Brian Valentine’s job helps people maintain a sense of normalcy and connection to the rest of the world every day. He brings them cards, letters, packages and even medicine at a time when people want to remain healthy at home.
Valentine is a letter carrier for the Paducah Post Office, where he has worked for 25 years.
Under the current cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic, where people are told to stay at home and not go out unless necessary, Valentine’s deliveries are a ray of sunshine, making a connection for his customers to family and friends as well as those who do online shopping.
“I’d say our letter mail has decreased, and that’s understandable,” he said. “We’re not getting a lot of businesses that are sending out advertisements for sales and things because they’re not open for business.
“On the other hand, with everything that’s been going on, I’ve seen a lot more parcel buying than what we would normally have right now.”
Valentine said that he was bringing parcels to one customer, and the man apologized for the number of packages that he had.
“He said, ‘My wife has some health issues, but they’re a little more high-risk for this, and we’ve been trying to insulate ourselves by doing it online,’ ” Valentine said. “I said, ‘You don’t have to apologize to me for protecting your family.’
“People are utilizing our services to help insulate them a little bit from unnecessary exposure, and we’re going to be out there, anyway. If I’m out there, then maybe some of these folks don’t have to be.”
Valentine said that there is one lady on his route who is shut in and might not see anybody outside of postal workers and people from Meals on Wheels.
“She’s using our services to connect with people,” he said. ”She sends out anywhere from five to 10 cards every day and letters that she’s sending out to folks. Around Easter time, she sent out between 30 or 40 cards.”
Valentine said the current COVID-19 situation has presented a number of unique challenges for him.
“It’s things that you don’t even think about,” he said. “Just finding a restroom now — some routes, it’s even more difficult than others when you’ve got a lot of businesses that are shut down. You’d better hope there’s a gas station close by; at least some of those are still open.”
Valentine added that postal carriers wear blue gloves and are given a bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer. When he eats his lunch, he takes his gloves off and, since there are fewer places along the route to wash his hands, he washes his hands afterward with the hand sanitizer.
“We’re doing a lot of stuff to try and adapt,” he said. “We don’t want to bring anything home to our family, either.”
Valentine said that some of his customers on his route will greet him through their door while keeping a safe distance.
“During times when it’s really cold or really hot, you’ll have folks out that are saying, ‘Hey, thanks for the job you’re doing,’ ‘We appreciate what you’re doing,’ ” he said. “I’ve had so many more people even today shout at me from across the street, ‘Hey, thanks for what you’re doing; we appreciate it,’ or little notes on their mailboxes saying ‘We appreciate the job that you’re doing.’
“There’s been a lot of expressions of gratitude — even more than usual. I’ve noticed that as well.”
Valentine said doing his job through the COVID-19 pandemic helps people bring the outside world into their homes through letters or packages.
“I think it’s good that people see a little bit of normalcy,” he said. “If they get out to go to the store, they’re seeing a lot of empty parking lots. It’s good, at least, to see that there are some things that aren’t changing.
“The mailman is still out there every day, so there may be a little bit of normalcy in all this.”
Valentine and his fellow U.S. Postal Service carriers help people connect to online stores, pharmacies and friends and family. From their customers’ point of view, they carry the rest of the world in those little blue pouches.