Friday, November 28, 2014

Dog Days (And Nights) of Mail Delivery

By Mel Carriere

"I didn't even know there was a dog there," the regular on the route said to me after I brought back the mail for a house where I had almost been munched by an invisible pit bull one night last week, or the week before.  It's all a blur.

I get tired hearing postal truisms all the time.  At stand-up talks letter carriers are bombarded with truisms.  Your satchel can save your life against a dog.  Don't leave the engine running when you get out the vehicle.  Wear your seat belt.  I've been bombarded by the same truisms for the last twenty years, to the point of weariness.  The most annoying and tedious thing about postal truisms is that most of the time they turn out to be true, and there is a reason why they have to be repeated over and over again.

Case in point is delivery in the dark.  How may times have we been preached to on the workroom floor that we have to be especially careful making delivering on Saturdays and at other times, like at night, when most customers are home, assume that we have already been there, and relax their guard.  By relax their guard, I really mean that they let Fido out in the yard.  Sometimes Fido turns out to be a mailman muncher, and sometimes Fido turns out to be an invisible mailman muncher.

The reason why this particular dog incident happened to me was because they I was sent back out to help on another route where a letter carrier was bitten by a Chihuahua.  The letter carrier who was bitten weighs about 300 pounds and stands approximately 6 foot 4.  He is a big dude.  The little Chihuahua took him out.  The tiny, fuzzy mongrel took him out because he turned his back on it.  There's another postal truism for those of you who are keeping track.  Never turn your back on a dog, not even a Chihuahua.

They sent me in for reinforcements, and I arrived on the scene probably around 5:30 or so.  It must have been at least 5:30 because it was already completely dark.

I am pretty good at delivering at night now, because I have learned how to do it right.  I don't try to finger mail in between houses anymore.  In fact, I shut off my head lamp in between houses because the glare from the lamp blinds me.  I keep the light off until I get to the next house, then I turn on the lamp, finger the letters, and put the mail in the box.  After this I scoot to the next delivery.

Even though I am fairly proficient at delivering in the dark that doesn't mean that it is either safe or good for me or anybody.  There are a multitude of horrors lurking out there in the dark that can take a mailman down.  For one thing, sidewalks are uneven.  If you walk with a Charlie Chaplin shuffle step in the daytime you are liable to trip if you attempt this in the dark.  All fascist politics aside it's better to goose step, or at least do a happy medium between Chaplin and Hitler.  Come to think of it they kind of look alike.  Coincidence?

Anyway, some of the horrors of the dark have teeth.  I was reminded of this as I was preparing to deliver to a house and a pair of glowing eyes popped out to get me.

Thank you Jesus for the tapetum lucidum.  That was my Thanksgiving prayer this year.  The Tapetum Lucidum is the reflective surface in the eye that many nocturnal animals have which makes them glow in the dark. Yes, dogs and cats are nocturnal animals by nature.  We humans have cruelly and capriciously forced these animals to be non nocturnal so they can attend to our needs.  So next time Fido wants to sleep all day cut him a break.  He's not being lazy, you have selfishly altered his nature.  This could be why he's pissed at everyone, mailmen in particular.

To make a long story short, if not for the Tapetum Lucidum I would have been most certainly been munched by the black pit pull that came after me.  I only saw the dog's glowing eyes and because of this I got ready for battle.  Seeing me prepared for battle the dog chickened out, unlike that Chihuahua, and our post office avoided the indignity of having two mailmen getting munched on the same route the same day.  The owner called him off, and the worst thing that happened was my glasses fell in the gutter.  That was kind of humiliating, but not fatal.

In spite of this one close call I can't really complain about delivering in the dark because our District has been really stressing getting carriers back in the office by 5 PM.  The District has hired a lot of new CCAs for the Christmas season and these CCAs have been picking up the slack and getting most carriers off the street before Cinderella's LLV turns into a pumpkin.  I don't know if this is the case in other Districts, especially snowy districts where CCAs go home frozen solid their first day on the job and cannot be thawed out enough to deliver mail again. 

These are my Friday thoughts on dark delivery.  I would love to hear your thoughts too, so kindly leave me a comment. 

The above demonstration of the Tapetum lucidum was taken from:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Do Postal Mother Hens Plague your Office? - Welcome to the Postal Tsunami

By Mel Carriere

All right, here we go again.  Welcome to another attempt by Mel Carriere to launch a blog, hopefully to success this time, using the Google Blogger format.  This new effort, entitled The Postal Tsunami by Mel Carriere, will more or less be a diary of one Mailman's life with some extras thrown in, such as samples of my upcoming ebooks and some postal politics as well when I have something new and relevant to say about such events.  I appreciate your support and hope to make this a rewarding experience for both of us.

