Tuesday was a pretty horrible day at work -- cold, raining. And my friend, who is not on the overtime desired list, was given part of an open route to carry. I went home at 7:30 that night, and he wasn't back off the street by then, so no telling how late he got back.
Anyway, he called in sick Wednesday morning. Actually, he called in for Wednesday and Thursday, which most PO workers do since our sick calls get tracked -- most folks just take two days on one call in. I figured it was a protest sick call. Sometimes that's the only way you can get your point across -- I don't want to work overtime and you keep forcing me, so bingo . . . I'll take a couple of days off. Get the message, boss?
Well, he didn't come to work on Friday either. And no call in this time. No one could get ahold of him. We get to work Saturday and get the sucker punch to the gut -- he's dead. Died in the hospital of pneumonia.
Just like that. Gone.
I had known this guy for nearly 26 years. When I was speaking to our union president Saturday morning, I used the word "gentle" to describe him. Our president said that was probably the perfect one word description of my friend. He was one of those guys that wouldn't say beans if he had a mouthful. Always soft-spoken, a ready smile -- he moved through the world and barely left a ripple behind him.
It's easy to be a wonderful person when everything is smooth sailing and problem free. It is how we behave, what we project and become under duress that gives a better indication of who we are inside. I never heard my friend say a bad word about anyone. Ever. Despite the increasingly stressful workload and atmosphere at the Post Office, my friend was never ranting or raving like so many of my co-workers. He didn't want to carry overtime. He was on what we refer to as the work assignment list. Meaning he just wanted to do his own route and go home each day. But with the daily understaffing, he was often asked to help out. And he did. Without complaint, again, unlike so many of my co-workers.
With all the problems at work, you could see my friend was concerned about things management was doing, often in violation of the contract, and yet though he would question and comment on things, he was never angry or ranting like many others do. Instead, he was just this pleasant, calming presence at work. He adopted one of our more troubled co-workers, doting on her, befriending her, bringing her coffee or a little something in the morning. He would help one of the tinier employee's push her very heavy hamper out through our busted up parking lot to her truck. Little random acts of kindness. Something rare in this world.
The acting OIC was at the office to speak about my friend. He went on about what a great mailman he was and others chipped in with similar statements. My friend shouldn't be defined, nor should any of us, by his job. It was not being a mailman that defined my friend, but how he handled himself day to day at work does tell us about what kind of person, what kind of man, he was -- decent, caring, trustworthy, honorable . . . that's who he was and how he should be remembered.
We see so many people around us each day -- miserable, execrable, rotten human beings that fall ass backward into money, and fame, and the easy life, or commit terrible acts upon society, and they seem to live forever. Taunting us with their immortality and invulnerability. And yet my friend, one of the simplest and softest people I've ever known, is snatched away in the blink of an eye. He spent 26 years toiling in this hellhole of a job, and never got to have that period of rest that we all hope for at the end of our working days. That just sucks.
Though I knew him for many years. I didn't know him intimately. We weren't buds, we didn't hang around, and that's my loss. I should have taken the time to get to know him better.
So, goodbye Ivan. I'll miss you. We all will.