Monday, December 17, 2001

Mailman looks out for route




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        Mike the Mailman delivers a sense of security to the customers he treats as neighbors.

        During the past two years, he has helped police nab bank robbers on his Colerain Township route, stopped traffic to help a boy with a wrecked bike and a broken arm, foiled a break-in and saved a life.

        “Some people call that being a hero,” Mike Saylor said Saturday as he stood by his mail truck.

        “I call it just doing my job.”

        Click! Rrrrrrrr! He unlocked and rolled up his truck's rear door.

        On the floor, his day's deliveries awaited. Earlier in the morning, Mike had sorted and bundled the mail into plastic trays at the Mount Healthy Post Office.

        If stacked, the letters, bills and Christmas cards would reach a height of 7 feet, 3 inches. More than a Shaquille O'Neal's worth of mail.

        “A light day,” Mike said.

        Today, he will walk his route on what the Postal Service says will be the busiest mailing day of the year. Two hundred million more cards and letters will join the 680 million pieces of mail the post office handles daily.

        Some days, Mike must feel as if he had delivered all 880 million items. But you'd never hear that from him.

        “I love my work,” he said, locking his truck before visiting a mail box guarded by two wooden reindeer.

        “And I love this route. Been on it for nearly 10 years.”

        He works in a racially mixed neighborhood, 35 percent black, 5 percent Hispanic, 60 percent white. But Mike doesn't notice skin color when he delivers the mail.

        “They're all just good folks. They're like family, like good neighbors. They know if they get into trouble, they can holler and I'll help.”

        He walked on, ducking under a plastic Santa and eight tiny reindeer about to land on a rooftop.

        Fred Fritz stepped out to take the mail and wish Mike a merry Christmas. He thanked the mailman for his good deeds.

        Mike grinned and blushed.

        “This is embarrassing,” he said between houses.

        “Letter carriers help people every day all over the country. Take the anthrax crisis. Carriers continued to work knowing the danger. Had to. Couldn't let the bad guys win.”

        Mike waved to Orville Barnes across the street. Last March, Orville fell in his driveway.

        “Back of his head was split wide open,” Mike said. “He was laying in a puddle of blood the size of a tire.

        “He was gray, breathing shallow. I'm not a medical person, but after what I saw overseas — I'm a Vietnam vet — I jumped in to stop the bleeding.”

        And save a life.

        On Saturday, Orville welcomed Mike at his door. He was expecting some important Christmas cards.

        Five Christmas Eves ago, Mike got some bad news. He had a brain tumor. Surgery was required. The operation found another tumor. Both were successfully removed. Six weeks later, he was back on his route.

        “I've been lucky like that all my life,” Mike said. “I had tuberculosis as a kid and almost didn't make it.

        “I've got angels all around me. They keep an eye on me.”

        He returns the favor to the people on his route, the customers of Mike the Mailman.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at cradel@enquirer.com; 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/radel

       



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