's education by Reba on how letters arrive at each and every one of our houses, where the Mailman always greets us with a "cheery hello." I learned that Reba was portrayed by an actress with the rather unconventional name of Epatha Merkerson; but unconventionality was a trademark of Pee-Wee's Playhouse and its principal star with his unconventional laugh and perhaps unconventional behavior in movie theatres. But despite her short run as the ever-perky, upbeat deliverer of good news to Pee-Wee's zany Puppetland residence, Reba's legend lives on as the lone significant Mail-lady on TV.
I contend that every post office has at least one Reba type; a perpetually optimistic letter carrier of the feminine persuasion who constantly wears a beaming postal-issue smile along with her postal-issue satchel. She brightens up the days of grumpy co-workers and grouchy customers alike by displaying the brighter, cheerier side of America's oft maligned mail industry. You go girls!
I would like to proudly report that this sampling is just the tip of the Iceberg; that I could go on forever about Letter Carriers on TV and in the Movies, but sadly enough this is not the case. The handful of Mailmen and the one Mail-lady I reported on here are about all there is. What's it going to take to get Hollywood to open its eyes and give your local Letter Carrier a more prominent role in its comedies and dramas? I personally plan to boycott the entertainment industry until more of the men and women proudly wearing the "We Deliver for You" eagle above the pocket are given their fair share of celluloid. Not really, but it makes me feel righteous to say it.
Which of the above Letter Carriers represents the one who walks the beat on your block? Do you have a "Speedy Delivery" McFeely type, or are you cursed by a sketchy, sneaky Newman? Vote in the polls below and give me your thoughts on what you think of the entertainment industry's depiction of the American Letter Carrier.
Because the Mail Never Stops...
Honorable Mention - Taylor Negron in Better Off Dead
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 25, 2015:
Cliff and I are not far apart. We're both a little paunchy, we guzzle a beer or two, and we are extremely opionated armchair pilosoohers. Thanks Breanne for reading!
Breanne Ginsburg on January 25, 2015:
Ha, I love how you mentioned Cliff Clavin. As soon as I read your description, I thought of him, not because I assumed your personality was like him but because he's such a popular character!
Lauren from UK on August 01, 2013:
I'll look forward to reading your review of it!
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 31, 2013:
I have heard mixed reviews on the Postman. A friend of mine insists it is good, but he is another mailman so perhaps he is not looking at it objectively. I guess I'll have to see it for myself and face the consequences. Thanks for the nice words.
Lauren from UK on July 31, 2013:
I have to agree with Geekdom. Please don't watch The Postman. Your time is far too precious....
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 14, 2013:
I wonder if she is a "Rural" carrier, since you live out in the country. Rural carriers are actually a different job title within the postal service. Does she wear a uniform? Rural carriers don't, unless they buy them themselves. Anyhow, thank you for your very entertaining comment. Appreciate you adding to the discussion here.
SmartAndFun from Texas on July 14, 2013:
I wish you were my carrier, Mel! Unfortunately I had to vote for the 'Newman' option. Our mail "lady" is awful, which is really a shame. Everyone in the neighborhood calls her "The Mail Nazi." I really do hate that. When we lived in the city, the gentleman that delivered our mail was a real peach and we loved him, got to know him and considered him a friend. I thought by moving out to the country we'd have an even nicer mail carrier, just because folks always seem so nice out in the country, but no such luck. Unfortunately, for the eight years we've lived here, we have had the same mail grouch that hates her job and all of humanity, including all children. She loves enforcing obscure mail delivery rules so that she can issue citations and withhold mail. She never smiles or speaks, but I have heard her grunt on occasion. Ahhh well, at least she does the delivery part of her job well. We get our mail on time, every day, day after day -- at least I think she's giving us all of it.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 06, 2013:
Thank you for taking the time and effort to drop in. I'm glad I could make you smile a little bit. We Letter Carriers are often portrayed as jokers and buffoons on TV and in the movies and in a lot of cases I guess perception is reality. Thanks again.
Mel Jay from Australia on July 06, 2013:
So funny Mel, I really enjoyed this. I can just picture the work environment as you described it. I bet its shift-work for some too - that always mixes things up a bit. Up and funny from me - Cheers, Mel
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 19, 2013:
I got a serious lol out of your comment. I'm going to have to check the movie out myself, I guess, now that I've become a self-proclaimed authority on Movie Mailmen. Thanks for dropping by, reading, and giving me your thoughts.
Geekdom on June 19, 2013:
This was a fun look at film and mail-carriers. I did see the Postman and still want that time in my life back.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 15, 2013:
Thank you for your kind comments. I'll check out the typo immediately. I hope your birding is going well and your stamp collecting.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on June 15, 2013:
I read every word of what you write, and I believe we have a typo. Cliff's last name was "Clavin", not "Calvin". Good work, Mel, you came up with a winner here. Yes, we do need more postal people on the airwaves. At least you were depicted on stamps, and you can take that to the bank from your friendly stamp collector.