Good things in small packages: Delivery people become characters in our lockdown life

Shane Crapper reckons there's never been a better time to be a delivery driver.

He's busy, like many in his profession, as people coping with tightening lockdowns in Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire have driven an unprecedented boom in online shopping.

Shane Crapper says the upturn in his workload has been fantastic. “Everyone is just so glad to see you.”Credit:Jason South

The arrival of these parcels can present a welcome escape from isolation, a space for connection, and as a result the people carrying them are becoming part of our lives.

"It has been fantastic. Everyone is just so glad to see you," Mr Crapper said. "It makes their day. They’re more happy to see me than my own family."

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a surge in online shopping, which has had Australia Post delivering parcels on weekends to keep up with heightened e-commerce demand.

Victoria had its biggest week for online shopping last week, with purchases up 161 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Nationally, volume for online shopping is up 90 per cent.

Mr Crapper makes deliveries to about 70 homes and businesses every day – roughly triple the number of deliveries compared with 12 months ago.

He said people were turning to online shopping because "there’s not much else you can do".

"You can’t go and see your rellies, you can’t go to the pub with your mates, so people are just buying up. And they’re so happy when you arrive," he said.

"This old lady in her 70s had never bought anything online. When I got there she had a big grin on her face. She said, 'Look – I only ordered this yesterday. I’m going to do this all the time!'

"I thought, 'Oh good … I’ll be coming here every day now.' "

Since April the #ThankAPostie campaign has encouraged people to get behind their local postal workers.

The campaign has involved residents around Australia putting out signs, treats and messages of encouragement for postal workers.

Marina Gurm from Mill Park said she had been heartened by her eight-year-old son and five-year-old daughter’s support for the movement. The pair have been taking to the streets with chalk to write messages of encouragement for delivery drivers, postal workers and truck drivers who regularly pass by their house.

"We often get the same delivery drivers coming through, and the kids wrote up their own little signs and drew pictures for them," Ms Gurm said.

The laminated pictures are still displayed on Ms Gurm’s front door, letterbox and bins for essential workers to see on their routes.

"They’re still doing their job and lots of people are working through this, and it’s just nice to acknowledge that everyone’s going through a tough time," Ms Gurm said.

Ms Gurm’s son has been struggling with distance learning and bouts of anxiety, and crafting notes and drawings is helping him be more aware of the stresses many people are facing and putting in perspective the benefits of kindness to others.

"It’s a good way to remind him that he's not the only one who has been affected by this. It's not just Melbourne, it's not just Victoria, it's not just Australia, but it's across the world," Ms Gurm said.

"Everybody's in the same situation. And going out and drawing with chalk – just with colour, and that brightness – especially if the day is beautiful, I think just makes a bit of a difference."

For Deeanne Wathen, whose family is immunocompromised, displaying signs for delivery drivers outside her home in Mooroopna has been a way to stay connected while she is unable to open her doors.

In regular times, her son would go out to greet delivery drivers and stay for a chat. Instead, he has been helping Miss Wathen design and decorate colourful signs of welcome and thanks.

Delivery drivers have been heartened by the displays, with some taking photos while dropping off packages.

"We wanted to make sure that those who came to drop us off the things that we needed were at least, if we couldn't give them a smile and a wave, getting something from the delivery. Something that could make them smile," Miss Wathen said.

"So I thought I'd put something nice up there. It’s a little gesture to swap out those ones that we would normally provide."

Mr Crapper sees some regular customers at local businesses nearly every day – more than he sees his friends or extended family.

"Everyone knows what footy team you barrack for and everything like that," he said. "Look, it’s probably the best job ever."

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