Mail carriers face cultural, physical changes

Over the past three decades, Ridgefield’s two-longest tenured postal workers have observed their jobs adapt to fit the changing American culture.

In September, Louis Ramos will retire as a postal carrier after 33 years in Ridgefield, which leaves Maryellen Pagano — with 32 years — the carrier with the most seniority.

“When I was interviewed for my job with the post office, the office was located where CVS is located now,” Ramos recalled. “Back then, I started my job at 8 a.m. in the morning with three hours of hand-sorting mail. Today, all the mail is sorted electronically, and most of the packages even have a GPS tracking system.

“Due to the increase in automation, I am now packing up my truck and usually on my route from between 8:45 and 9:00 a.m.,” he said of the changes in technology.   

“This gives me about seven hours of delivery time for the greater number of residents we must now service.”  

Outdated language

The United States Postal Service classifies Ramos and Pagano’s routes in two groups — city and rural. Ridgefield has 20 city routes, according to Ramos, and give rural ones that are taken care of by outside, contracted carriers. These rural routes are in Ridgebury and in the North Salem areas, he said, which leaves the city routes to 25 postal service members.

In Ridgefield, there are 20 male carriers and five females. All work full time.

“We have no trouble with women being carriers,” said Ramps. “It is all about doing your job and doing it well.  On a very rare occasion, a woman might need to ask a manager to have someone else deliver a particularly heavy package, but other than that we are all equals.

“The term ‘mailman’ was used for many years, but it does not apply now.”

Familiar territory

While Ramos has been on his same route — Ivy Hill Road, Lounsbury Road, and Standish Drive — for 25 years, Pagano has been on her route for a little more than half that time frame.

She drives the Peaceable Hill Road and Oscaleta Road circuit that includes Old West Mountain Road; and, like Ramos, can’t say enough about the kindness of the people she services.

Her route includes 320 customers, one being Stephen Schwartz, the famous Broadway composer.  

“I wish I had more time to socialize with my customers but, with the time limitations, we are not able to do this,” said Pagano.

“My route can be difficult on icy and snowy days,” continued Pagano. “Last year, during a terrible snowstorm, my chains came off and I got stuck off Peaceable Hill Road. The neighbors all came out to help and then the town sent a snowplow that not only plowed me out but plowed me entirely back to town so I would not have trouble without chains …

This instance only reaffirmed Pagano’s stance on her route — and the possibility of applying for a new, less hilly area of town.

“I wouldn’t think of leaving my people,” she told The Press.

Four seasons

Pagano said when the governor puts up a travel ban, the postal workers do not go out.   “Otherwise we are always on the road and go as far as we can,” she said. “If it gets just too bad, we can turn around and go back.”

The job changes with the season.

“Summer is very light, fall is heavier because people are beginning to get catalogues and order for the holidays,” Pagano said. “Winter is crazy because of the holiday cards and packages,  and spring has a nice balance to it.”

While Pagano does not like driving in the icy conditions of winter, Ramos is more concerned about high winds and trees coming down.   

“I was in a microburst once off Hull Place and had a limb come right through the windshield,” he recalled. “This made me very aware of the force of winds on the trees.”

Online presence

Both Ramos and Pagano agree that they now carry more packages than anything else, since people are constantly ordering on line.

“Well over 50% of our packages are from Amazon; and now Target and Walmart are adding to the packages,” Ramos said.

“When you look at the back of our trucks now, it looks like it used to look at Christmas, but now it is every day.”

Pagano said one of the biggest differences between 1985 — when she started in town — and today is that there’s little first-class mail items, like letters.

“Fewer class two (periodicals), and about the same amount of class three (advertisements),” she said. “In 2020, our post office is supposed to be getting new trucks with shelving inside for all the packages.

“Our trucks were designed prior to the advent of [heavy] package delivery,” she added. “This change will be very helpful.”

Dump and run

According to Ramos, USPS has adopted different delivery methods due to the increased demand of packages delivered from the Internet.   

The new delivery system also helps boost safety standards.

“We do what we call dump and run due to time constraints,” he said. “We will leave a package in a safe place, under an overhang, and usually not ring the bell. We don’t ring the bell, as just about every house seems to have a dog that wants to come bounding out and can cause a problem.”

Before and after

Pagano, who graduated with an education degree from Western Connecticut State University and taught second grade for several years in the area, said she signed on to be a postal worker because of the higher pay and better benefits.

“I had regular hours and did not have to prepare lessons at night, and I was out of doors and interacting with so many different people,” she said.

Ramos is the pastor in the Kingdom Way Church in Danbury, and will now use his retirement to give more time to the people in his church.   

He said he has enjoyed his time with the post office, but that the job takes its toll on you physically.   

“Because of the quick repetitive motions, most postal carriers have problems with their shoulders and even hips because of getting in and out of trucks,” he told The Press. “They also have back problems because of the weight of all the packages.

“Mail carrier is definitely a job for a younger man or woman.”

Mail time!

When asked what residents can do to help the carriers, Ramos and Pagano both agreed that they can keep dogs in the house when the carrier is due to arrive.

In the winter, shoveling snow from around the mailbox so the truck can get in is a huge help, too, the post  said.

Carriers are not supposed to get out of the truck except to deliver packages, Ramos explained.  

In other times of the year, like summer, residents should tell landscapers not to park in front of the mailbox, Pagano added.