This arti­cle is part 3 of 7 in the series The Cincinnati Favor

My farm lies near the end of the rur­al mail deliv­ery route so I usu­al­ly receive mail late in the after­noon, gen­er­al­ly not ear­li­er than 3:30, so I was a bit miffed find­ing that my walk to the mail­box at almost 4:00 p.m. revealed that the postal car­ri­er had not yet arrived.

A quick glance at the raised flag on the box was an obvi­ous sign that the bills I had post­ed had not yet been picked up.

As I turned to head back to the house, I spot­ted the sig­na­ture white USPS deliv­ery truck top­ping the hill a short dis­tance away so I stopped, turned back to the mail­box, and removed the items post­ed in it to hand to the mail car­ri­er and to receive any items she may have for me.

There was a soft whine to the lit­tle vehi­cle as it drew near and I saw Marian reach­ing to her side as she approached to retrieve what­ev­er she already had bun­dled and ready to hand me.

“Mornin’ Michael,” she hailed, com­ing to a stop mere inch­es from where I stood, with her usu­al soft smile that appar­ent­ly greet­ed all her customers.

“Mornin’ Marian,” I respond­ed, try­ing my damn­d­est to mim­ic the soft south­ern drawl that accom­pa­nied her greeting.

“You’re get­tin’ bet­ter at that, Michael,” she teased, know­ing that it was an effort for me to incor­po­rate all the nuances of cen­tral Kentucky speech.

It was a small rit­u­al between the two of us and helped cement a friend­li­ness that had blos­somed over sev­er­al years.

“Mostly junk mail today, Michael.  You know, this stuff keeps the Post Office in busi­ness.  First class ‘snail mail’ may be down, but this here junk is a bonan­za for us.  Helps keep the red line lean­ing a bit toward the black and keeps Congress off our necks a bit.”

“Yeah, I know.  If Congress had­n’t tried to run the Post Office like a typ­i­cal busi­ness, we would­n’t be hear­ing crap like stop­ping Saturday deliv­ery — and those demands on your pen­sion funds are down­right nuts.”

I always com­mis­er­at­ed with Marian when she would go off on the state of the Post Office.

“How come you always send in your bills by mail, Michael?” she inquired.  “Most peo­ple nowa­days use inter­net ser­vices to pay their bills.”

“I know.  Guess I’m just old-fash­ioned and I believe that ‘snail mail’ is still the safest way to get a pay­ment to some­body.  And inci­den­tal­ly, I don’t real­ly agree with the term ‘snail mail’ since I often get mail the day after it’s sent.  That’s an unfor­tu­nate term that does­n’t real­ly describe what you folks do every day.”

“Yeah.  We don’t pay any atten­tion to it.  It’s all part of doin’ the job.”

“I guess.  Anyway, see you next time.”

“Have a good day, Michael.  See you next time.”

With all four wheels back on the pave­ment, Marion head­ed on down the road to com­plete the dozen or so final deliv­er­ies for the day, leav­ing me with a hand­ful of mail, most­ly junk adver­tise­ments and one or two pieces of correspondence.

As I walked back to the house, I sift­ed through the items just deliv­ered, know­ing that some of them would be tossed into the trash can before I went inside.  No sense in tak­ing some of that stuff inside, only to have to bring it back out with oth­er house­hold trash.

About halfway up the dri­ve­way I heard a rau­cous ‘beep, beep’ and turned to see the black pick­up truck of my neigh­bor John Nash going by with John’s left arm extend­ed out the dri­ver’s win­dow, waving.

I gave a quick wave back, but I think John had already gone suf­fi­cient­ly past that he prob­a­bly did­n’t see it.

‘I love these folks around here,’ I thought to myself.  Even though we don’t asso­ciate on a reg­u­lar basis or even see each oth­er very often, any of them would do any­thing nec­es­sary to help any of their oth­er neigh­bors.  Good people.

Leaving most of my mail in the trash can, I entered the house hold­ing two num­ber nine envelopes, one obvi­ous­ly a bill for tele­phone ser­vice and the oth­er with a return address list­ing only a street num­ber and city, 717 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

‘Strange,’ I thought.  ‘I don’t think I know any­one in Cincinnati.’

Tossing the phone bill on the near­by desk, I pro­ceed­ed to open this unex­pect­ed piece of mail, ful­ly expect­ing it to be noth­ing more than an offer of two free nights’ lodg­ing in exchange for lis­ten­ing to a sales pitch for a timeshare.

‘Well,’ I said to myself.  ‘It’s been four months since my last assign­ment.  Looks like it’s time to pack the ol’ bags and get ready for a trip.’

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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