Our fully functional Smith Post Office (circa 1872) is presided over by a man with the charm of Jimmy Stewart, and the banter of Johnny Carson. He also has a keen knowledge of computers, is extremely patient and very generous. His name is Larry.
I recently acquired a new computer. It may come as a surprise, but I was intimidated.
“Would you be able to set up my computer, Larry?” I whimpered, piteously. Bingo! Larry arrived at noon the following Sunday. It was man against beast. I sat in awe of this man before whom computers cower. Four hours later, Larry emerged triumphant. The disturbing part, was during the entire four-hour campaign, Larry never once raised his voice or lost his temper. When a computer blocks my intentions, I take it personally. I explode. Rage is my answer to all computer befuddlement. With Larry, when something goes wrong, he ponders quietly for a moment, says “Ooooohhhh, that’s not good,” click, click, clicks with the mouse, and all is soon running smoothly. As Larry is about to leave, I ask “How much do I owe you?” ( I know he charges $25 an hour, or any part there of). “Nothing. You can pay me in chocolate. I’m as close to being a chocoholic as you can get,” he replies with a fiendish grin. I disappear into the kitchen. Orllyene recently baked a batch of brownies. Those brownies were worth their weight in gold.
Being Smith’s post master is only one of Larry’s duties. He is also a certified “Supervisor Trainer-Trainer.” This means he learns the newest U.S. Postal Service procedures, and then trains supervisors who in turn teach individual postmasters. This is where Larry’s extraordinary talent flares to life. He has the ability to meet everyone on their own level.
“Sometimes a prospective post master might not even know how to operate a computer. I tell them there’s almost nothing that you can do to mess up a computer, that can’t be fixed. Knowledge comes from experience and experience often comes from a mistake. We remember a mistake a lot longer than when we do something right,” he says.
Before joining the U.S. Postal Service, Larry was a waiter, a cook, a maitre d, midnight d.j., worked on an oil rig, did copy writing and ran a radio station. Digging into Larry’s postal service background, I learn he delivered mail door to door, and spent 18 years in the Reno Post Office. When standing on a concrete floor became too much, and the Smith post master job opened up, he requested a transfer. “
Are you sure, Larry? That’s a downgrade position, you know,” Larry’s supervisor said.
Undetered, Larry grabbed the job and has been happy here for nine years.
“I enjoy helping people, and prefer a live classroom. I can look at a student and see if they understand, or are completely lost. Some people absorb like a sponge. Some people need a lot of repetition. If someone says, ‘can you show me how this is done?’ and they work along with me, that’s great. But if they say, ‘do it for me,’ I charge them a fee. If I have a glaring fault, it’s that I enjoy helping people. The trouble is, I have my own stuff to do,” he said.
Larry is that rarest of people; he’s biblical, in a way. Somewhere in the Bible, you read, “it’s more blessed to give than receive,” and that’s Larry. I just bet, if you drove out here to Smith Valley, and asked Larry a question about your computer, he’d arrange to meet up with you and solve your problem. And if you were really, really interested, it wouldn’t cost you a dime. But to be safe, you should probably bring some chocolate.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.