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What Makes the Mailman Say: No Ma’am?

April 6, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rain, sleet and gloom of night may not discourage a mail carrier, but aggressive ladies, bees, hawks and dogs sure can.

A recent incident in Syracuse, N.Y., attracted attention when a woman demanded her mailman also deliver as a male-man.

He resisted.

She persisted.

Delivery desisted.

Having people make sexual advances toward letter carriers isn’t unheard of, said Robert West of the Delivery Management Division of the Postal Service.

But ″this is the first one I have heard of where there was a cutoff″ of the mail, he said.

Asked if it might be that not all carriers would complain about sexual advances, West responded: ″There’s no time allowance ... for that.″

Having the postal service decline to deliver can result from something as mundane as a missing mailbox.

Or something as exotic as nudism.

A carrier once declined to deliver to a nudist colony near Tampa, Fla., until residents built a wall to screen their lifestyle.

Mostly, West said, mail is stopped for safety reasons. The problem usually is resolved quickly and no national statistics are kept.

″These decisions are made at the local level,″ said Richard McKillop, also of the delivery management division. ″We only get involved when the case gets appealed up.″

The World Series earthquake, the eruption of Mount St. Helens - those were ″ample reason for mail not get through for a few days,″ said postal spokesman Bil Paul of San Jose, Calif.

″Fraud is another reason,″ McKillop said. ″If a company is found to be committing mail fraud delivery can be stopped by the Postal Inspection Service.″

Bees sometimes nest in or near rural mailboxes, causing carriers to stay away, McKillop said. Other hazards are presented by porches or driveways under repair and rural roads that become muddy or unsafe.

Occasionally, a carrier will be threatened if a check or other item doesn’t arrive as expected, he said.

Drew Von Bergen, a spokesman for the National Association of Letter Carriers, said there had been a couple of cases when delivery was stopped for a period in crime-ridden housing projects where it was considered to dangerous to go.

Paul, who says he cut his teeth as a carrier in housing projects in San Francisco, said ″you develop a kind of 360-degree vision″ in high-crime areas.

But halting the mail because of crime is unusual, both agreed.

Dangerous animals were mentioned again and again as the problem most likely to cause a cutoff. And the animals aren’t always pets.

Mississippi Kite hawks began attacking a mail carrier in Snyder, Texas.

While the birds have a 2-foot wingspan, carrier Pat Wittie says, ″when they dive-bomb you, you would swear the span is closer to 8 feet.″

She contacted state officials after the birds knocked mail out of her hand and knocked off her helmet, but found nothing could be because the hawks are an endangered species.

A temporary cluster of mailboxes was set up away from the birds until they finished nesting.

Carrier Ed Brown of Brady, Texas, spent four days in a hospital after his encounter with a rattlesnake.

Brown dropped an item, reached into some weeds to retrieve it and was bitten. He continued his appointed rounds for about 20 minutes before the pain and swelling convinced him the bite was serious and he sought help.

Despite the occasional encounter with snakes, tigers, alligators and other exotic animals, dogs get the most attention.

Indeed, carriers in Hyattsville, Md., have gone so far as to do a local television show discussing the problem, including a ″Rockette-style″ dance in which they display their dog-bite scars.

While national statistics are lacking, estimates of the number of letter carriers bitten by dogs are as high as 8,000 annually, at a cost of $7 million or more in medical treatment.

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