When I saw the mailman coming up the walk , it was going to be shoot first, ask questions later. I leaned on the doorframe with my arms crossed over my chest, one leg stuck out straight, and the other knee drawn up high. The only thing missing was spurs.
But John Nowicki, who for years has been stuffing my mailbox with circulars, bills, and--as usual--no Publisher’s Clearinghouse check, noticed my Old West pose and mounted the porch steps anyway.
Nowicki is brave. He is tough. He battles the elements daily. Nowicki is ... The Mailman.
And anyway, this isn’t the Old West--it’s Babylon Village. Surely a wise-cracking, pony-tailed letter carrier could take on a 5’4” writer with a fiendish grin.
So “shoot first” disappeared, as I launched right into the questions.
Postal worker Nowicki is the first person to be interviewed for Patch’s new series on getting to know the people in your neighborhood.
Nowicki has been a postal worker for 26 years, and 23 of them have been in Babylon. Servicing the route between Little East Neck Road and Beechwood Drive, the reliable sight of "John the Mailman" is enough to set your calendar by.
Nowicki was asked his favorite form of inclement weather. After 23 years in the elements, he had a definite opinion on the best kind of bad weather.
“Snowstorms,” said Nowicki. “I don’t like rain or getting wet. Don’t like it windy either. And heat’s just too draining--you can’t cool off. But in the snow, at least you can warm up.”
Does Nowicki have a favorite snow story from THIS year?
“There’s a guy who always walks two Siberian huskies. During the big January snows, I had an idea to make life easier. Instead of struggling to drive the postal truck through two feet of snow, I called to the guy to ask if I could hitch the huskies to a sleigh and deliver mail that way.”
And continuing on the topic of dogs ...
What was the worst encounter he ever had with a dog?
“I’ve only been bitten once, but it was bad. The dog sprang for my face so I put my hands up. So both my hands got bitten instead.”
Are there any nice dog stories?
Nowicki’s face lit up. “There’s a golden Lab who waits for me every day. He whines for me until I come up the walk.”
Now there’s a beloved mailman!
“Actually,” said Nowicki, “the scariest dogs are the little ones. They tend to hide under bushes and launch sneak attacks! And I’ve known some people who give their pets dog biscuits in the shape of little postmen.”
But what Nowicki loves about his job is the ability to be out and about on his own each day. There’s a certain freedom in that, and it seems to suit him well.
And what’s the worst part?
“Spider webs! They can pop up anywhere, and I never notice till the last minute. When I step into one, the residents get treated to the postman having a fit. I jump around and hit myself, to keep the spider off.”
Nowicki said he likes to do the job well, and he’s grateful when people are appreciative.
“I’m the guy who brings the junk and bills. But I also bring the checks!”
Outside of work, Nowicki is a family man who enjoys bowling and ballgames, and has spent lots of years coaching kids.
“I also like to take care of my home,” he said.
When asked what kind of mailbox he has, he replied that he doesn’t have a mailbox.
Huh? A postman without a mailbox?
“Actually, we use a basket,” he said with a smile.
A basket? Doesn’t it tend to get ruined out in the elements?
“Oh, I’d like it to fall apart,” Nowicki quipped. “Then it couldn’t hold all those bills.”
Finally, Nowicki was asked what’s the oddest thing he’s ever seen in 26 years on the job.
He turned to view the glass reflection of a postman being interviewed on a resident’s front steps. “This,” he said. Then, with his typical wise-cracking grin, he departed.
But he must have enjoyed the interview, because that day, he delivered no bills.
Oh, yes, and as he started to leave, I chased him down the walk and shot him.
Four pictures with the Kodak EasyShare. They’re right here on Patch, for your viewing pleasure.