"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." The motto of the United States Postal Service.
But this is 2020. A year unlike any other. So we might as well, at least temporarily, add "nor pandemic, nor wildfire smoke, nor murder hornets". Okay, maybe not murder hornets. Yet.
Murder hornets didn't end up as big of a deal as their name may have suggested, but 2020 has thrown some extra obstacles at USPS mail carriers.
"When the City essentially shuts down, we never do," Carrier David Lantz said on Wednesday while making his deliveries in the Kendall Yards area. "I've been here 33 years and I've never not gone out and delivered the mail."
Lantz has been a mail carrier for more than 30 years and COVID and smoke won't slow him down from doing the job he loves and takes a lot of pride in.
"We are important for a lot of reasons. It may not apply to everyone every day, but in their time of need, we're here," Lantz said. "We have a job where the timeliness of what we do is of utmost importance. We deliver veterans' medicines to them. It's not just here in the City. It's everywhere, especially in the outlying areas where they may not see a UPS driver for days on end, but the Post Office comes six days a week, sometimes seven."
David's typical day begins inside for about an hour and then he spends the next seven hours walking around delivering mail and this week, those seven hours have been spent in hazardous air quality.
Lantz says postal carriers have been wearing masks for quite some time indoors during the pandemic, but once outside, many take them off. In the smoke, however, the mask is staying on, which Lantz doesn't think is all bad when compared to the alternatives.
"The difficulties that I've had over some winters, where we're snowed in for a week and your trudging through snow up to your hips. That's more difficult to me than putting on a mask," Lantz said.
After more than 30 years on the job, Lantz still has a lot of passion for what he does and as an essential employee delivering essential things during a pandemic and smoke event, the support from the community helps to keep him going.
"People have always been appreciative, but I've never see the kind of thankfulness and thoughtfulness in my entire career as I've had in this pandemic," Lantz said.