UPS driver is glad for fear’s end

UPS driver Jim Donovan made deliveries in Davis Square in Somerville on Monday.
Peter DeMarco for the Boston Globe
UPS driver Jim Donovan made deliveries in Davis Square in Somerville on Monday.

UPS driver Jim Donovan was his normal, jovial self as he chatted and waved to customers along his route in Somerville Monday. It was almost as if Friday, the strangest day he has had in 23 years on the job, had never happened.

Then came Donovan’s next delivery, a box of cut flowers, sent last week to the manager of a Davis Square clothing store. They had sat wilting in his truck all weekend.

“These were supposed to have arrived Friday, but you weren’t open,” Donovan apologized.


“Well,” said the woman who signed for them, “it’s the thought that counts.”

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United Parcel Service halted deliveries to Boston, Watertown, Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington Friday during the massive manhunt for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. That made Donovan, whose Davis Square route abuts the Cambridge line, about the closest delivery driver to the locked-down area, where most were afraid to open their doors, even to their friendly UPS guy.

Some peered through keyholes, or from behind window curtains, until Donovan went away, even though the televisions and radios blaring made it apparent people were inside.

“We were told to pull up and beep and identify ourselves — draw attention so you’d be less apprehensive to come to the door. But . . . it’s weird,” Donovan said Friday, while trying to deliver packages on Orchard Street in Somerville.

“I know people are home and just not answering the door. I had one person who had a screen door that only locks from the inside, so I knew they were home.”


About a minute later, he looked at his phone.

“Just got a text from another [driver],” he said. “It says, ‘Nothing like frightening people all day long.’ ”

Davis Square, normally filled with people and the music of street musicians on such a sparkling day, was completely quiet, Donovan said. About half the businesses he delivers to were closed, and shops still open were almost all empty, with some owners visibly nervous about letting people in.

“At Diesel Cafe a guy was delivering coffee and they asked him to step outside,” Donovan said. “He had 400 pounds of coffee. They [were] just very on edge.”

The relatively few pedestrians Donovan did see were usually on their phones, at times looking over their shoulders. Given the spookiness of the day, it was hard not to, he said.


“I’m trying to be very positive and not fearful, you know?” he said Friday, while Tsarnaev was still at large just a few miles away. “Just getting my news from word of mouth from people rather than trying to pull it up on my phone. It’s nice to see people when they answer the door. They ask me what I’ve seen.”

One woman, who timidly answered her bell, asked Donovan, “They’re letting you drive today?”

“Well,” she said a moment later, “Stay safe.”

In the end, Donovan finished his route and went home to Woburn. On Monday, he arrived early to work, adding the day’s packages to all the ones that did not make it to recipients last week.

“I feel bad for the guy who sent the flowers,” he said. “He was probably in trouble with her all weekend long.”

Peter DeMarco can be reached at