- "The car stopped on the other side of the billboard. What was going on now? For a wild second, Marty was afraid that Biff had somehow gotten out of the manure! Marty peeked round the edge of the sign — no, the car was some kind of dark sedan. Marty didn't recognize it. / A man wearing a hat and trenchcoat stepped out of the car. / 'Hello?' the guy with the trenchcoat yelled. 'Anyone here?' / Who was this guy? It was hard to tell in the darkness and the rain, but Marty could swear he'd never seen him before. And the trenchcoat and the hat — did that mean he came from the FBI or something? / 'Marty?' the other guy yelled. 'Marty McFly?' / The guy knew his name? Marty stopped an urge to run the other way. / 'Marty McFly,' the guy called over the storm, 'if you're here, please show yourself.' / Still, this guy hadn't threatened Marty or pulled out a gun or anything. Maybe, Marty thought, he should find out what was going on here."
- —From Back to the Future Part II by Craig Shaw Gardner (quote, page 211)
- "He [Marty] stepped out from behind the billboard. / The guy in the trenchcoat turned his head toward Marty — he had seen him. The way the newcomer was standing in front of his car headlights, though, it was hard for Marty to get a real good look at the other guy's face. / 'Is your name Marty McFly?' Trenchcoat demanded. / Marty almost said it wasn't. But he'd gone this far. He might as well finish this off and find out what was happening. / 'Yeah,' he answered slowly. / Trenchcoat looked Marty up and down. / 'Five foot four, brown hair — uh-huh —' he said, mostly to himself, and then added in a louder voice: 'Marty, I've got something for you.' / He reached inside his trenchcoat. Marty took a step back. Did the guy have a gun after all? / He pulled out a long thin envelope. / 'A letter,' Trenchcoat announced. "
- —From Back to the Future Part II by Craig Shaw Gardner (quote, pages 211 and 212)
- "I've got something for you... A letter."
- —The Western Union man to Marty McFly
On the evening of November 12, 1955, the man was assigned the task of delivering a curiously addressed envelope: it contained a letter that — even more curiously — was instructed to be delivered to a "Marty McFly", who was to be found two miles outside of Hill Valley, some seventy years after the sender had dropped it off. Evidently, the man didn't think that this "Marty" would show up, and had made a bet with his co-workers reflecting this view.
That evening, the man drove up to the front of the soon-to-be built Lyon Estates, stepped out of his car, and addressed Marty McFly by his correct name (and not as "Calvin Klein"). Marty was understandably perplexed. When handed the letter, Marty asked who the man was. The man simply replied "Western Union." Though initially a bit gruff with Marty, the delivery man's demeanor softened and became somewhat jovial, even going so far as to joke about the lost office bet. The man was visibly bemused by the letter's content and Marty's exuberant reaction, but he did offer Marty help, who gently refused, explaining that there was only one man who could help him.
By March 1986, the man had retired from delivery duties (bearing in mind that he was, by this time, in his late seventies) and was working in the less strenuous position of a supervisor at Western Union, where another case occurred similar to the one he had experienced back in 1955.
Behind the scenes
- The Western Union man was portrayed by comedian Joe Flaherty, who previously worked with the film trilogy's director Robert Zemeckis and producers Bob Gale and Steven Spielberg on Used Cars (which had also featured Deborah Harmon, who had a cameo as a newscaster on Doc's television set in the first film's opening sequence). Flaherty reprised his role as the Western Union man in the Family Guy spoof of The Empire Strikes Back, "Something, Something, Something Dark Side".
- Other than Doc, the Western Union man was the only person in 1955 who referred to Marty as "Marty McFly".
- In the novelization, the man is referred to as 'Trenchcoat' a total of four times: three times on page 212 (see second Quote above) and once on page 213 (bearing in mind that the character is never identified with a proper name), before he reveals to Marty that he is from Western Union. The man himself is given the following description on page 213:
- "Actually, the guy didn't look at all threatening, now that he was out of the headlights' glare — just an average guy, really, around Marty's father's age."
- — (quote, page 213)