Sunnyvale mail carrier Javier Torres has never seen anything like this in his 29 years with the United States Postal Service (USPS).
“It’s different. Totally different. Driving around, you see joggers with masks. Feels like it’s not real,” said Torres. “It feels like ghost towns everywhere.”
Torres, like mail carriers across the country, is dealing with a new normal.
“They implemented certain things like masks, gloves if you want them, hand sanitizers. We keep that six-foot distance,” said Torres.
He says while he understands the need, it’s a tough situation because a lot of the people aren’t just a stop on his route, but friends.
“Right now, it’s hard. People like talking, especially retired people…a lot of them would greet you with a water, some cookies or something,” said Torres. “Normally, they come and greet you. Same thing with my various customers, but now it’s like a distance. Now, they know I can’t really approach them too well even though I’m wearing a mask, I tell them ‘I’m sorry, this is safety for both of us.’”
To keep carriers safe, USPS has implemented new policies. Sunnyvale Postmaster Dean Maeda says customers don’t sign for certified mail anymore to help maintain that six-foot social distancing space.
“We changed how we do our delivery. Now we don’t have [residents] sign for letters, we ask what their name is, put it down,” said Maeda.
Maeda says at Sunnyvale’s main post office on Java Drive, there are also changes.
“At the time clock, I put markings on the floor so they knew how to stand six feet apart when they clock in. Before they’re all gathered up,” said Maeda. “I put some plexiglass at the windows. I did that at all the stations. Passport clerks do that too.”
Maeda says he does his best to make sure the more than 80 mail carriers and other employees under his supervision remain uplifted.
“We get a lot of support from the community,” said Maeda. “I just try to keep my employees uplifted and say, ‘This is an essential job and you’re needed for the community. They need these. These packages that contain medicine and water and diapers and toilet paper.’ That’s stuff that they need and it’s important.”
And he says the carriers seem to understand.
“I think a lot of the carriers are grateful too because they are working and they’re getting a paycheck,” said Maeda. “A lot of them are grateful…There’s a lot of people that are hurting and I think that part they understand too. They’re essential, but they’re also grateful that they have this opportunity to provide service to the community.”
As for Torres, he feels like this just comes with the territory.
“I don’t feel any different. I’m doing my job, but I guess we do provide a certain thing that we could get more of a risk than others,” said Torres.
And he’s appreciative of the little thank you notes he sees along the way.
“There’s some people out there that have notes, little signs and stuff on their mailbox,” said Torres. “Some are so cool because they have kids so they have all these window decals…they’re at the window waving.”