ECOLOGICAL NICHE

“Herr Nippel In Not” painted by Gerhard Gluck

When still very young Percy came to understand that he was not a handsome boy or a smart one. He could not play the piano and found algebra very difficult. It seemed he had no special place. Fortunately sometime around his sixth birthday his father gave him some invaluable advice, “Men like us are important just because we aren’t important. What would be the difference between the A students and the F students without the C students marking that point between. The bus system would fail if everyone could afford to drive. Waiters are required if anyone is to sit down to eat. Someone must answer the telephone, ‘Pearson, Pearson and Pearson. To whom would you like to speak?’

Our talent is being invisible. We see but are not seen. Fade into the crowd when we’re not chosen for a game. We never object or nominate. Aren’t late or early, in the way, or out of reach. How else would minutes of the meeting get from the recorder to the chairman, to the controller, and then to the head-of-sales in time for the four o’clock meeting with the bank?”

Only during one difficult year did Percy doubt the wisdom of his father’s words. Computers had been installed and most of the staff had stopped using him for their deliveries. The new age messengers were electronic and everywhere Percy went he heard the voice of his competition, “You’ve got mail! You’ve got mail!”

Most of his fellow human messengers were pensioned out, laid off, or shifted into security and maintenance positions but somehow Percy was excluded from these cuts. There were always a few things that needed to go to the post office, UPS or American Express. Snail mail they called it with a superior chuckle.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before email became evidence in court cases, impeachment proceeding, and divorce trials. Corporate raiders and paparazzi masqueraded as office management in order to intercept snail mail. Superstars were sent to prison or involuntary retirement. Families were shattered by trivial affairs. Countries went to war over faked data because the real data couldn’t escape the secrets files. It was as Percy’s father had predicted, “Without us messengers, son. People’d crumble from their discontentedments.”

The lucky few who survived these dramatic goings-on took stock of what trait had saved them and momentarily noticed Percy’s shoes. One by one they stepped up their use of him. Hired more like him. Kept it quiet. This shift was whispered about but never said aloud, “You want to get a letter to your mistress, your broker, your bookie, your next boss you have to . . . .” But because Percy was Percy, well trained by his father, he heard the words otherwise lost in the air, “Sneaker mail.” 

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Herr Nippel In Not” painted by Gerhard Gluck
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