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CORBIS (MALONE). ALAMY (MR. MCFEELY, CLIFF CLAVIN)

12 Postal Service Pop Culture All-Stars

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CORBIS (MALONE). ALAMY (MR. MCFEELY, CLIFF CLAVIN)

They might not have handled real mail, but they still delivered.

1. MR. MCFEELY // MISTER ROGERS' NEIGHBORHOOD

Named after Fred Rogers’s grandfather (Fred Brooks McFeely), the legendary postman was involved from the first to the last episode (383 appearances, total), with a catchphrase epitomizing an ideal all postal workers can appreciate: “Speedy delivery!”

2. KARL MALONE // UTAH JAZZ

Two-time NBA MVP Malone earned his nickname “The Mailman” for consistently delivering on the court. The power forward still holds the record for most starts in the NBA (1471), helped bring home two Olympic gold medals, and scored the second-most points in NBA history.

3. MR. ZIP // USPS

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Mr. ZIP was introduced in 1963 to help raise awareness when the USPS adopted ZIP codes, but he also gigged as the postal service’s bearer of bad news, showing up on promotional material about increased postage rates. But who could shoot a messenger with a smile like that?

4. REBA THE MAIL LADY // PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE

Delivering the mail to Pee-wee’s Playhouse could not have been easy. Talking chairs. A disembodied genie’s head. Secret words. But Reba, played by S. Epatha Merkerson—who would go on to win Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG awards—was up to the task. A saint, really.

5. CLIFF CLAVIN // CHEERS

Actor John Ratzenberger received angry letters from real postmen, because he wore his mail keys to the bar (a cardinal USPS sin). But Cliff was the bad boy of postal carriers, a one-man cliché-defying machine. Then again, the character was originally supposed to be a security guard.

6. PAPERBOY // PAPERBOY

The titular character of Atari’s classic 1984 arcade game had to dodge tornadoes, break dancers, bees, supersized cats, storm drains, and the Grim Reaper. And for what? Kid didn’t even get a government pension. He may not technically be a postal worker, but he’s still one of the greats.

7. NEWMAN // SEINFELD

Postal service faux pas: Blackmailing people by withholding their mail; calling in sick on account of rain; paying someone to work his route. Newman knew how to make the most of his profession even if he wasn't always a stellar employee. In one episode, he describes being a mailman as such: “When you control the mail, you control...information.”

8. AGENT K // MEN IN BLACK II

Tommy Lee Jones’ character in MIIB briefly joins the postal service after retiring from life as a secret agent, and then comes out of retirement after Will Smith's Agent J convinces him that his USPS co-workers are, in fact, aliens. Who said the shipping business was boring?

9. THE POSTMAN // THE POSTMAN

The titular character—played by Kevin Costner—has the unenviable task of attempting to deliver the mail in a post-apocalyptic world. Among other issues, there are a lot fewer curbside mailboxes.

10. CHARLIE UTTER // DEADWOOD

His vocation didn’t really factor into the plot of Deadwood, but this member of Wild Bill Hickok’s entourage—based on a real historical figure—was, indeed, a postman.

11. POSTMAN PAT // POSTMAN PAT

Postman Pat is the star of the stop-motion TV show, which has aired in more than 20 countries. A British icon, Pat is affable and assiduous, and never without his red post van or his black-and-white cat Jess.

12. HERMAN POST // GARFIELD

This long-suffering mailman is often tormented by the fat cat (who regularly ripped off his pants). Occasionally, Post succeeds in delivering Jon’s mail by resorting to unconventional tactics (like wearing a suit of armor, or folding up the mail into paper airplanes). 


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History
A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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