It felt as though somebody converted my apartment into a package drop-off station today without telling me. I work from home and most of the delivery people know that ringing my doorbell is a pretty sure bet, since everyone else in the building is out during the day. So even if I have no colleagues to talk to, I can always count on the postman to remind me that I am not alone in this corner of the world!

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Oh no, more boxes ©MTHerzog

Usually there are two daily mail deliveries that I expect (not for me, but in terms of ringing the bell so they can stuff all the letters into everyone else’s mailboxes), however  today was truly an indication that Christmas is just around the corner. Even the cat began to wonder and got up to open the door with me, deciding that it was beginning to get interesting even for her. The problem with Champagne being part of the receiving committee is that she doesn’t understand that the packages are not all ours and expects me to open them all so she can have a go at the boxes. Twice I’ve had to apologise to the neighbours for handing over boxes with cat scratches and it is a good thing everyone knows her in the building and smiles it off.

I signed for seven different packages today but opened the door a lot more often than that once the people started collecting their various items in the evening. Online shopping changed our lives on so many levels and for those of us who can’t handle crowds, it is the perfect solution. But this means that the postal system everywhere has also changed its ways and if I take Berlin as an example, become so specialised. Amazon alone has different categories and more delivery men working for DHL and Amazon Logistics than I can keep track of. There are a few regulars, for domestic orders, but it gets interesting for international deliveries or consumable goods.

There are a lot of snobs out there who are quick to dismiss and look down on mail delivery jobs, considering them a last resort if nothing else works. I strongly disagree. In spite of the digital age and most correspondence being electronic nowadays, there is still a lot that lands in the mailbox, and not just bills and junk mail. The men and women who take on these jobs need to be physically fit, organised, literate, and must be able to establish a rapport with people. They are the bearers of good and bad news alike, through no fault of theirs. I live on a street mostly with multi-story buildings where all the pets are contained indoors, so there is no quarrel with the vicious four-legged house pet, but in the suburbs where the dogs will be the first to “greet” the postman, it is not funny.

There are days when the mailmen is just so exhausted and frustrated with the weather, that I feel so sorry for them. You’re not supposed to tip them here, like in the Philippines, but I break the rules every once in a while and will hand over something to make them smile and bring a little refreshment their way. In summer I often handed out cold bottles of mineral water with a snack, and when temperatures dropped significantly I switched over to soda or chocolate bars. It always catches them by surprise but I love the watch the moment when that broad grin pushes away the grumpy face.

Some days they are grateful even for a genuine thank you and a smile, and I love to tease my favourite DHL postman by complaining that he forgot to bring me the sunshine I ordered. He caught on pretty quickly and when he rang the bell last week, drenched from the rain outside, he apologised for not having the sunshine with him even before I could say anything.

I suppose I developed a soft spot for post office employees when I started reading the books of Rita Mae Brown many years ago, where all the mysteries began and ended in the post office – and featured two cats and a corgi to solve the mysteries! My mother used to have sandwiches ready for the mailman who brought the registered mail. He wasn’t allowed to accept tips but he was always grateful for that sandwich.