Cesar Carde is retiring after 37 of years working at various branches of the Post Office in Greenwich, and he will be sorely missed.
Mr. Carde, 64, said accountants he had met at the post office suggested to him he’d have a more generous pension if he would work a few more years.
“I’m taking a cut because sometimes less for longer is better than more for shorter,” he said.
Either way, Carde said he doesn’t like the word retirement.
Rather, he said he planned to flip to the “next chapter” of his life.
His last day at at the Post Office on Amogerone Crossway is June 30.
Carde said his decision to move to that next chapter was confirmed last weekend. He recalled that while driving back from a hike up Bear Mountain in New York, his wife noticed an Audi with a young, happy looking couple drive pass them. Minutes later there was a pile up involving a truck and the Audi. That gave Carde and his wife pause.
“Here’s these people who could have lost their lives in a fraction of a second. Unexpected,” he said. “It had me thinking how frail life is. I told my wife, ‘Let’s plan a vacation right after my retirement.'”
Carde, who is originally from Puerto Rico, said his wife, who is originally from Peru, and had never been to the island, decided to schedule a visit.
“Because of that accident, we booked the flight and we’re leaving on the 9th and returning the 22nd of July,” he said. “I want to go jet skiing, horseback riding and on the zip line,” he said.
Then, he said, “God willing, come January, I will come home, do my will, and buy a one way ticket from JFK to Santiago, Chile to go backpacking.”
He said he planned to visit Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Ecuador, and Mexico. His wife will join him for a few weeks during the journey.
Over the decades Mr. Carde has moved around town.
He worked in the former Greenwich Avenue branch – now RH, the Valley Drive location, the Glenville location, and for the past 13 years, at the downtown location at 44 Amogerone Crossway.
This week Carde reflected on his decades in Greenwich.
During a break for lunch – take out from his favorite restaurant, Pasta Vera on Greenwich Avenue – Carde said his secret to happiness is to focus on the positive in life.
“That’s what makes you grow and makes you stronger,” he said, citing a favorite saying. “You cannot control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”
Carde who came to the US from Puerto Rico when he was about 10, recalled a line from a black and white movie he watched as a child: “He who has a grain of the salt of bitterness in his heart can never truly be content.”
The line from the movie stuck with Carde and became a guiding principle.
“I think about that every time I have a disagreement with someone,” he said, adding he is a firm believer in God. “He designed us all unique and different, but we have to find our calling and what we want to do. Life is full of choices.”
He said when he waits on someone who is unhappy or has a problem, he thinks of that grain of salt.
“If you get one grain, two grains, three grains of bitterness you go postal,” he said. “I have to choose whether I continue to be the problem, or use my common sense to diffuse it and lighten the person or make the person feel better. It makes me feel good, when someone comes in here feeling sad, if I can say something just to make them feel better. It’s free and it makes me feel good.”
“You have no idea,” he said. “Some customers open up on a level I was not expecting. It makes me feel good because they trust me, and whatever happens between that customer and the next one, I don’t talk about what they said.”
As for his newer colleagues in the Post Office, he said he reminds them not to take their encounters with customers personally.
Carde acknowledged that there are times when a customer behaves badly and he simply cannot lighten the air with his mix of respect, truth and kindness.
“I look at it as that person is having a bad day. If I get to them, good. If not, at least I tried and hope that the next time that person moves on.”
“Many people say, ‘I look forward to coming here because you’re so positive,'” he continued, adding that he treats the billionaire customers just as he treats everyone else.
And while colleagues sometimes ask celebrity customers for their autographs, Mr. Carde is not interested.
“If anything, I help the underdog a little more. People all unique. I don’t even want to know your job title,” he said. “Money doesn’t make you happy.”