February 26, 2014

Editorial: The winter of our discontent

These days, people are feeling lucky to have jobs. And, this winter, they’re feeling especially lucky if those jobs are inside.

The numbers — and the fingers, toes and noses — tell us we’re on the back end of what has been a particularly severe winter in terms of temperatures. Anybody who works outdoors doesn’t need to be reminded of what it’s been like since late fall.

We should all extend an expression of gratitude to the people who must do their jobs outdoors: firefighters, utility workers, highway crews, mail carriers, crossing guards and newspaper carriers, to name a few.

We found a mail carrier in the city who can illustrate from first-hand experience what kind of winter it’s been.

Sean Gould, 41, has been walking a postal route for 18 years, in Montana, Michigan, Maine and Plattsburgh. This has been the worst winter he can recall.

A slave to the weather not only by necessity but by inclination, he hunts, fishes and rejoices in the great outdoors. He has raised deer, elk and buffalo and generally appreciates the advantages of not being hemmed in by manmade walls.

But this winter has been longer and colder than even he would prefer.

An occupational hazard as familiar to a mail carrier as dog bite is frostbite, and Gould fell victim this year to frozen fingers while making his rounds on an especially blustery day.

The temperature was minus-31 that day, without factoring in the wind chill. On top of that, the heater in his mail truck failed. The last straw was an uncommonly heavy mail day, meaning it lasted more than 11 hours from start to finish, all outdoors and without the occasional refuge of a warm truck.

Mail carriers may look all buttoned up from inside a warm living room, but there is one area that is virtually unprotected: Their gloves are open at the fingers to allow for the easy manipulation of all those envelopes.

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