Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cute Things Postal Managers Say (Or Spew?)

By Mel Carriere

I haven't been writing a lot on the Tsunami lately for a few reasons; some personal, some logistical, some having to do with getting my butt kicked by the November mail flow.   

The November mail flow is like a Tsunami in and of itself.  It washes in a lot of unexpected debris from parts unknown - stuff that, while mildly shocking at the moment, doesn't really surprise you because at this point in your Postal career, if your Postal career is longer than a year or so, you've probably seen everything.

One of the things that washed up this November in our office was a new station manager.  She actually has been our station manager for a few years on paper, but never reported for duty, probably because our backwater, out of the way office is somewhat of a career killer for aspiring bigshots.  I think she must have gotten in trouble somewhere and finally had to lower herself, because I've never heard anybody use the word  "respect" so many times in the same sentence.  When she first started she was just full of love and the "utmost respect" for everybody.

That romantic ardor is cooling off now.  She is finally learning why nobody wants to manage our office, why our place is only a temporary way station for managers on their way up or their way out, and this is taking its toll after only a couple of weeks.  The cracks are showing.  Any day now she is only to explode in a messy splatter of something other than the utmost respect.

This new manager has convinced me that lying shamelessly is an actual, premeditated management strategy that just might work in a lot of places.  Of course, it doesn't work in our station because we have too many cynical, broken down, battle hardened old farts, like me, which is another reason nobody wants to supervise us.  You just can't lie and expect us to believe it, because we've heard all the lies before.  We don't get mad when people lie to us, we just shake our heads and patiently endure it, like it is something nasty but cute and funny at the same time, like when a baby spits up on you.  You just smile, say "awww," pass the baby back to its Mama then go for a towel to clean yourself up; to get that nasty goo off of you before it dries.

Every morning this new station manager gives us a stand up talk, because "that's my style," so she says.  During the stand up talk she tells us pretty much the same lies.  I thought I would share a short list of some of these cute, colorful things she says:

There's no mail today: Of course, this lie is promulgated and perpetuated throughout every post office, everywhere, so nothing new.  What amazes me, without really amazing me, is that managers have the audacity to say this when anybody legally licensed to drive can see there are dangerously leaning towers of 775 tubs stuffed with presort flats piled at our cases, along with holiday parcels stacked to the ceiling.

The parcels are finished:  I have to give this new manager credit for putting an interesting new spin on lying, and going to great, creative lengths to make these lies seem like the truth.  She actually has instructed the clerks to ring the bell for parcel completion when only the big packages have been distributed, giving carriers the false impression that we have all our mail going out the door.  Of course, what this fibbing little bell isn't saying is that untold hundreds of SPRs still have to be sorted, and these won't be "finalized" until 12:30, meaning we will all have to drive back to the post office in the afternoon, then backtrack a couple dozen little guys. 

The DPS is half of what it was yesterday:  Technically, this was true, and if there was a court of Postal Prevarication somewhere she probably couldn't get convicted on it.  In this case it really wasn't the lie that offended, but the facts that were omitted that gave the false conclusion that the having half of yesterday's DPS would create an easy, smooth, mail delivery day.  In reality, the reason the DPS was light was because a significant portion of DPS-machineable letters were not processed by the plant, for whatever reason, and were at our cases waiting to be sorted by hand.  Actually, only about half of these unprocessed letters were at our cases in the morning, on my route about a foot and a half.  After securing time "commitments" from the carriers the manager then had the clerks spread the other half of the letters, at least another foot and a half, meaning all told about 700 pieces that had to be cased per route because they never found their way to the DPS machine. Legally she's in the clear on lying, I guess, but my prayer book talks about lies of commission and lies of omission; so Mom would still spank your blue Postal butt on this one, and the priest would give at least a half dozen Hail Marys for penance.

Postal Managers are tricksy hobbitses, everybody knows that.  I've heard a lot of managers say a lot of dumb things, and most of these I could attribute to an inability to process facts correctly (meaning being ditzy), incomplete information, or going into Postal ostrich mode - in which managers bury their heads in the sand to blind themselves from the grim reality.  But when there is such a deliberate, systematic, calculated effort to lie that includes bringing others into the conspiracy, it makes me shudder for what could happen.  The lies aren't so cute and colorful anymore.  When babies spit up it can be charming and lovable, when grown men and women do the same it's considered biological waste and can be highly toxic.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Cool Your Engines - Postal Accident Hat Tricks

By Mel Carriere 

In a hockey hat trick, where three goals are scored by the same player, in certain towns the adoring fans pummel the ice with dead octopi.  I can't imagine anybody lugging around a squishing, smelling octopus corpse in his coat pocket, on the astronomical long shot that a player will get three pucks in the net on the same night, only then to have one's favorite hockey jacket thrown out by a nose curling wife upon arriving home smelling like an aquarium, but it happens.

