Tracie Anderson’s postal carrier dropped the hint poetically.
“Whether you shovel, Or whether you don’t, You may get your mail, Or maybe you won’t.”
The translation for Anderson and many other area residents: Clear the snow berm from the front of the mailbox or forget home delivery.
Anderson and her neighbors dug in and cleared a path. Another 100 people are calling at the Coeur d’Alene post office for their mail.
The unofficial rule is that if a carrier has to dig out his vehicle twice, the customer gets a notice. Poetry is not normally part of the delivery.
“We try to give them a weekend” to clear things out, Coeur d’Alene Postmaster Ron Carroll said. “If they don’t, we don’t even walk up on porches.”
Carriers are packing a 35-pound sack of mail and already are off balance, Carroll said. Add ice over a light dusting of snow, and the result is injury.
One carrier already broke a hand this season, after slipping on a step covered with snow and ice.
“I got up the steps. Then I came down a different stretch and hit ice and snow,” Al Simmons said of his personal winter Olympics.
“There was no handrail and boom, I went down.”
Simmons landed on his back. A woman came out of the house and asked if he was all right. “I said no, I was hurt,” Simmons said.
He finished his route - another hour of walking - and got a cast for his hand. He hasn’t missed a day of delivering and doesn’t make much of it.
“I think most of the carriers would do the same,” Simmons said.
Although the calendar doesn’t yet officially acknowledge winter, it’s been a tougher season than most for carriers and customers, Carroll said.
First the recent ice storm plopped a polar icecap down on porches and in front of curb-side mailboxes. Then there’s the routine of night snowplowing that usually undoes the diligent mail customers’ shoveling efforts.
There are two basic exceptions to the rule of “neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night.” People are supposed to keep snow and ice off their porches if their mail is delivered on foot.
If the mail is delivered by automobile, the carrier must be able to drive to the box and leave without backing up. It’s a safety issue, Carroll said.
It’s difficult to see out of the back of the mail vehicles. Backing potentially means children get hurt or more traffic accidents.
The mail carrier makes the decision to leave a notice that the porch or the mailbox are too dangerous or inaccessible for the mail to go through. If a customer calls and complains, Carroll drives out to see for himself.
Often, “their opinion of getting to the box isn’t the same as ours.”
There are exceptions for elderly or disabled customers who can’t clear the way. And this winter all of the mail has been delivered every day, except where power lines and blocked mailboxes have made it impossible, Carroll said.
Customers like Anderson aren’t upset by the requirement. “That’s the way it is,” she said, noting she works for the city of Post Falls’ snow removal crew. “These are symptoms of the Northwest.
“As it says on my desk, ‘Snow and Ice Happen.”’
Postmaster Carroll is well aware of the rules. His carrier even nudged him once about the path to his mailbox.
“Tonight I’ll clear my drive and then I’ll blow out the front of my mailbox,” he said. “It isn’t cool for the postmaster not to have his box cleared out.”
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