By Mel Carriere
The new dynamic of modern mail delivery means sharing the mean, dog eat dog streets with people driving strange vehicles, some of them wearing some funky ash uniforms. Gone are the comforting times of the big three - us vs the boys in brown what can they do for you and the blue and orange that will get your package there overnight no matter where in the world but can't get a man and his volleyball off an island in the South Pacific. One almost waxes nostalgic for those days. Those were serious postal competitors indeed, but normal parts of the suburban scenery. Now they too are struggling for solvency against the upstarts on the block.
Chief among these are Jeff Bezo's low paid henchmen, the cult of the big A, an amoeba-like monster that increasingly consumes everything you are about, from what arrives on your doorstep, what plays on your TV, what alluring, silky voiced robot voice babysits your child, and very soon what fleet of drones is that bombing your house.
Amazon's unstated but pretty obvious goal is to control every facet of your life by air, by land and by sea. Toward this end the company has taken measures to reduce and eventually eliminate having to pay anyone to move its products the "last mile," what we here in the Postal Service call "the green mile," because our indentured servitude to this corporate beast is killing us. But even though Bezos and pals can ship their packages with the postal service at 75 percent below what it actually costs us to move those mountains of merchandise that arrive at your delivery unit whenever they feel like it, it is not enough. The ultimate goal of Amazon is nothing less than to manufacture, sell and ship everything in America, correction, the world, without any barbaric outsiders soiling it with their non Bezos-blessed hands.
The latest word on these mean mail streets is that Amazon is planning to use livestock to distribute its inexhaustible inventory of clothes, furniture, very slightly used toilet paper and a few books here and there thrown in for nostalgia. That's right, you heard it here first, a genuine tsunami scoop, taken from a source directly inside the Amazon operation.
A few weeks ago I had my first encounter with one of these new rough riding Amazon operators who popped up without warning and stole my usual parking space with his cumbersome rented U-haul van. My first impression was that this dude was stealing packages, not delivering them. From his appearance, I couldn't help but get the idea that Amazon is not heavily vetting these delivery "pioneers," to paraphrase their employment sales pitch. This cat was not some bustling dynamo parcel post pathfinder, in other words. Instead, he carried the rather jaded, distant, resigned air of a man who has spent long hours in enforced isolation. His rather thick middle eastern accent indicated previous employment either as a cab driver, or maybe work release from Gitmo.
The apartments I was delivering to are gated. Because this man had no access to the secret inner postal sanctum my arrow key provided, he asked if I would let him in so he could deliver his packages, which were not pilfered after all, probably. I know he was the enemy, I know he was the competition, I know I should have been a dick about it, but because I am pretty much a sucker for any sad sack sob story I opened the gate. He then asked me directions to a couple of the addresses and I gave him that too. I basically turned over the keys to the kingdom. I should have just removed my sacred arrow key and handed it over. I figured the guy was just trying to make a living.
The next day another Amazon deliverer showed up, in the same apartments, but this one didn't elicit quite as much sympathy on my part. He was wearing a reflective vest, the kind you see on airport tarmacs, that barely covered his prison tattoos. I admit I am drawing broad conclusions from a very limited sample size, but so far the common denominator behind these Amazon hired guns seemed to be the rather liberal application of the eau de incarceration scent. I didn't ask, but wondered why was he wearing a reflective vest in broad daylight? The only plausible explanation was that his rental truck also contained a pair of runway marshalling wands that would be used to call down the drone fleet when Bezos gave the secret signal.
Somehow this second Amazon driver had already gotten past the fence, whether by pole vaulting, whether by file in a cake I don't know. He had a small pile of parcels stacked by the NDCBU mailboxes, which he was scanning, evidently with the idea of doing the old dump and run, in other words leaving them on top of the postal receptacles. Unlike the day before, this time I was not so accommodating Those mailboxes are my turf.
"You can't leave those packages there," I told him.
He looked up from his scanning with a surly expression, just like the time the warden told him to snuff out his cigarette.
"I know," he growled. "This ain't my first rodeo."
Evidently this Bezos crony was a little Stir Crazy, and if you catch my drift your fondness for old prison rodeo movies makes me just a little uncomfortable. Anyhow, the revelation from the delivery driver meant the Amazon rodeo and its accompanying contingent of clowns are in town, ready to ride and rope their way to your doorstep, saddled up on bucking bulls and broncos, putting on the spurs to get your prime purchase down the chute and into your corral by the most expedient means possible, including unbroken, non PETA approved hoofed mammals.
From a postal perspective, what does the presence of Amazon parcel slingers across the dusty cowtowns of America mean? Do we panic? Do we circle the wagons? Do we believe the hoop and holler of our postmasters and managers wailing and rending their garments because they believe this Amazon parcel rustling will result in our biting the dust and being trampled underfoot?
Consider a Washington Examiner article reporting that the Postal Service loses $1.46 for every package delivered for Amazon. Trump got wind of this study and tweeted that Amazon is making the Postal Service poorer and dumber. Maybe for once he's right. Maybe this organization is so addicted to the sweet Amazon pipe dream that we can't see the reality of what it is doing to us. Maybe we need some mail methadone to ease us off this debilitating dependence on Amazon as a cure all for our itching, leaking bottom line.
The Amazon rodeo has stirred up a big cloud of dust hiding the fact that parcels aren't going away. I know this because, in addition to my annoying propensity to share my drunken rants via the medium of the blogosphere, I also am a statistics nerd. This is a hobby that, while edifying to a handful of virginal, mother's-basement-dwelling math dweebs, makes it awful hard to get dates. Since I don't get out much, I spend time compiling statistics for my route. Therefore, I can tell you that before the Amazon decline, my route averaged 103 scans per day.
Guess what my scan average is since the recent abrupt cessation of the Amazon stampede? You guessed it, my little buckaroos, 103. Parcel volume went down slightly at first, but bounced back like a thrown bronc buster rebounding off one of those clown barrels.
What these numbers mean to me is that, while Bezos in his massive twenty or even 50 gallon hat might be trying his own round up of virtually everything, there are other postal customers out there, actual paying customers, that have moved in to fill that empty stall in our stable he recently vacated.
Maybe getting thrown like this, while embarrassing, was not such a great loss. Perhaps it was time to cut our losses and cull the parcel herd. Ride em cowboy.
Photo from The Cowboy Lifestyle Network
Photo from The Cowboy Lifestyle Network