In the Postal Service there are hat tricks too.  I know a guy who missed three MSP scans in one day.  He was pelted with an octopus by his supervisor when he got back to the office.  A CCA misdelivered three parcels, for the same block, which generated three separate angry phone calls to the post office, causing it to rain octopi dozens of miles from the ocean.

Some postal hat tricks are of a more serious nature that don't involve any elaborate cephalopod celebrations. Our station is on the verge of one such ignoble triple distinction, but it feels more like strike three you are out than hey, we appreciate you so much we are going to shower you with soggy dead marine animals.

Just a week ago we were on the nice instead of the naughty list, but man how quickly that turned around at the drop of a hat, or at the drop of an eight legged, ink squirting lump of tentacles, if you prefer.  Our office had gone ninety days or so without any accidents at all, not so much as a paper cut or broken fingernail.  We were right on the verge of being awarded a big bagel party in appreciation, a sumptuous banquet  that may or not have included some octopus flavored bread spread.  Then the cruel caprices of the Postal gods changed, and they decided we needed to be punished for our accident free hubris and denied the divine manna of life sustaining baked gluten balls.

Two thunderbolts were cast down quickly from Postal Olympus.  Last week one of them struck appropriately during a freak San Diego rainstorm, when one of our carriers slipped stepping out of his vehicle and tore his hamstring.  He is undergoing physical therapy and will be out several weeks.  

This was a blow to those of us salivating with visions of free bagels dancing in our heads, which the tightwad supervisors are now going to deny, in spite of 90 days of perfection.  But it gets even worse than bagel deprivation.

On Wednesday, while delivering a package upstairs in an apartment complex, one of our carriers comitted the Postal cardinal sin of leaving his vehicle running.  This is sort of inexcusable, almost impossible to justify and equally difficult to throw down the "hey nobody told me" card on.  Two or three times a week we get one of those eye rolling, yawn stifling, here we go with the same old s*** again stand up talks where they tell us specifically not to do this. Sometimes they include pictures for the attention deficit types.

It seems like they shouldn't even have to tell us this.  It seems like every five year old since kindergarten was invented has seen Mommy take the keys out of the car before she walks them to the door.  Unsupervised keys in an auto ignition are just dangerous.  Kindergarteners understand instinctively that horrible things can happen with untended keys, like the world might spin off its axis.  Grown adult postal employees, however, either forget this or are too stressed to care, despite daily dire warnings.

The untended LLV slipped out of Park and hit a car.  The result is that this unfortunate carrier is on emergency placement, "pending termination."  He will get his job back, but it could be weeks, or even months, and in the meantime I don't think he has a lot of spare cash in the bank.

I just realized this is starting to sound like one of those same eye rolling stand up talks I hate to suffer through, to the point they give me severe mental fatigue, and you probably feel the same.  So let's go back to the former titillating discussion of marine invertebrates and threesomes, and how they interact.

Our safety captain tells us postal accidents happen in threes, so if this is true we are already two thirds of the way to a postal hat trick.  Instead of partaking of the blessing of bagels, if we have one more accident we will be served up some flying octopi.

I sure hope the octopus hat trick doesn't fall on my plate.  They're kind of hard to chew, and they can leave you constipated for weeks.

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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mel and His Shadow Feel the Bern - Tsunami Endorses Sanders for President, 2016

By Mel Carriere

Partisan politics is something I vowed not to take part in some time ago, mostly because political parties usually enshroud themselves in ideology.  I say enshroud, meaning to cover up, because for the most part their ideology is just a cover, without any real teeth behind it.  When push comes to shove and there is a pile of tainted Superpac money being pushed across the table by some hairy knuckle, heavy breathing corporate sleazeball, all that impassioned rhetoric about protecting the little guy gets forgotten on the way to the bank

So I gave up on using ideology to pick presidential candidates.  A quote I love from a book says "ideology is mental murder."  When we straightjacket our thinking with ideology we risk missing out on good ideas just because those evil shysters across the aisle are proposing them. That is why I am trying to renounce ideology altogether and think for myself.  This is not easy, because built in biases and prejudices against those mouth breathing, knuckle dragging baboons over there don't die easily.  But my resolution from now on is to vote out of practically, not ideology, to vote for the man or woman who is going to protect my job, my livelihood.

