Meredith Bates is definitely a people person which has come in handy the past 23 years she has been delivering mail in the rural part of Gridley to anywhere from 400 to 500 homes per route. Though she is alone in her mail truck for several hours each day, she has made many friends along the way which she will miss.
Come Tuesday, Bates will no doubt wake up the same early hour but she won't be heading to the post office, something that has been a normal practice for six days a week until two years ago when she gave up Saturday deliveries. It will no doubt be quite a transition for Bates but spending more time with her mother Leona and her four grandchildren will make her happy. Though she didn't reveal the contents of her bucket list, she will no doubt spend time riding her bike that she bought in late spring and has already tallied over 200 miles.
Hired by the late Dick Waterbury in 1990, Bates has some wonderful memories especially of her extended family at the post office. She and Peggy Chissie came to work the same day and Pauline Abbot came to work the next week. Maria Nava is also a part of their extended family and all have shared weddings and babies being born over the years.
Of course memories aren't just of her co-workers. She has some funny stories about her route without giving out names. The only "dog story," she could come up with was when she had made it all the way up to a resident's door and was on her way back to her truck when a three-legged Beagle came after her. She said her only thought was, "I have to beat the dog back to the mail truck or I'll never live it down."
Bates is funny anyway, but to hear her tell the next story was especially great as I tried to picture her delivering the mail into a rural mail box and looking back as she pulled out on a country road. Looking back, she saw the homeowner carrying his mailbox back to his house. She explained that the homeowner was so sick of people bashing his mailbox in, he carried it out each morning to collect the mail and then took it back in after the mail came. Bates had one word to say after telling this story - "Priceless."
The worst part of the job was hot weather with no air conditioning in the mail vehicles. She said a thermometer once showed 116 degrees inside her truck.
In her early days, mail carriers used their own vehicles and were reimbursed for the mileage until the mail trucks came along. Automation has taken over with letters coming in sequence which means no more hand sorting.
One of her favorite parts of each day was her drive to Gray Lodge where it is quiet most of the time. She got to see the seasons change each year and see the deer in the fields.
Page 2 of 2 - "If the buzzards are flying, it means you've been there to long!" she quipped.
While being quizzed about her time at the post office Bates said you aren't a mail carrier unless you have dumped a whole tray of mail or run out of gas. "Been there, done that," she said.
Bates says she probably knows 80 percent of the people on her route and knows she will miss them. She said there are a lot of lonely people who look forward to their mail each day.
"It's the highlight of their day," she said. Bates and other carriers get to know their customers and watch over things when they know their customers are on vacation - it just comes naturally.
Bates said the mail carriers have shirts that state, "Through rain, sleet and snow, my sub will deliver the mail."
No doubt Bates' people on her route will miss her, especially her sense of humor.