Diana Cameron steps into a new venture
How many steps do you walk in a day? Probably not 23,232.
That is how many steps Diana Cameron’s Apple watch recorded on her second-to-last day at her job with the Quincy Post Office. It had been a typical day of walking 9.75 miles and delivering mail on her route in southeast Quincy.
Cameron worked 28 years for the U.S. Postal Service, and her last day was June 29.
She is not really retiring, though she does wonder how she is going to continue logging so much exercise.
“I am going to have start walking to keep that up,” she said with a laugh.
Going door to door for most of her career, she definitely got her exercise in. Over the years, the work included more and more packages, too, which meant more lifting.
“We get all kinds of sizes and things,” she said. “You are lifting heavy things all day.”
But that doesn’t mean she’d go home exhausted. She and her husband, Harvey Cameron, teach line dancing and have for 30 years. And they are business owners.
While planning cake and ice cream for Diana Cameron and the rest of the post office staff on her last day, Postmaster Dave Peters said Cameron is a great employee and an asset to the community.
“She is going to be sorely missed,” Peters said.
For instance, with her great knowledge of Quincy, she could help direct packages that were missing addresses to where they belonged, Peters said. And, having worked a delivery route for so long, she has a special bond with the customers.
Diana Cameron grew up in Quincy and graduated from Quincy High School, as did her two daughters.
She and her family seem to do things together. Relatives are in business locally, and her family helps with the two businesses she and her husband own. Even in mail delivery, there is a family streak: Diana’s grandmother Florence Bepple also delivered mail in the Quincy area, back in the early days. Bepple is now 104 years old and lives in East Wenatchee, Cameron said.
Diana had worked the southeast Quincy route so long she could only estimate how many years – 20, at least. Going door to door during most of her career, and having covered most of Quincy at some point, she has gotten to know lots and lots of people.
She became friends with many over the years and has seen their families grow up. They keep her updated on family news and share baby photos, “like I am part of their family,” she said.
She knows that the familiarity she enjoyed was partly due to the size of Quincy – a big-city postal worker wouldn’t get to know people as much. She said she is going to miss her customers, but she is not going anywhere – they can still visit.
Then, on the other hand, she admitted that not everyone was nice. She always tried to be nice and work with people, but she recalled a few who chewed her out and called her names.
Sometimes angry people are looking for a check in the mail or anxiously waiting for their packages. Over 28 years, she dealt with all kinds of people and concerns.
With her experience and skills, she was called on to train new workers. She told all the new people not to drive close to the mailboxes in winter because ice on the road can make the truck slide into the boxes. She would give pointers, things that she learned worked for her, such as how to arrange things in the truck, or to avoid a certain dog.
Aggressive dogs are not a laughing matter for postal workers, and Cameron learned about dogs the hard way early. She recalled it was in her first year or thereabouts that she got bit, a bite that did not seem too bad at the time and did not bleed. She continued on her route and recalls that she got in trouble for not reporting the incident immediately.
That was the only dog bite for her.
“You get to know the dogs,” she said, their names and the problem ones, as well as the Postal Service policies for dealing with them. Being alert is essential.
“You have to pay attention out there, and that is what I tell everyone – pay attention,” she said.
That work habit saved her from injury once when a wheel fell off a truck and could have hit her. She dodged it but was stunned at what she was seeing, as was the driver of the truck.
Then there was the time she helped save a life when she noticed that a gentleman had not picked up his mail. She knew someone to call who could check on him, and in fact, he was found on the floor and taken to the hospital.
With one day left on the job, she had no plans for a retirement celebration such as a trip – she was not even planning to relax for a day after leaving the mailbag behind.
She joked about being scheduled for work by her daughter at Gotta Have Java. That’s the business Diana and Harvey bought seven years ago, a drive through coffee shop at 215 E St. SE, Quincy. Their daughter Sheena runs it.
Gotta Have Java has coffees and a lot of other drinks, such as smoothies, teas and Italian sodas, as well as ice cream and food items. Diana emphasized how much training it takes to become a coffee barista, how each drink has a certain sequence of steps to make it – there is a lot more to running a business than most people think.
But that didn’t stop the Camerons from wanting to start another one. Their second business is what Diana will be focused on in her immediate post-post office life. It is called The Brick Deli, and she and her family have been working on it for several months. She said she had hoped to have it open before she retired from the post office, but it was looking like it could open around July 12.
The Brick Deli is inside the Quincy Swim & Gym, at 10 B St. SE. The brick building prompted the name, Cameron said. And her relatives have some history with the building too, having excavated for the pool inside.
The Brick Deli will feature a full salad bar, sandwiches, soups, protein drinks, fresh fruit drinks and some of the same drinks as at Gotta Have Java. It will be open to the public, not just members of the gym.
Most business startups mean headaches, and this one has provided them, such as a freezer that got zapped and needed to be repaired.
“People think you just walk in the door and put a business together – it doesn’t happen that way,” Cameron said, though not with any exasperation or tiredness.
There are a lot of hoops to jump through, she said, the family is doing a lot of the remodeling themselves.
“We’ve done a lot of work in there,” she said, and everyone is just excited for the business to open.
With all that family support, and with Cameron’s decades of experience in customer service at the post office, experience with Gotta Have Java, plus her new freedom and readiness to spend a lot of time on her feet, The Brick Deli has a promising start.
By Dave Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org