Do Postal Mother Hens Plague Your Office?

Is it safe to say that every Post Office has what I sometimes affectionately, sometimes derisively refer to as a Mother Hen, that often overbearing feathered creature who wants to be in charge of everyone but is smart enough not to go into supervision?  Postal Mother Hen probably has finished raising her chicks at home but still is driven by the overwhelming maternal force, which she takes out upon her coworkers.  Sometimes she has genuinely benevolent motivations to make sure everyone is kept safe and properly cared for within the friendly confines of the postal chicken coop, but at other times the true design behind her parental nature seem to be a bit insidious, self-centered, and downright fowl, if you catch my meaning.

My office has one such Mother Hen, who is aggravating to no end.  Her shrill, eardrum shattering voice blasts the workroom floor as she barks out orders that would seem to be more appropriate coming from the business casual worn by a manager or supervisor, not the postal blue sported by a letter carrier.  She yells at us to check our hot cases and to wheel our parcel hampers back into the correct spot.  All this is fine and good, but at times her loudmouth, clucking directives go beyond what I think is appropriate for a craft employee.

Yesterday she called out a CCA for wearing his satchel while casing mail.  I have no idea why this young man had his mailbag slung over his shoulder, perhaps he fears the rats that are rumored to be lurking in the facility and wishes to have it there for protection in the event a rodent lunges at him like a growling dog. Perhaps someone should have called this inappropriate activity to his attention, because it is most definitely slowing him down in the office and sooner or later a supervisor is probably going to go over and either order him to take the satchel off or, even worse, write him up for it.

But I don't think that Mother Hen had the young man's best interests in mind.  If she had, she would have gone over to the CCA and told him quietly to take the satchel off.  Instead, Mother Hen made sure everybody else knew about it and yelled at him at the top of her lungs.  Naturally everybody did a double take, not so much to laugh at the CCA but to see what was the source of that high decibel shriek that was making everybody's eardrums bleed.

Mother Hen has also taken it upon herself this year to organize the vacation picks in our office for city carriers.  I had always thought that this activity was management's domain.  It has become annoying since she took over because she calls and texts me at home to badger me for my pick, and she calls and texts me when I am delivering mail out on the street too.  I have never heard of a craft employee doing vacation picks like this, and I wonder again if it is appropriate. After the first round was finished some carriers were wondering too, as they looked at the pick list and wondered why certain weeks that are not normally scratched off the board so early were suddenly blocked out.  It raised some eyebrows in the office, and makes me wonder again what is the reality behind Mother Hen's superficially benevolent intentions.

How about you?  Does your office have an overbearing Mother Hen type, either good or bad?  I invite you to leave a comment if you can.

The Postal Gods were with me this Week

Sometimes I wonder if there are benevolent postal deities that look after letter carriers, and if this offends the hard-lined monotheists out there I'll just call them Postal Guardian Angels.

The reason I bring this up is because something happened to my postal issue floppy hat this week that sort of makes me want to believe in karma.   A few days ago, as I was taking my hat off to scratch my head I noticed an unsightly splotch across the top, and immediately I wondered how long I had been walking around with it.  I wasn't quite sure if the splotch was bird poop or maybe the yogurt I sometimes eat for lunch.  There weren't any obvious chunks of a biological nature within it so I was leaning toward the yogurt theory, but deciding to play it safe I elected not to wear the floppy hat again until I can give it a thorough washing. Instead I donned the pith helmet that I normally reserve for the rain, an event that doesn't happen often here in Southern California!

Then on Friday, the day after I started wearing the sturdy pith helmet, my skull crashed into the open back door of a minivan as I was looking down at the mail.  I hit the door HARD!  Had I been wearing the soft floppy hat I would have most certainly opened up a sizable gash there, and would probably be sporting a large lump in my head right now.

As it was the Postal Gods saved me from this calamity by making sure my floppy hat was unavailable by covering it with either bird poop or yogurt.  It's enough to make a believer out of even the most hard core atheist, I think.

Maybe considering how clumsy I am I should just stick to the pith helmet permanently.

Thank you for participating in this maiden voyage of the Postal Tsunami.  I hope you enjoyed it and that you bookmark the site to come back again!