Normally, delivering the mail requires a strong back, sturdy feet, and a hearty constitution. In Lake Geneva, letter carriers need courage, quick reflexes, and the ability to swim.
In the summer, the daily deluge of letters, bills, and credit card offers is delivered by what are known as mailboat jumpers, a small group of teens whose appointed rounds consist of docks outside of lakefront homes.
Mail delivery by boat has been happening in Lake Geneva since the late 1800s, when the stately homes along the shore were difficult to access via roads. That’s no longer the case, of course, but around 80 customers still get their correspondence delivered by boat during the summer to keep the tradition alive.
The mail jumpers spring from the moving boat onto a dock, drop the incoming, grab the outgoing, and then leap back onto its deck in a matter of seconds. The thing is, the boat doesn’t stop, so there’s an element of danger. Or, at the very least, an element of getting wet.
Archival news footage of tryouts for the coveted positions showed slower-footed teens splashing down in the drink or not attempting a jump at all.
In our exhaustive research, we weren’t able to find out what happens to mail jumpers who don’t make it back onboard. Do they just tread water for a day until the boat comes back? Do the titans of industry let the stray couriers make camp beyond the tree line of their palatial estates, out of the sight of their fancy friends? Do they at least give them truffle stumps and day-old toast points as sustenance?
If you’re interested in seeing this spectacle for yourself, you can get more information and tickets at the Lake Geneva Mailboat website. If you want to become a mailboat jumper yourself, you missed your chance this season, but you now have eleven and a half months to learn to swim before the next round of tryouts.