Conversations with My Mailman III
It was a warm afternoon; the rain was ending and the Sun was coming out.
My mailman was under an awning with one bare foot on the pavement and his shoe on the mailbag. He was wringing out his sock.
I slowed when I got near him. “Step in a puddle?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He said without looking up.
After a moment he noticed I was still there and he looked up, then smiled. “Oh, Hey. I thought you was someone else. Yeah, these puddles’ll get ya. I was talking with a buddy of mine over there across the street and I stepped in the gutter when I was talking. He’s a new dad and trying to figure out what to do with himself.”
“A lot of responsibility.” I offered.
“You telling me. His woman keeps telling him, ‘You aint no man. You just a boy!’ It’s cause he doesn’t do anything with himself, just watches the game and plays his Nintendo. He says to me, ‘What makes a man a man?’ which I don’t want to hear cause he’s older than me, but I tell him ‘my old man was a man’. I tell ya, my dad taught me how to sew and how to cook, and you know, that don’t make him no sissy. When he was in his boat and the sail gets ripped or the net gets wound up, he’s got to sew it up again. Or when he’s off in the woods, he’s got to fix his own meal. He can’t wait around for room service and wait for somebody else take care of his problem.”
“So he was independent.”
“Damn right! He didn’t need nobody. All these young guys now, maybe they don’t got their mommas cooking for them, but they just eat at McDonald’s or whatever, and what’s the difference? They can’t take care of themselves and they’re just little boys.”
He began to put his sock back on.
“But you know, it’s more than that. Being a man means having honor. More than anything else it’s honor and respecting yourself.”
“And how do you get that?” I asked.
“Well, we was arguing about that when I stepped in the puddle over there. My buddy said he figured it was giving money to his woman to pay for the kid, but I said he was thinking too small. Honor aint just doing what you’re supposed to do anyway. That’s called being adequate. Just doing what people need you to do is being adequate. Plenty of guys pay for their kids but don’t have no honor.”
“I guess it’s going above and beyond what’s expected of you.” I suggested.
“Yeah, that’s good, but even boys do that. A kid is real good at sports, does better than anyone expects, he’s ‘exceeding expectations’ but he’s still a kid.”
“So what is it?” I was getting impatient for the revelation.
“It’s doing what you’re supposed to do, regardless of people’s expectations, regardless of whether they even know you’re doing it. Honor is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”
I couldn’t think of an argument or improvement to his theory and I told him so. He put on his shoe and we said goodbye.