Seinfeld fans universally agree that Newman is one of the show’s most memorable and hilarious characters. People who aren’t Seinfeld fans or Seinfeld fans who disagree with this assertion should read my article about the urgent need to normalize the art of Seppuku.
From his rants about junk mail, to explaining why postal workers go postal, to his uncanny talent as a Romantic poet, Newman’s character churns out comedy gold faster than the Soviets churned out tanks during WWII.
Newman’s consistent comedic output and the clumsy tank production analogy notwithstanding, there’s one inconsistent aspect of Newman’s character, which is, as the title of this article strongly implies, his mail route.
To appreciate both the improbability of Newman’s route and the level of OCD that could compel someone to write a 900-word article questioning a fictional mailman’s fictional mail route, let’s first explore some basic facts about USPS routes—an exercise you wrongly assumed you’d never have to endure.
Thankfully, I was able to take time off from my crippling loneliness to research postal routes, and found that on average, a mailman delivers to 300 mailboxes daily. Here are the stats on the longest and shortest routes in the country.
Therefore, while a postal worker may drive long distances to deliver mail to a couple of hundred houses in a rural zip code, in a dense urban area like New York City, a route can just be a single block.
Now that we have a rough idea of what a New York City mailman’s daily workload looks like, the next piece of the pointless puzzle is to figure out what Newman's route actually is.
While there is no evidence that Newman delivers to his own building on the Upper West Side, there’s overwhelming evidence that he does deliver to other Upper West Side addresses.
One piece of evidence is that Newman delivers to Tim Whatley, the dentist who infamously converts to Judaism for the jokes and who gives the merry postman his Super Bowl ticket after falling in love with Elaine.
We know that Whatley lives on the Upper West Side because his apartment building is on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade route, which starts at W. 77th Street and ends at W 34th St. Here’s the parade map:
Theoretically, it’s possible that Tim Whatley lives in Midtown—although given the show’s strong West Side bias, it’s less likely—but that would only further complicate Newman’s mail route, because as it turns out, Newman also delivers to the Bronx.
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?!?! That's right, go ahead and pick up the little chunks of your brain that just exploded off the ground; you read that correctly, Newman delivers to the Bronx. And here’s the proof.
First, in The Calzone episode, George gets banned from a Bronx restaurant near Yankees stadium called Paisano’s after the owner accuses him of stealing from the tip jar. Having gotten his boss—Yankees owner George Steinbrenner—hooked on Paisano’s calzones, George is terrified to disappoint Steinbrenner by not getting the notorious employee terminator his daily fix.
In a stroke of serendipity, Kramer tips George off that Newman stops at Paisano's everyday because it’s on his mail route, leading George to enlist Newman to buy the calzones for him to avoid Steinbrenner’s wrath. (George's plan backfires when he learns that Newman calls in sick to work any time it rains.)
Second, in The Diplomat’s Club episode, Newman puts up his mailbag as collateral for Kramer’s bet with Texas businessman Earl Haffler * on flight arrival times, claiming that the bag belonged to the infamous serial killer David Berkowitz, better known as the Son of Sam.
When questioned about how he got the bag, Newman explains that he inherited Berkowitz’s mail route, adding, "and boy, there were a lot of dogs on that route."
And guess which post office the Son of Sam worked at? That’s right, it was the Bronx post office.
Having established that Newman delivers to both the Upper West Side and the Bronx, it’s time to prove the impossibility of this route—a problem that has plagued the voices in my head just as Fermat’s Last Theorem plagues mathematicians.
The Upper West Side is located in three primary zip codes and includes five USPS offices. Using Jerry’s apartment as the starting point, the distance from 129 West 81st Street to the old Yankee stadium at E 161 St, Bronx, NY is roughly 5 miles.
Given New York’s population density, the number of post offices (and therefore mailmen) required to serve just the Upper West Side alone, as well as the tens of thousands of mailboxes he would have to touch between the Upper West Side and the Bronx—far exceeding the average—it’s impossible for Newman to deliver to both the Upper West Side and the Bronx.
Why did I just read this is a common complaint I hear from fans, friends and parole officers, but on the bright side, your Seinfeld IQ is now higher and your life's purpose has been reinvigorated knowing that, short of some gerrymandered route anomaly, Newman’s route is, in fact, impossible.
*Earl Haffler appears in two Seinfeld episodes. The Diplomat’s Club, and The English Patient. In the latter, Earl strikes a deal with Kramer for some Cubans—people, not cigars—but backs out of the deal after realizing Kramer’s Cubans are in fact, Dominicans—the oldest bait-and-switch trick in the book written during a more innocent time when people weren’t put off by a little human trafficking humor.