Why longtime UPS driver Mike Minarik is a rare package.
Of the many characters on Nantucket, few year-rounders deliver quite like Mike Minarik. The longtime UPS driver is known around town for his aviator shades, slicked-back greaser hairdo and rockabilly style as he makes his rounds delivering packages each day. Indeed, Minarik manages to make the pedestrian UPS uniform actually look pretty cool. But as Minarik himself insists, there’s a whole lot more going on behind his sunglasses than most people think.
Whoever came up with UPS’s tagline “What can brown do for you,” never met the likes of Minarik, who strives for his own level of service. “Your work, your passions and your interests are your signature,” he says. “So I autograph them with the utmost excellence.” He has been delivering for UPS since he was nineteen years old and has worked out of nearly every major location on the Cape and the Islands.
Yet what makes Minarik special is not the fact that he’s been awarded employee of the month enough times to have the distinction discontinued at one of his UPS offices. Rather, it’s the many quiet deliveries that he makes while off the clock that have changed the lives of a number of Nantucket residents in small but important ways. “Really good people can get knocked down out here,” he says reluctantly. “And it bothers me, so I try to help them in any way that I can. Sometimes doing something out of the ordinary, as far as acts of kindness, might take the edge off a little bit for them.”
Minarik’s contributions to the lives of the people on his delivery route aren’t the grand philanthropic displays we often see on the island. Instead, he quietly spends his own money and time helping people struggling to meet their most essential needs. He’s purchased refrigerators for customers, replaced old mattresses and box springs, paid for a pet’s surgery and helped move furniture. When one of his customers lost his job due to a serious injury, Minarik paid for the oil to heat his house and regularly bought his family’s weekly groceries. When he discovered another local Nantucketer was living in a dangerous domestic situation, he welcomed the person into his home to stay for a number of months— rent-free.
During the holidays, Minarik fills his truck with toys he’s purchased for all of the children on his route and delivers them in a Santa-style tuxedo. Summertime, he regularly spends his twenty-minute lunch break handing out ice cream. “People look at me like I have three heads,” he says. “‘What the hell are you doing this for?’ they’ll ask. ‘Why are you spending your own money?’ But I feel like I’m putting it back into the community. I’m trying to pay it forward.”
Minarik says his penchant for performing random acts of kindness is not so much a choice as a compulsion. He claims to have a sixth sense for people in need, an almost telepathic ability he says he’s had since childhood. “If you’re going through personal struggles, I’ll pick up on it,” he explains. “It comes to me like a two-by-four to the head. And the older I get, the stronger the intuition becomes.” He adds cautiously, “Spirit guides or angels talk to me all the time… I don’t want to sound like I’m terminally psychotic, but it’s true.”
Minarik says he sees “signs” every day and claims to receive messages in his dreams. One night, he vividly dreamed that one of his customers—the president of the Nantucket Chamber of Commerce, David Martin—died of a heart attack. “I was cautious on how to approach him on the matter and finally expressed my concerns,” he says. “He got checked by their doctor and it turned out that one of his meds was causing an erratic heart rate.” The drug was adjusted and Martin has been well ever since.
For most people, such stories are hard to believe, but if you ask Danica Connors, a local shamanic practitioner, Minarik’s abilities are not unheard of. “I feel that everyone inherently has these kinds of ‘gifts’ at one level or another,” Connors explains. “But they are kind of like muscles. If you don’t use them, they atrophy… I believe there are helping spirits around us at all times, and it is up to us to access them. Mike has a propensity for opening up and trusting this type of communication.” Minarik has met with Connors on a number of occasions to try and better understand his abilities. “She’s much more knowledgeable than I am,” he says. “I embrace it because it works for me, but I don’t want to channel it too much.”
When he’s not delivering packages or lending a helping hand to his customers, Minarik channels his energy into music. Contrary to popular belief, his rock and roll style is not Elvis-inspired, but rather stems from a love of Johnny Cash. And just like the rest of his life, Minarik’s passion for music also drifts into the realm of mysticism. He claims to have learned to play Johnny Cash riffs after he was visited in a dream by Cash’s rhythm guitarist. “I walk up to Luther Perkins of the Tennessee Two sitting there with his American Telecaster and I remember watching his fret work, his finger work,” Minarik says. “When I woke up, I could play it perfectly.”
Minarik shares his tales without a hint of sarcasm. The dreams and the spirit guides are as real to him as the hundreds of packages he delivers each day. “It’s something that you’re receptive to or not,” he says when asked about those who might doubt his spiritual abilities. “People who are well grounded are generally more receptive…those who aren’t, won’t get it— and it’s their loss.” Whether you get it or not, most will agree that Mike Minarik has made a lasting impact on the lives of many Nantucketers. And, if nothing else, he can deliver a story like no other.