In our friendly Isla Vista neighborhood, a number of mailmen work day in and day out delivering mail to one of the most convoluted regions in California. It is a job that requires substantial amounts of energy, considering the saturated college atmosphere of IV, where people move around every year. From furniture to textbooks to school supplies, the mailmen in IV handle every single parcel that comes and goes. In the midst of these packages, Jorge Lopez, a recently retired USPS mailman, has his own little story. Lopez has been through it all, putting in upwards of 20 years on the job.
Since the age of 26, Lopez has been working in IV. He now has a family with two kids, but he has continued to engage the job with the same enthusiasm as he did in beginning. He is most known on the streets of Trigo, Pasado, and Sueno—his route for over a decade.
“His hard work, dedication, and mastery of the job he does on a daily basis amazes me,” said his daughter Shayla Lopez in an email. “I can’t even count on one hand how many days he has called in sick over the many years because he would rather the students have correct and quality service than worry about his own needs. He has so much love and care for the students, and others, that he sees on a daily basis.”
Lopez has met many students over the years, and to this day maintains these relationships through social media. “People usually stay here for three or four years, sometimes even just two, but I still connect with them man, it’s a great feeling,” he says. “It’s an incredible experience. You see people grow and change, and everything is just so fast.”
Popular among many UCSB students and residential residents, Jorge never passes by without being greeted by someone with a shoutout. Jorge has befriended neighborhood kids before they even attended school. “You know, I’ve watched so many people grow since they were a child, just 7, and now they’re off somewhere in the world doing their own thing,” Lopez said, reminiscing.
Before his official leave, Lopez made the decision to try a new route. About a month ago, a popular route among mailmen known as the “retirement route” opened up, named for its relaxing, quiet, and calm environment up near the mountains. After working for so long, Lopez “wanted to try something new” and decided to take up the offer—beating his coworkers with his seniority. Despite his decision, Lopez said, “I was extremely hesitant, and it was such an emotional topic that I couldn’t bring myself to tell the people I usually see on the streets.” And so, one week later, Lopez quietly disappeared to another part of Santa Barbara.
During his short absence, people noticed when Lopez wasn’t there, starting from day one. “Other mailmen kept telling me people were pestering them too much about me,” said Lopez. Luckily for his friends, the hiatus lasted only about three weeks. “On the first day of the new route, I knew this route wasn’t for me,” he said.
Of course, Lopez, with his upbeat personality and incredibly easy-going character, is one of those souls that instantly meshes with the IV community. Lopez talked about his first time ever working in IV as a mailman, saying, “I instantly knew this was the place. Everything about it just rolls the way I do.” And so, two weeks later, the “retirement route” was back up for grabs. His return only reinforced how much he loves doing what he does in his favorite place possible.
“I love it, man, I’m so lucky to be living this experience,” Lopez said in retrospect. In the end, we all hope to one day find the job that we can wake up to everyday and love doing. For many of us, UCSB and IV are just one stop on the larger path—but, like Lopez has done for decades, why not enjoy every moment we have here?