Retired postal worker turned frowns upside downChances are if you’ve been to the Alexandria Post Office in the last 26 years, you’ve probably been helped by the smiley guy who likes to laugh and tell jokes.
By: Celeste Beam, Alexandria Echo Press
Chances are if you’ve been to the Alexandria Post Office in the last 26 years, you’ve probably been helped by the smiley guy who likes to laugh and tell jokes.
If you’ve been there after March 1, however, you haven’t seen him.
Darrel Kuhnau of Alexandria is now retired – it was official as of February 28.
Telling jokes and trying to get his customers to laugh, said Kuhnau, is for the purpose of lessening the stress of standing in line.
“I want people to enjoy their time,” he said.
Since his career at the post office started 26 years ago, Kuhnau has worked in almost every position, except he’s never been in management. But that’s OK, he said, he likes working with customers.
In the beginning, Kuhnau said he had the privilege of working on a rural mail carrier route, but he turned down an offer to do the route full time so that he could work in the post office.
The customers are “100 percent” the best part of his job, which is why he likes working inside at the post office.
“If they can put up with my jokes, they’re truly the best,” he laughed.
When customers enter the post office and they are stressed about something and have a legitimate complaint, Kuhnau likes to try and get them to “come around” by making fun of the complaint – not the person – but the complaint.
“The post office is not perfect,” he smiled.
He added, “I loved when customers came in with complaints. It gave us a chance to show them what we could do to fix it. To make people laugh and be happy is just the best part.”
But working at the post office wasn’t always fun. Kuhnau said there was a lot of bureaucracy to deal with, which was his biggest frustration.
For instance, when 9/11 happened, he said clerks were, and still are for that matter, required to ask customers, “Is there anything fragile, perishable, liquid or potentially hazard in there?”
First off, he doubts if people would actually acknowledge if they were mailing something potentially hazard and second of all, he had to ask every customer – even those who he knew personally.
Also, Kuhnau wishes the post office could still hold open houses like it used to do – prior to 9/11. He feels that open houses showcase what the post office is really about and gives customers a chance to see what happens behind the scenes.
“If they could see the amount of mail that goes through there on a daily basis, then maybe some wouldn’t be quite so quick to condemn the post office,” said Kuhnau.
But regardless of how a person feels about the post office, Kuhnau said he always treated his customers like he would want to be treated.
The greatest benefit of working for the United States Post Office, Kuhnau said with a twinkle – or tear – in his eye, was getting to know the people of the community.
“When you look at the people, you can see God’s creation,” he said. “It’s neat because you can see His likeness in them and it tells me they have his characteristics.”
Getting to know the people of this community – their life stories – is what Kuhnau loved most about his job.
When he was younger, he never thought he would have a job that dealt with people so much because he was quiet, shy and bashful – despite coming from a family of 17 children.
But being a part of such a large family and also being in the United States Army for 19 months is what Kuhnau feels helped him break out of his shell.
With so much time on his hands now, Kuhnau said he plans to work on his “to do” list – at least for this year. Next year, he plans on taking his dog, Shadow, a black lab mixed with a little rottweiler, and traveling to Maine. He loves to travel, he said.
When asked why he chose Maine, Kuhnau said because a friend told him how beautiful it was and because of brochures he received – through the mail.
A POEM FOR DARREL
This poem was written for Darrel Kuhnau as he retired from the Alexandria Post Office. His sister-in-law, Donna Kuhnau, wrote it for him:
Darrel, although you’re probably not aware of any special link
Just knowing you, has shaped our lives much more than you could think.
So if we send a greeting, that is addressed to you,
It’s filled with memories of the things, that you used to do.
Each card stands for someone who has crossed your path sometime
It may have been a package, mailed with dollars or in dimes.
You filled our days with sunshine with your stories and your jokes
“Would you like your receipt or your change?” you would ask the folks.
So whether we have known you for many days or few
In some way you have been a part in shaping things we do.
We all are but a total of the many folks that you have met,
You are a friend that we will miss but never forget.