FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – During the best of times, online ordering and package delivery is a tremendous convenience. At present – in the midst of a pandemic that has kept the general public largely confined to their homes for nearly three months – it has been a godsend.
Out of toilet paper? A few clicks, a few days, and it’s at your door. In need of frozen meats and vegetables because the local grocery store is having a shortage? Just order it online and give it a week. Require a prescription but visiting the pharmacy would pose a health risk? Get it delivered.
It’s a service we’ve become so accustomed to that we often take it for granted, but it’s important to recognize the real people behind the process. People who load the trucks all day and night. People who drive long routes. People who are right now risking their own health to deliver your packages.
They’re your friends, your neighbors, and in some cases, your fellow New England Revolution supporters.
Peter Northrup has been a Revolution Season Member since 2009, and even casual fans might know him as the guy sitting in the front row wearing a Scottish kilt and a big red Hulk fist. He’s tough to miss.
Northrup has been a steady presence in Foxborough for more than a decade, ever since he was converted from “one of those pinheads that had a scoffing attitude about soccer not being a real sport” – his own words – into a fanatical supporter with one singular experience.
“My first time walking into Gillette Stadium to watch a soccer game … it was like I could breathe for the first time,” Northrup said. “There’s just something about the light and space of Gillette Stadium. It’s just electrifying.”
After a decorated 27-year career in the U.S. Army – serving overseas tours in Operation Desert Storm, Panama, and Afghanistan – Northrup joined the U.S. Postal Service as a letter carrier in 2005. He covers an all-driving route in Bridgewater, Mass., that features a large industrial park and residential neighborhoods.
Much about his day-to-day has changed in recent months as the pandemic has heightened awareness on safety precautions, which are in place to protect both mail carrier and customer. Northrup said he wears a mask and rubber gloves throughout his shift – “prior to this pandemic, I never once used rubber gloves,” he said – and interactions with his customers must remain socially distant.
That includes with his four-legged friends.
“A big part of what I miss about my route pre-pandemic is my canine customers,” Northrup said. “They rule our lives with iron paws. When they say come pet me, you really need to go do it. But there’s also social responsibility.
“By and large, the (dogs) that were welcoming were always about rolling over and having me pet their tummies. I really miss that, because you think, ‘Is there something on these gloves? And am I going to get it on this dog’s fur, and that dog’s fur is going to take it into the house and now I’ve given it to this family?’ That’s something you have to take into consideration is not making that transmission.”
Ben Bradley first became a multi-game package holder for the Revs in 2015, and he’s been a diehard ever since. He misses the club so much, in fact, that he’s watched several of the EA SPORTS FIFA 20 simulations that the Revolution’s digital department has live-streamed in recent months.
“I think that shows how much I’m missing soccer if I’m willing to sit on my phone for 45 minutes and watch a bunch of video game characters play,” Bradley said with a laugh. “I miss the whole thing; going to the tailgates. I have two little girls, so they love getting out there and running around.”
Now in his fourth year with WB Mason – where he works as a supervisor – Bradley has been putting in 10-14 hour days delivering essential supplies to local hospitals and businesses. While he typically covers various routes wherever help is needed, circumstances of the pandemic – including furloughs – mean he’s taken over a more regular route covering Peabody, Beverly and Danvers.
That includes Beverly Hospital, and Bradley said the most rewarding part of his job is knowing that the supplies he’s delivering aren’t just helping keep local businesses afloat, they’re also providing frontline healthcare workers with the tools they need to keep themselves and their patients safe.
“Since we work with so many hospitals, (we’re) kind of feeling like we’re doing our part to make sure everything keeps chugging along and people are getting the care that they need,” Bradley said. “Whatever small part we’re actually providing.”
Kenny Coutoumas is in his 11th year as a Revolution Season Member, and he said he’s missing the release of a Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium after a long workweek. He also embarks upon a yearly road trip with several Revolution supporters and was slated to visit Earthquakes Stadium in San Jose this summer, before the pandemic put a halt on those plans.
“Hopefully soon enough,” Coutoumas said of eventually getting back out to support the Revs. “Everyone’s healthy in my life, so that’s all I care about. Can’t really (complain) too much about not being able to make a trip and see the boys.”
Although he doesn’t have his typical Revolution road trip to look forward to this year, Coutoumas is staying busy, working a 12-hour overnight shift (5 p.m. to 5 a.m.) in the UPS Hub location in Chelmsford, Mass., having recently celebrated his 29th anniversary with the company.
While his duties don’t take him into the general public, Coutoumas provides an essential service by loading the trailers for delivery, and while he was hesitant to accept any praise for the work he’s doing, he did admit that his daily responsibilities aren’t without risk.
“There’s no sleep,” said Coutoumas, noting that current volume is busier than Christmastime, but without the benefit of seasonal help. “The chance of injury goes up exponentially every time you walk in the place and are there for 12-14 hours.”
All three men play different roles in the delivery process – Coutoumas loads the trucks, Bradley delivers essential supplies to hospitals and businesses, and Northrup serves both an industrial park and a residential route – but they all have one thing in common: they’re risking their own health to make sure citizens and businesses get the products they need to get through a difficult time.
While working long, stressful shifts out on their delivery routes, both Northrup and Bradley said that the small gestures of appreciation from their customers keep them going.
Northrup recalled one particular instance, about one month after the pandemic shut down most services, when he opened up a customer’s mailbox to retrieve outgoing mail only to find a bottle of Purell with a red ribbon and a note.
To our mailman. Stay healthy.
“It just happened to be one of the first good, warm days where people were outside playing badminton in their backyard, so I just called over to their porch and said, ‘Hey, thank you very much,’” Northrup said. “They were like, ‘Yeah, you stay healthy. We want those packages to keep coming!’”
“Definitely people are a lot more appreciative,” echoed Bradley. “Every once in a while I’ll get a little kid on a bike wave to me, or an old guy walking his dog, and that’s something that always makes it worth it.”
If you’d like to show your support for your local delivery personnel – and potentially make their day in the process – download and print these Thank You signs and display them where delivery personnel can see them.