'We're Like A Lifeline': Postal Workers Fight Fear To Work During Pandemic

May 15, 2020
Originally published on May 18, 2020 1:17 am

When Evette Jourdain was struggling to get back on her feet, landing a job as a postal worker gave her security. Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the job carries new risks she and her colleagues never imagined.

Jourdain, 32, and her friend and fellow mail carrier Craig Boddie, 48, spoke for a remote StoryCorps conversation last month from Palm Beach, Fla., about how their work has changed since the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

"Life was pretty hard for me before I came to the post office. I lost my dad, I lost my brother, I became homeless and I just didn't have nobody," she told Boddie.

When she put on her U.S. Postal Service uniform for the first time, she felt proud. "You've got your nice shiny shoes, you got your brand-new satchel. You know, you feel good," Jourdain said.

Boddie was 12 years old when his mother, a retired mail carrier, secured a job with the Postal Service, marking a turn toward financial stability. He considers that moment a huge change in their lives.

Now, during the coronavirus pandemic, the job brings him stress.

"Every day I wake up and just wonder, 'Is this the day that COVID-19 is gonna come home with me?' " Boddie said.

He's worried about putting his wife, who has an autoimmune disease, at risk. For her, contracting COVID-19 would be a potentially fatal diagnosis.

"Because of that, I fear whenever I leave the house," he said. "How do I cope? Well, of course, you know, we wear our masks. Soon as I get home, I'm strippin', jumpin' in the shower, clean myself from head to toe to make sure that the day is going down the drain."

Jourdain is scared, too.

"My anxiety levels are always on 10," she said. "I pray on my way to work, I pray on my lunch break, I pray when I'm at the box. What keeps me going is the fact that I need to keep going."

Boddie said he takes their responsibility of delivering essentials to residents seriously.

"That's one of the tough things with coronavirus — we're like a lifeline," Boddie said. "Getting these people their medicines, their supplies. And I can't even imagine if there was a person who passed away on my route and I did not get a chance to say goodbye or see them for the last time."

Jourdain said someone on her mail route recently died of cancer. His son told her that before he died, his father said to make sure to "tell my friend Evette that I said goodbye."

"And I lost it," Jourdain said. "I didn't even know it was going to affect me like that."

" 'Cause it does get to us," Boddie said.

Jourdain told Boddie that she cherishes their friendship.

"I couldn't do this by myself," she said.

"That means a lot. It really does," Boddie said.

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jey Born.

StoryCorps developed a new way to bring people together that makes it possible to record interviews remotely. Go to storycorpsconnect.org to try it out.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Friday, which means it's time for StoryCorps. And today, we meet two postal workers in Palm Beach, Fla. Their jobs come with risks they never imagined. Evette Jourdain and her fellow mail carrier Craig Boddie talked about how their work has changed in the pandemic.

EVETTE JOURDAIN: Life was pretty hard for me before I came to the post office. I'd lost my dad, I'd lost my brother, how I became homeless, and I just didn't have nobody.

CRAIG BODDIE: How did it feel for you when you first got your uniform and you put it on?

JOURDAIN: I felt damn proud. When you put that uniform on for the first time, you got your nice shiny shoes, you got your brand-new satchel, you know, you feel good. How does it feel for you to be in this pandemic?

BODDIE: My wife has autoimmune disease, so because of that, I fear whenever I leave the house. How do I cope? Well, of course, you know, we wear our masks. Soon as I get home, I'm stripping, jumping in the shower, cleaning myself from head to toe to make sure that the day is going down the drain. Every day, I wake up and just wonder, like, is this the day that COVID-19 is going to come home with me?

JOURDAIN: My anxiety levels are always on 10 because I'm scared. I pray on my way to work. I pray on my lunch break. I pray when I'm at the box. What keeps me going is the fact that I need to keep going.

BODDIE: That's one of the tough things with the coronavirus. We're like a lifeline getting these people their medicines, their supplies. And I can't even imagine if there was a person who passed away on my route and I did not get a chance to say goodbye or see them for the last time.

JOURDAIN: I had a customer recently, on my route, pass away. His son came outside and told me that my father said, tell my friend Evette that I say goodbye. And I lost it. I couldn't - I didn't even know it was going to affect me like that.

BODDIE: Because it does get to us, yeah.

JOURDAIN: I'm glad that we became friends, and I appreciate you. I cherish the friendship that we have because I couldn't do this by myself.

BODDIE: That means a lot. It really does.

INSKEEP: That was Evette Jourdain with her friend and fellow mail carrier Craig Boddie. They recorded their conversation with StoryCorps Connect, which allows loved ones to interview each other remotely. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress. Find out how to do your own interview safely at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE DOT SESSIONS' "SAGE THE HUNTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.