The Widder Curry: “I met the Human GPS Man today.”

by on February 11, 2015 · 9 comments

in Culture, The Widder Curry

Steve Shank widrCuri

Meet the Human GPS Man – Steve Shank

Seven months ago I was fortunate enough to meet the only “Human GPS” man in the world. At the time I knew he was “different” – but I didn’t know to what extent his talent included. Until today, that is.

I drive a Toyota and take it to the Mission Gorge Toyota dealer for maintenance on the car. Last July I took the car in for its 10,000 mile check up – except it only had 7700 miles on it – and had to leave it at the dealership for close to five hours.  I took the courtesy shuttle home, and that was when I met the GPS man – Steve Shank.   (That day he took five us to our separate homes –  and he drove all over San Diego County delivering us to our residences without checking a map or GPS.)

I was the last person he took home and we talked and exchanged information about ourselves until I was dropped off.  I also took the shuttle back to pick up my car and Steve was the driver.

He had told me that he was in the Navy for four years – deployed to Viet Nam three different times.  When he decided to leave the Navy he applied for a job with the Post Office and was hired the day after he was discharged.

Steve delivered mail to the Golden Hill area for 17 years. He was elected as the Health and Beneficiary Representative by his peers, and 1 ½ years later he became of the Vice President of the Union.  He was still delivering mail when in 1993 he was elected the President of the Mail Carriers Union.  He acted in that capacity from 1993-1999.  He ended his career with the Post Office in 2004, the last five years delivering mail to the Santee area.

He had some interesting stories to tell:  One time he was delivering mail to a house and did not recognize the man in the house.  He didn’t ask any questions; gave the man the mail, and went around the corner to call the police.  The house was being burglarized and since he knew everyone on the route, was able to recognize that the man in the house was not supposed to be there.

He was also instrumental in starting the Postal Carriers Charity golf tournament with the proceeds going towards M.S.  That tournament is still be played today, and he received a Leadership award for starting the tournament.

In July when I first met Steve, I was amazed at his collection of musical tapes he played in the van. He told me today that he finds that the different music helps keep people calm while he is driving them to their destination.  Today he had music from Sinatra, Dean Martin, old and new Country, R&B available and it was pleasant having the music in the background.

But the reason for this article is not what happened in July but what happened today in February.

Steve recognized me almost immediately when he came into the lobby of the dealership. That is a surprise because I’ve lost 30 pounds and my gray hair is now brown.  He remembered I lived in Pt. Loma; he remembered that I had a circular driveway; he remembered I was a former educator; he remembered that I make Jam (with a capital “J”).

I asked him how he remembered all that information and he said that as a mailman with eight different routes, it was important to know the neighborhoods, the people, the dogs, etc., that he would be spending time with. He said that he was an arbitrator while working for the Union and it was necessary to review and understand and remember the different aspects of each case.  He said he applies that ability to each and every one of the people that enter the courtesy vehicle.  He said he is a “people person” and likes  “to joke and kid with everyone” and that helps him remember things about that person.

He also told me something that I did not know before: There is a program with the Post Office called “Carrier Alert”.  For people that are elderly, or unable to get around, the Post Office has little orange stickers that they put on a mail box.  If the carrier notices that the mail has not been picked up, or there seems to be too much mail in the box, it is a signal to them to call the police department for assistance.

Steve said he once found a woman that had fallen and was in the same position for two days, unable to summon help. He saved her life.  (I know that my mailman – Gaston – has also saved lives.)  If you want to have this service, just let your post office know.

Steve grew up in Pittsburgh; went to Ohio State; has been married for 42 years and has four dogs.  He found when he went to Ohio State that if you did not maintain a 2.7 grade point average you were given a free trip to Viet Nam.  He said he learned the hard way but would not give up his experiences for anything.

He hopes to work for one more year and then, when retiring again, spend time with his wife and golf every day he wants to. He has no plans to travel, because, in his own words, “ . . . if you live in Paradise there is no reason to leave it.”

Steve Shank – an amazing man that took 5 of us home and never consulted a GPS; never looked at a map and knew where each and every one of us lived.  It was a great experience being with him today.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tricia Armstrong February 11, 2015 at 2:19 pm

A great article about our talented shuttle driver! Thanks for sharing, he sure is a gem and one of a kind. It was great seeing you yesterday :-)


judi February 11, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Thanks Tricia. Steve is a fascinating person, and some of the tips he gave me I have already put in action.


Joe February 11, 2015 at 4:48 pm


It’s nice to see you writing again and such a good article.



Postal Worker February 11, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Technical correction: He might have been an “arbitration advocate” while working for the Postal Service and being an official of the Letter Carriers Union.


Debbie February 12, 2015 at 1:38 am

Beautiful story!

Thank you


Zach on the side February 12, 2015 at 4:47 am

One of your best yet, JC! Come on, admit it, you love the guy ‘cuz he owns dogs!


John February 28, 2015 at 1:00 am

Hmm… sounds like youre impressed because he has typical man skills. San Diego is not a difficult city to navigate and if you drive for a living you get intensely familiar with all its neighborhoods and streets.
Its well known we never ask for directions….you must have figured out the reason is we are never lost?


judi February 28, 2015 at 8:56 am

Sorry to burst your testosterone bubble, but I was impressed with the man because of his ability to get along so well with so many diverse people in such a short period of time. He did not always “drive for a living”; but personifies life on an everyday basis.

As well as never asking for directions – must have a woman driving with you to tell you where to go and how to get there!


John February 28, 2015 at 2:13 pm

My bad I thought I was commenting in an article titled something about “human GPS” about a man who had a career with the post office covering 8 routes with his mail truck (apparently you think it all fits in a sack and they hoof it straight from the PO?) and was still employed driving all over town every day to various destinations.
Turns out I was mistaken. Well at least I can admit that. Nothing erodes credibility like the inability to recognize when we are wrong.
I will say that back when I was employed delivering office furniture we had a Thomas Bros. map in the truck. After a couple of years we very rarely consulted it. I have no doubt that if our customers were allowed to ride along a few of them would have been amazed we were able to find their building in no time abd how quickly we would have their 300lb desk up a stairway and in place.
We would have laughed about it later if they made a big deal about it- after we discussed their amazing ability to work spreadsheets, provide legal counsel, or teach.


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