Vincent Wyckoff: Tales of a Letter Carrier

Categories: Books
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A letter carrier in south Minneapolis for 15 years, Vincent Wyckoff sees the full range of humanity on a daily basis. In Beware of the Cat: And Other Encounters of a Letter Carrier, he recounts some of his more memorable moments--from heartwarming elderly birthday parties, to violent attack cats, to delivering a lost letter mailed from Saigon in 1976.

City Pages: What drove you to write this book?

Vincent Wyckoff: For years I told these stories around the dinner table when our children were younger. It was an attempt to get them to talk about their day. How was school today? Fine. What did you do? Nothing. My stories were an attempt to create a dialogue. A couple years ago, my wife asked about a story I’d related years earlier. It took a while for me to remember, so I decided to write them all down before they were lost for good.

CP: You have so many stories packed into each chapter. Were there any great ones that failed to make the book?

VW: All the little anecdotes and short vignettes just popped up as I wrote the main story lines. They were either too sweet or poignant to leave out. On the other hand, there were the depressing stories, with less-than-desirable characters, that for the sake of this book I chose to omit.

CP: The tone of your book is very optimistic. Do you ever find it hard to be positive in such a hi-stress job?

VW: Much of the tone comes from the folks on the route. After all, these are their stories. But if you remember Newman, from the Seinfeld TV show, when he described how the mail just keeps coming and coming, or Cliff Klaven on Cheers, when he laments his hard day because the Sears catalogs came out, I can relate to that! But you have a choice how you want to see things. I mentioned Lady in one of the stories, a big black lab that adores me. Every single day she greets me, and her loyalty and obvious affection would bring a smile to even the staunchest curmudgeon. It’s all about what you choose to focus on.

CP: How do you feel about the shift from letter writing to the Internet? Would a "Saigon-letter" be able to happen today?

VW: It's true that first-class letter rate volume is down. But as long as there are devoted employees doing all they can to get a letter to its proper destination, a “Saigon”-type letter will always be possible.

CP: A new guy comes into the post office, his first day of work. What do you tell him?

VW: My advice: Prepare to lose 20 pounds. Drop the ego, and focus on survival.

Vincent Wyckoff reads from Beware of Cat tonight at the Lyndale United Church of Christ. Free. 7:30 p.m. 810 W. 31st St., Minneapolis. For more info call Magers & Quinn at 612.822.4611.


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