12 April 2012
Dear Mr Postman
There really was no need, was there? I had no idea when I opened my front door to take out some rubbish that you would be standing outside about to deliver my post. I really didn’t deserve your immediate, repeated tirade about dangerous dogs. Mine certainly isn’t one, as you very well know. I’ve even taken the trouble to introduce him to you in the past so the two of you become familiar with each other and you can see how gentle and friendly he is. And he has never bitten anyone in his life. He’s a retriever, specifically chosen for his friendliness and lack of aggression. As you well know, but you still choose not to believe me. You have been our postman for several years now, and we were always on friendly speaking terms. These days I try not to hold you up because I know that you are under time pressure to get your letters delivered and my drive is relatively long and a steep climb. I understand this you see, and I’ll still give you a friendly wave and acknowledge your humanity, that you’re providing a vital service.
I’m so sorry that your boss has extended your round to include “that council estate where they think it’s funny that the dogs jump all over you.” Your words, not mine. I’m truly sorry you were stabbed, or bitten by a dog or whatever happened to necessitate 18 stitches to your abdomen. I agree, it’s absolutely appalling that some people and dogs behave in that way. But you know that none of us do. Not here, in our nice quiet road. Most people are well into their 70s here, the only ones who could afford these houses, once upon a time. And I truly understand that by the time you have got to me that you are hacked off with everyone’s bad behaviour, but why take it all out on me? I guess I’m an easy target. You tell me that you yourself have two dogs, but in that case how do you not know that dogs normally bark when anyone approaches their territory, as protection for themselves and their pack? Or simply to say hello? How do you not know this? You tell me that the lady up the road will have a similar attitude. It’s hardly surprising, is it?
You know very well that Oscar is as gentle as a lamb and, besides, he is always kept shut in the siting room when I open the door, just in case callers are unused to over-friendly flatcoats. Please don’t go back to your supervisor and report me for having a dangerous dog. I don’t want you to stop delivering my post. I don’t want to be blacklisted because of a lie. Because that is exactly what that would be. A lie. And you know it. Which is why, having made your shouted accusation, you turn tail and continue yelling your set piece as I follow you down my steep drive, protesting your unfairness. You won’t even let me put my case. You just refuse to listen. But I’m used to facing other peoples’ prejudices. It seems to me that people refuse to listen because they are frightened of what they might learn.
I pursue you to the bottom of the drive, dropping my black bin bag as I run. You’re fiddling with your bicycle. I say that I’m really sorry that you have to work like this, have to put up with people’s obscenities, their nastiness, their rudeness. I understand how awful it must feel. You finally let slip that actually the 18 stitches were because you caught your stomach on a handle. Nothing to do with dogs at all. But, you see, I need to set the record straight. Saving face, you agree not to report my (non-existent) crime to your supervisor. My parting shot is that in my house, the truth is important.