The mailman cometh

Bruce Allen

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

If you work or live in the downtown, chances are you’ve seen Bruce Allen wheeling his mail bag down the sidewalk or maybe—if you’re lucky—into your place of business or up to your residential mailbox. Allen is pretty much what you’d expect from a guy who’s carted postage for the last 26 years—grumpy, knowledgeable and a great joke-teller. Born in the Bay Area and a resident of Forest Ranch for the last 30 years, Allen worked as a heavy equipment operator before he delivered his first letter. We caught up with him as he was unlocking the green collector box on the corner of Main and Fourth streets. A dried pool of vomit stained the sidewalk next to the box. Allen grimaced but allowed that such finds are commonplace on a Monday in downtown Chico.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been a mail carrier 26 years.

Is the term “mailman” sexist?

That is obsolete nowadays. We’re “letter carriers” now, although most of the stuff we deliver is not letters.

Do you think your job will ever become obsolete?

Somebody has to deliver the mail. Everything else is slowly giving away to automation, automation, but there has to be somebody to deliver the mail; kind of like a paperboy.

How much longer do you plan to do this?

Two years. [Laughs.] There’s no question. Two years.

There is that reputation of letter carriers out there. Let me put it this way, do you want to go postal whenever you hear the word “postal"?

[Laughs.] Uh, sometimes. But every workplace has somebody who goes off every once in a while. It’s just that, since we are in the public eye, if somebody from the Post Office goes off, it’s big news.

What is the best thing about your job?

Benefits, you know? Medical, vacation, sick leave that we are not supposed to use.

What is the worst thing about your job?

Oh man. I would say the worst thing is these little scanners they give us. They’re good because they track mail, but they use them to track us. You’re always under Big Brother’s big thumb.