"I almost quit when I first got the job," Williams remembers with a chuckle. "I didn't know all of the details it included. I thought you just picked the mail up and went. It's not like that."
Williams learned he had to sort the mail on his route and forward or return material addressed to residents who've long since moved on. On this route, that means learning hundreds of new names annually. But Williams has grown to love it.
"The main thing I have," he says, "is a great memory."
Williams, who just turned fifty, lives in Detroit with his wife, Susan; they have two grown sons. He's carried the mail in Ann Arbor ever since he got out of the service in 1986. On this bitterly cold winter day, he's wearing four layers of clothes under his Postal Service jacket and sweatpants beneath his blue uniform pants. Lined nonslip boots and a Yukon hat with a USPS eagle emblem on the front panel complete the ensemble. With the winter sun glistening off his small gold earring, Williams walks with a quiet confidence.
Student neighborhoods are notorious for unshoveled sidewalks. Today Williams skips a house whose steep front walk is covered with ice. "I warned 'em yesterday: if you want your mail, you have to shovel the walk," he says.