Mike the Mailman

I’ll be visiting Penn State and State College tomorrow for the first time in more than six months, and am returning to some Happy Valley-themed things. John Patishnock wrote a while ago on Mike Herr, better known as “Mike the Mailman.”

Mike’s an example of someone who loves what he does. He’s the sort of person who brings electricity into any room he enters, and is so genuine that it’s also jarring the first time you meet him. I had dinner with him two years ago in Harrisburg, and he acted as if I were the only person in the world worth talking to at a table filled with more important people. John Patishnock writes:

The Penn State men’s ice hockey team had an open midnight practice last year at Pegula Ice Arena, and I was there. It was pretty exciting, seeing the rink light up as the Nittany Lions and coach Guy Gadowsky interacted with the fans and gave everyone a preview. As I was standing on the concourse, I saw Mike, decked out in a hockey jersey, make his way up the steps of the student section to get a better view.

Mike seemed just as excited in that moment as every student was a few weeks later on opening night, and it made me smile, seeing someone who’s lived here his entire life who still seems to be enjoying himself and everything Penn State has to offer.

Some people make any event more special and memorable by his or her mere presence. Mike is one of these people. He has the patience of a saint and the demeanor of a soft-spoken rock star, if such a juxtaposition exists.

Mike often wonders why so many people make such a big deal out of him. My take? It’s because in a world where everyone feels compelled to update Twitter every 20 minutes and post every event of his or her life on Instagram, he doesn’t have a personal email account or Facebook page. He doesn’t post his status online. Instead, Mike greets everyone who enters the post office with the same courtesy and graciousness. It turns out that stuff still matters to some people.

I also thought this comment from John’s column is worth looking at for a minute:

Thousands of students new to State College have credited Mike for making Penn State seem a little more comforting after moving away from home for the first time.

It’s so rare to find people who are genuine, and whose love for life is so obvious that it brightens your day and can help lessen some of the alienation of moving to a new place like college. Mike is a treasure because he has that effect in Happy Valley.