Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Sigmond & Me

Apparently, I had started writing the story of meeting Sigmond...I found this post from February, that I never finished:

well, the full story is this:  i was waiting in line behind this big, tall, cool as a cucumber dude and he stepped up to the window and said to the little woman behind the counter “six minutes”  yeah? she says back? six?  “yup.  six minutes.  that’s how long it took to get from there to here.”  she smiled.  he handed her something and smiled and walked away.  i stepped up to the counter, to the same little lady and said, ‘hey, can i talk to a manager about something? really quick? i have an idea.”  she tells me to ring the bell on that little door to the side there and points to that random door you don’t really think anyone is behind, but come to find out, that’s where the whole freaking world of the p.o IS!  anyway, i rang the bell.  and the top half of the door opens and THERE IS SAID COOL CUCUMBER DUDE!  Sigmond.  I tell him I find those cases depressing and I think we could all use a bit more cheer and wouldn’t it be great if i designed some cool things for the cases and...i don’t know exactly dude, but sigmond immediately said yes.  he’d been waiting for someone to come around and treat this once beautiful goddamn worn-down federal institution like the place it used to be.  he’d been waiting for someone to agree that him pumping jazz in on saturday’s WOULD make life in the lobby better for all.  whether you like jazz or not, honestly.  

And now I have to follow it up with terrible news.  I just found out that Sigmond died in July.  I was in the post office and Robert, who I knew first, said to me as I was babbling away about how long it had been since I had done anything with the cases and I was going to get back into it, but it just hadn't been the same since Sigmond relocated to a different P.O. and Robert stopped me and said, "Molly, have you heard about Sigmond?"  Of course I hadn't!  I hadn't even heard from Sigmond since he started his long, slow move from manager of this location to retirement.  Wonderful, fulfilling retirement.  A retirement he had been dreaming of since before I met him.  He'd been talking about it for ages, but always found some new reason to stay.  I like to think when I came along and breathed some new life into this particular location, he found another tiny reason to hang on for a bit.  But we talked about his retirement, or semi-retirement, every time I swung by there.  He couldn't wait.  Sigmond had worked his butt off since he was a kid.  Now there was family & friends waiting in the wings for him to take it easy, kick his feet up and enjoy a cold one together.  There was a brief moment of talk when The Traveling Postal Club, the letter writing community scene a friend and I started there at his P.O., was cruising along that maybe we could all work together to make it a nationwide program with the USPS.  Sigmond would be our guide, he'd help train others.  This seemed like such a wonderful possibility because he was always our biggest supporter.  It started with the cases, but it grew beyond when we introduced The Traveling Postal Club.  We brought the idea to him that we might set up some tables and chairs and bring a whole bunch of mail-art materials and let people stop by and make a card.  It was a simple premise that we all took seriously and blew out on a Sunday in Atwater.  A Sunday!  Sigmond ordered a mail truck to sell stamps, we had six tables filled with materials, he hustled people in from the sidewalk and we kept the whole thing going for a full day.  It was exhilarating!  And then he let us keep doing it for months afterward in the lobby of his P.O.  Whenever we wanted, however we wanted to do it.  And he often brought his walkman and plugged in some jazz.

It was pretty thrilling.  As anyone who's ever been to a Post Office knows, they're not an easy place to crack.  But we had Sigmond on our side, in our corner.  He wrote to the higher ups, letting them know what we were doing and how beneficial it was to the USPS.  He was always present at our events.  And he always had time to talk when they ended, walk us out to our cars, help us load up.  There was a time, in the early days of me creating/designing the P.O. cases, when I walked into the back room of the USPS.  Regular humans don't just get to cruise on back there.  But Sigmond let me walk around and look at the tools of the past, still being used:  the mail boxes, the mail sorters, the mail bags, the locked cage in the middle of the room that I guess held money?  The other employees always looked a bit startled to see me, but when they saw I was with Sigmond, they relaxed.  Whenever I finished a case, I'd walk in the back to let him know I was done and to give back the keys.  He would always walk me to my car and we'd stand and talk about the past, present and future.  I'm sure we both thought there was a lot more future.

When Sigmond left that particular location, he wasn't very good about keeping in touch.  He didn't return texts or emails like he used to.  I wrote it off to 'senioritis';  he knew retirement was close.  So, I didn't get too worked up by it.  I figured I'd keep him in the loop via these means no matter what.  Turns out, there were other things in the works.  Things we knew nothing about.  

Robert told me Sigmond was diagnosed with cancer this past May and, not even fully retired yet, passed away in July.

I'll never meet another Sigmond, but I sure am glad I met this one.


Julie B. said...

My heart smiled and then it broke! I am so glad we have Sigmonds in the world. He is a cool breeze blowing against our hearts on warm days! Thanks for the wonderful story of your relationship with Sigmond. What a bright spot in the day! Julie B.

Molly said...

That's so sad. And a poignant reminder to try not to live for some future time when we imagine our lives will tick over as we plan them to, but relish the now in all it's messy beauty.
My thoughts will all of those who thought they'd have more time with him.