It Took An Emergency To Fully Appreciate Our Postmen And Postwomen

By Donny Mahoney
The Rewind on

Spare a thought for the noble postman and postwoman.

When it’s raining, when it’s about to rain, when it’s gale force 17, when it’s snowing, the postman is out delivering. And when there’s a pandemic, An Post is still providing an essential service.

It’s been widely commented upon that this national emergency is helping us appreciate the social services that we as a people truly value. Healthcare for all is one obvious thing during a pandemic. Amazingly, we’ve also discovered that a robust postal service is another. Over the last two weeks, we’ve collectively remembered that the postman is a human bridge between our atomised selves and the distant bustle of society. How many other strangers do we let walk up to our doorstep and peek in our window?

This week, Ireland has had an opportunity to truly appreciate An Post as a national institution, which is to say an organisation that makes this country unique.

A deep respect for the post is deeply entrenched on our identity. For decades and decades, post offices connected us to the much wider world. We are an international people and we relied on their service. Postmen carried news of birth and death in the bags, their arrival at our door shaped our destinies. The post linked our mythical idea of home to the strange places where landed. Post made the vast, terrifying world beyond Ireland familiar and knowable.

But as technology made the world smaller, we as a society might have forgot that the postman is not just someone who delivers takeaway menus and electricity bills. Even in an age of instant communication, it turns out the Irish postman and postwoman retains an essential function in our society. They’re modest ambassadors of civility. Somehow, they make the world less lonely.

Time and again in this crisis, An Post has proved its value.

The decision to give everyone in the country two free postcards is a wonderful initiative that should ideally connect the young to the older generations who don’t bother with whatsapp or instant messaging.

Yesterday An Post CEO David McRedmond said that the role of the postman was expanding behind the delivery of parcels and envelopes, to meet society’s needs in this crisis.

“So postmen and women will now, not just deliver the post, they will call on older and vulnerable people living in the communities, being a practical and trusted person usually known to those people, to help them.

“They’ll go in with a set of questions such as, do they need food, do they need pharmacy, to send out messages. And the postmen and women will then take that back and we will look out for that and make sure that that gets fulfilled.”

Yesterday An Post also said they were looking to work out a delivery service with local newspapers in order to make sure people – especially older people – stay connected and informed.

An Post will also be delivering a Covid-19 awareness booklet to every house in this country in the coming days. Who’s going to say no to more information?

And in this age of the lockdown, even An Post’s core function – delivering stuff – is truly essential. How else would we get the books and things we’ll need to get through this?

Even the less than urgent matter of a Seanad election would be essentially impossible without them.

Let’s not forget that An Post has done some brilliant work before this crisis, as well. The Eircode, for example, is a legitimately brilliant piece of technology that makes it so much easier for Irish people to find themselves.

Postmen might not be in ICU wards on 12-hour shifts, but they’re still out there, going to door to door when most others are working from home. So don’t forget about your postman. It’s a thankless job at the best of times. Disinfect your postboxes. Scrub your door handles.

If any good can from this crisis, perhaps its a greater appreciation of the good things we have.