Some things are so regular and dependable that we take them for granted; receiving our mail can be one such daily event. "Neither snow nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Commonly accepted as the creed of our mail carriers, this is not an official U.S. Post Office motto, but one that our mail carriers try to live up to every day on the job.
According to Wikipedia, the United States Postal Service is currently the third largest employer in the United States, after the United States Department of Defense and Wal-Mart.
Ed Lewis is a mail carrier in the village of Saranac Lake who has been delivering mail for the past five years.
Lewis pictured in his Saranac Lake home
(Photo — Susan Moody)
Born into a U.S. Air Force family in 1956, Ed spent his school years at many different places, including Canada and Japan. But his emotional anchor and where he always felt most at home was in his parents' neighborhood in Saranac Lake.
When he was a junior in high school he moved to here to graduate from Saranac Lake High School in 1974.
After high school, Ed spent one year at college and then took to the road, working mostly with cable TV companies around the country. One time, in between jobs, he came back to Saranac Lake and met Kate Lynch who, though growing up in Long Island, had earned a nursing degree from North Country Community College.
"We met and hit it off immediately," Ed said. "I had a job opportunity and I told her 'I'm only going to go if you go with me.' We'd only been going out for a few months and she said 'what the heck.' It worked out for us and we got married in 1987."
Living in Massachusetts, Ed and Kate had their first child, Seamus, named after Kate's Irish father. On a trip back to Saranac Lake, Kate and Ed decided to stay and run a small local bar called Casa Blanca, which was behind what is now China King.
Eventually, Ed joined the United States Postal Service as a mail (or letter) carrier and Kate went to work for Dr. Denise Ferrando. The couple's daughter, Gabrielle, was born in 1994 and the family bought a big old cure cottage, which was haply located in the same neighborhood that Ed's parents had lived.
"We love it here," Ed said. "I feel good about walking down the street and saying hello to people I know and those I don't know. The continuity of this community is comforting - my kids have even had one of the same teachers in school that I had."
Ed is happy to say that both Seamus Edward and Gabrielle Patrice are honor students and have been active in sports while enjoying a full social life.
A typical morning for Ed begins at 7:30, when he begins sorting the post into the order of his route that day. With more than 500 addresses on his route, sorting takes about an hour and a half. By 9 a.m., Ed begins to load the truck and usually starts on Bloomingdale Avenue near the Belvedere and then into town. He has been walking the same route for the past five years, so he has built up a close relationship with many people in the area and he knows most all of them by name.
One of his stops is the music store, Ampersound on Woodruff Street. Mark Coleman, the owner, said he looks forward to Ed's daily visit.
"I hear the mail being delivered across the street and I know that Ed will be in soon," Mark said. "He is always friendly, cheery and even though he is a Yankee fan, he is tolerant and magnanimous."
A customer in the store joined in the banter to expound on Ed's delightful sense of humor, good taste in music (jokingly commenting on their common liking for Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth) and of Ed's genuine liking of and kindness to animals.
"He is also strong and good looking," Mark added.
The good-natured interaction between the three men has a tone of an ongoing camaraderie that is probably repeated many times on Ed's mail route.
"With the job, there are certain expectations, but because you are on your own outdoors, there is a certain sense of freedom," Ed said. "I enjoy it. It's a great way to head toward retirement, getting the blood circulating and being active. The bag can be heavy and you have to be sensible and not cram in too much size and weight. This might sometimes dictate an extra trip.
"Some hazards come with the job; slipping and falling, especially in the winter, is going to happen, but I have never been hurt. And, oh, I have been bitten by a dog. I never saw him coming, never heard it until it growled and bit me on the arm. We all carry spray in the bag, but I have never had to use it. I won't put myself in jeopardy - if there is a strange dog, I don't approach it."
The mail carrier can be such a regular part of the day that sometimes the coming and going will be unnoticed and one can be privy to so much without trying. Bills, magazines, political fliers and much more reveal people's habits. Although there is no "priestly" requirement not to divulge the secrets learned from the mailbox, Ed said people confide a lot in him and he feels "morally and ethically bound not to repeat a confidence." Looking out for the care of those in a vulnerable situation is a personal concern for Ed. He serves as a daily safety net for some people on his route, watching for signs of worry.
"I kind of pay attention to the trends and habits of the elderly people, because I am one of the most constant things that happens during their day and might be able to spot trouble," Ed said.
Asked if the postman always rings twice, Ed replied "The only time I ring the door bell is when there is a parcel or something needs to get a signature."
When he does bring a special package, Ed said, "Although they ordered and are expecting it, it's like you brought them the greatest gift in the world, which is fun; you've just brought it and the smiles on faces and the excitement is priceless."
With Christmas coming, Ed is headed into the busiest two weeks of the year and, looking the part, will get to play Santa's helper.
"It is not uncommon during the holidays to go to a mailbox to find a plate of brownies or cookies or some little gift of appreciation," he said. Just before he returned to his deliveries, Ed wanted to assure all the kids that their letters to Santa will be delivered to the North Pole. And he was heard to exclaim as he drove out of sight, "Merry Christmas to all and to all have a nice day."
This story was based on an interview with Ed Lewis.