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Know a person by their mail

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 11:01 a.m. CDT

It’s been said that you can tell a person by their shoes. What style are they? Wingtips, loafers, sandals, sneakers, high heels, hiking boots, work shoes, thongs (oops they’re called flip-flops now, or shower shoes, thongs became underwear.) What kind of soles do the shoes have, crepe, gum, leather, Vibran, Neoprene? Are the shoes scuffed, shined, suede, or patent leather? As an insurance salesman, I always felt better, more confident, if my shoes were shined. Patent leather was a blessing.

I’ve always maintained that you can tell a person by their hands, especially their fingernails. Are they clean, dirty, long, short, painted, chipped, chewed, stubby or slender? Are they hands of an artist, or laborer? You can tell by their fingernails.

One time during spring cleanup in Mt. Pleasant, as I was looking through a person’s curb-side throwaways, I noticed a collection of adult toys. Believe me, I formed quite the opinion of these people. But why were they throwing them away? Were they turning over a new leaf? Why put them out on the curb for scavengers such as me to find?

Another indicator of a person’s character might be the mail they get. To verify this, I talked to a U.S. Postal Carrier. “Yep,” she assured me. “If you take the time to look at the mail they get, rather than just the address, you do form an opinion of what type of people live at an address. We’re not supposed to, but it’s human nature.”

It makes sense. What kind of junk mail does a person get, or magazines—Field and Stream, Vanity Fair, Time, Victoria’s Secret, North American Review, Sports Illustrated, Mechanics Illustrated, National Geographic, Penthouse? Newspapers—Wall Street Journal, Des Moines Register, local newspapers, foreign newspapers? What kind of political mail do they get —liberal, conservative, radical, moderate? What kind of contributions are they solicited for—religious, educational, political, or social? What kind of bills do they get? Are any of them over due or on final notice? How about registered letters? From the IRS? Yowee! Law offices? Ah, oh. Relatives of the same name? How about packages — from drug companies, relatives in Colorado (hmm), foreign countries. How about the mail they send?

When I walk Buddy, I routinely pick up the mail for a person who has a hard time getting out to the mailbox. A handy-dandy little yellow flag pops up when there’s mail in her mailbox. Ingenious. I try very hard not to look at her mail, but it’s almost impossible, because that’s what I do when I get my mail — look through it on my way to the house.

Her mail is sort of fun — Bird and Blooms, a letter addressed to “Grandma,” Mutual of Omaha, a utility bill (this means my utility bill will be in my mailbox that day), Our Iowa, a letter from the arch diocese of Iowa. This lady has her ducks in order. I tap on her window with the mail. She meets me at the door. “Anything good?” she asks. “Dunno,” I say. “Didn’t look.” She knows better.

Because my Empty Nest column is in some 20 odd newspapers, I get a lot of newspapers delivered to my mailbox. One of the newspapers also prints Liberal Opinion, and Conservative Chronicle. I could have my choice of either but get both because I like to study the whole issue.

Sometimes I meet my mail carrier at the mailbox. On one particular day, I was wearing bib overalls, sandals, and my hands were dirty. The mail carrier handed me the two political newspapers, eyed the junk, I mean sculptures, in my yard, then looked me up and down. He just gave a little shake to his head.

Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frmaes.com.  

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