I’m usually happy to see my mail carrier Andrea because she brings me checks I love to cash and the magazines I love to read. We’ve chatted several times a month since I moved to Harlem in June. I know that when she’s on vacation she doesn’t go anywhere and she has a daughter who doesn’t live with her. Although she has no idea what I do or where I go, she knows I travel often because I always place a hold on my mail. A few months ago she told me that she was going to tip me at Christmas time because I always pick up my hold mail when indicated and she appreciated that.
Today I was not eager to chat with her. I didn’t even want her to see me for fear that she would remember that I owed her a money. Or did I really owe her?
The last time I saw her, a few days before Christmas, she was up the street from my apartment. I told her I had something for her and would see her the next day. She knew I meant I had a holiday tip for her. As it turns out I didn’t see her the next day or the day after. Around that time I found out my blog on Essence.com was going to be discontinued as of Jan. 2. Seeing that that paycheck covered all of my basic living expenses, money was going to be scarce in the first quarter. I would have to cut back on spending, not that I buy much anyway except for expensive groceries.
I was more than happy not to see Andrea, not that the tip I planned to give her would break me. Everyday I didn’t see her meant another day I could hold onto my money. Today I spotted her before she saw me. Her back was turned and I hoped she went inside an apartment building before looking down the hill. Wishful thinking. She turned around and smiled. I tried to put my head down like I didn’t see her but it was too late.
“Merry Christmas! Happy New Year,” she sang.
It was her gentle way of reminding me that it may be Jan. 13 but it’s not too late to say happy holidays — and it’s not too late to give a holiday tip either.
I felt indebted to her since I had promised to give her something, although I never said what. I reached into my purse, pulled out a $20 bill, folded it, handed it to her, said “Merry Christmas” and apologized for not seeing her before then. She thanked me and went inside a building.
I wonder if the United States Postal Service teaches its carriers the polite way to remind people that it’s not too late to tip – nearly three weeks after Christmas.
To this day I still wonder why my mail carrier from my old apartment on the Upper East Side never cashed the holiday check I gave her in 2007. Maybe she lost it and was too proud to ask for a replacement. I have no idea and never asked her although I saw her on a regular basis for the next five months.
I got away with one that time but not this time. Andrea wouldn’t allow it.