After the last few months leafleting for the EU Election Campaign, I have learned to regard our postmen and postwomen with admiration, awe and respect. How do they do this job year in and year out without giving way to the frustration, exhaustion and fear?
Fear? Yes, the ever-present fear of delivering your fingers into the jaws of the guardian of the house, who doesn’t give a fig for the glad UKIP message you are bringing. Man’s best friend and the Postman’s worst enemy will tell you in no uncertain terms that YOU MUST NOT APPROACH MY FRONT DOOR OR I WILL HAVE YOU!! Alternatively, it’s I MAY NOT GET YOU BUT I WILL IMMEDIATELY SEIZE WHATEVER YOU POKE THROUGH MY FRONT DOOR AND CHEW IT TO BITS!!
A surprising number of households now have their own little mailbox attached to the wall for the health and safety of the Postman and the lucky leafleter. Roll on the day when all dog owners install mailboxes to spare our nerves and fingers, not to mention their letters, which one assumes they would prefer to receive intact.
The exhaustion doesn’t result simply from tramping from one street, road, avenue, crescent, close, walk and grove to another, although that is challenging enough with a heavy bag. No, it’s everything in between: the frustrating and sometimes strenuous efforts required to negotiate a variety of hindrances and hazards before making a delivery.
Privacy-loving English householders apparently delight in creating obstacle courses for anyone who dares to encroach on their private space, and neither the Postman nor the innocent leafleter is exempt from this test of stamina and perseverance. The cunningly devised barriers to communication from the outside world can be summed up under four headings: gates, paths, doors and letterboxes.
Open the gate: Too often a trial of strength combined with the ingenuity of Houdini picking his locks. Some are of such fiendish complexity that it becomes clear they are designed to repel all visitors. The worst kind are the gut-wrenchers: gates that appear to be opening quite nicely before they abruptly grind to a halt on the path and assault your abdomen with steely stubbornness. When you finish retching, such a gate may allow you through if you heave it upwards with all your might.
Walk the path: This sometimes involves a struggle with hedges sufficiently overgrown to deter the prince in Sleeping Beauty. Many paths are actually drives of such length that they add miles to your round. But even extra walking is better than drives clogged with so many cars and caravans that the front door is impossible to reach. How do they get out of the house? Maybe they don’t and they’re dead in there … such are my musings as I try the next house and find myself trudging through mud and gravel.
Find the front door: To be fair, householders are not to blame for this little game of hide-and-seek. Certain wilful architects seem to take pleasure in hiding front doors inside deep recesses invisible from the street; or along twisty paths to inaccessible corners; or even in improbable dank little alleyways more suitable for the house’s bin collection than its main entrance. Sometimes the house-designers like to confuse everyone by placing the back door right next to the front door with a letterbox in both. This results in the householder receiving two lots of UKIP leaflets, an error unlikely to make him or twice as fond of the Party. On my rounds, architects went down in my estimation as rapidly as postal delivery workers went up.
Get the leaflet through the letterbox: That’s what letterboxes are designed for, right? To post things through? Wrong! Many letterboxes have been deliberately designed to repel all attempts to push paper-based products from one side of the door to the other. Why? Why? What? What the hell?! These were the unwanted thoughts that plagued me as leaflets got stuck halfway, or refused to make any inward progress at all, or even popped back out as if propelled by an invisible hand. Attempts to force the issue were risky: some letterboxes had been fortified with painful spikes; others sneakily allowed you to push your fingers in, but then clamped down when you tried to extricate them. The most unkind of all threatened your reputation when you were forced to peer inside the letterbox to see how the darned thing worked – anyone watching would swear you were a peeping-tom.
Here’s a thought: little mailboxes outside everyone’s house, dog owners or not. The Americans have them and they are counted as a civilised nation. Perhaps when UKIP is forming a government in the not-too-distant future, the Minister for Communications will spare a thought for Postmen and UKIP leafleters, and decree mailboxes for all.
In addition to all the physical barriers that obstruct the poor Postie, there is a psychological barrier aimed not at him, but at the likes of you and me who want to spread the word about UKIP and its importance to the country. This barrier consists of notices in the window or door proclaiming: NO cold callers, NO canvassers, NO junk mail, NO leaflets etc. There were lots of these. What to do?
What I did was to think to myself, “I am including you in the democratic process; be glad someone wants to.” Then I’d shove the leaflet through as best I could.
From the lessons I have learned comes the knowledge that my Postman loves me: I have no gate, the drive is of reasonable length, my front door is clearly visible and the letterbox is no clamper or refuser – I know this because I’ve tested it.
Photo by RubyGoes
Photo by Tim Green aka atoach