Dave Levin calls himself an “old-school” mailman.
On his L-shaped route along 20th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, he stops after pushing mail through a front door to chat with a family he has delivered mail to for 42 years. On his way to the next house, he might run into a woman he remembered being born pushing her own baby in a stroller.
Once a shy man, Levin now considers himself a master of small talk.
“I can talk to anyone about anything,” he said.
Levin will retire June 1 and his replacement likely won’t have time to stop and talk. The postal service places a higher value on efficiency these days, Levin said.
“I have a lot of great customers, and I’ll miss interacting with them. Some of them will even be coming to my retirement party,” he said. “Now, the post office discourages interaction. I don’t want to be a machine, and that’s what they want now.”
Besides, the residents on the new mail carrier’s route may not even want to chat. Although he still enjoys talking to longtime residents, the younger people along his route, many of whom are Santa Monica College students, tend to avoid him.
“It’s like it’s beneath them to talk to me,” Levin said. “There’s not much connection anymore between people and their mailman.”
Younger people don’t use the postal system much and don’t always understand how it works, he added.
“People don’t put their name on the mailbox and barely empty it, and when they move, not even 40 percent do a change of address,” he said. “People just disappear.”
Still, Levin said he loves his job. He’s collected a series of “funny post office stories” during his 42-year career, such as when he accidentally dropped mail into a fish tank and a customer caught him wet-handed trying to retrieve it. Another time, he talked to a customer through a door for several minutes about getting a letter signed only to discover he was speaking with a parrot.
Levin said he’s a little apprehensive about leaving his routine behind, but he’s ready to try something new. While other retirees might opt for strolls around the neighborhood, he’s hoping to use his new spare time to sit down with family and friends.
“The last thing I need to do is go for a walk,” he said.