Usually this means voting for the lesser of two evils.  Usually the candidate you wind up picking is dragging around some pretty rotten, rancid, festering dead bodies in the trunk of the campaign mobile.  Yet because the other guy is hauling his own nasty collection of decaying corpses in plain sight, even propping them up on the podium and tongue kissing them on national TV, we wind up voting for the guy or gal trying to hide their dead bodies because that way we can claim plausible deniability later.  "Hey I never knew about those dead bodies in the trunk!" Yeah right.

The long and short of it is that every presidential election we wind up picking the person we think will do the least damage, not the most good.  Then Bernie Sanders comes along.

The following is a short list of why I and my staff here at the Postal Tsunami, which consists of my shadow, have unanimously decided to endorse Bernie Sanders for president and why, if you are a postal employee. me and my shadow agree he is the only choice that makes sense for you. This was not an overnight decision.  I have to confess I was frightened off by Bernie for a while by some of the scary labels attached to him, but since everybody in this country is a socialist to some degree or another I've gotten over that.  Here are our reasons:

1. Bernie is the first and only candidate who has openly and specifically advocated a strong public postal service - If you google "Bernie Sanders Postal Service" you get a long list of articles either written by Bernie on why he supports the Postal Service, or written about what he has said or done in Congress to help us.  If you do the same for the other candidates, Hilary included, you get about 5 million results but none of them have anything to do with the Postal Service. Sure they want our vote, but none of them care enough about us to defy their anti-postal super pac allies and voice a word in our favor.

2.  Bernie sets the agenda - Bernie Sanders is the only candidate with a set of specific policies he plans to implement, and you can tell he spent a lot of time thinking about these things before he threw his hat in the ring.  Bernie has a plan, man.  The other candidates' platforms consist of responding to things Bernie said, and agreeing that these things are wonderful, but...  His chief rival's platform is basically "I'm better, I'm smarter, It's my turn, and people are ready for me." I will concede that Hilary has way better hair than Bernie, but I'm not sure how much is her own and how much is surgically implanted.

3.  Bernie has passion - While watching reruns of the Democratic debates, my son remarked that "Bernie is full of righteous indignation."  My 23 year old son used the term "righteous indignation" in a complete sentence,  God bless him.  On the other hand, there was nothing righteous or indignant about the other candidates.  Their answers came across as slick, rehearsed, and with an exit strategy.  Furthermore, the other candidates all wore phony smiles, carefully crafted by focus groups, that didn't transmit the idea of indignation in the least.

Bernie's detractors, of course, bring up some points about why he shouldn't be nominated for President.  Here are a couple:

1.  He's too old - I don't see why this matters.  At age 74, this supposedly old and enfeebled Bernie is still smarter and more vigorous than the rest of the uninspiring bunch.  Can you imagine what a dynamo Bernie must have been at age 40?  It must have been mentally exhausting to sit across a table from him.

2.  He is unelectable - According to this theory, a primary vote for Bernie is a wasted vote because, even if he does get the nomination, he doesn't have the right stuff in the eyes of the American people to be elected President.  In response to this I say hogwash.  Bernie is receiving more individual donations than any other candidate,  last I heard.  Who will he run against, anyway, if he does get the nomination?  Fluffy hair, flapping lips Donald Trump?  Bernie will eat him for lunch.

So that is why the Tsunami supports Bernie Sanders, and urges our Union to do the same.  I hope the NALC can resist political backroom bullying from "mainstream" Democrats and get behind the man that the rank and file membership knows will unequivocally support their interests at every turn.  Bernie is a veritable political tsunami, sweeping away everything and everyone in his path.  Feel the Bern - 2016.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Watch Your Fingers - Carlsbad Mailman's Bird Comes Home to Roost

By Mel Carriere

Postal fingers are sensitive things, and a sensitive topic.  Whether you work in the plant, drive a truck, sort scheme, work the window, or deliver on the street, your fingers are important to you.  As a letter carrier out here in Carlsbad, California demonstrated so effectively with a little incident that occurred in early October, postal workers who deal with customers sometimes need their fingers for activities other than mail processing.  I know it isn't on the flow chart, but the middle finger can come in handy.  As The Trashmen sang in 1963, the bird is the word.  Problem is everybody has a camera these days, and if you don't want to wind up on the Channel 10 news you have to be very careful and use that birdy finger judiciously.

There are multiple uses for fingers that we all engage them in every day.  Thumbs are fingers too, and thumbs can be important signalling devices.  Sometimes as I am going about my daily rounds I stop and give a thumbs up to a little kid who comes out to thank me for the mail.  You can't waste words in the 100 degree Santa Ana October heat.  Funny how different fingers, or combinations or configurations of fingers, can mean different things.  As I said the thumbs up is a very good thing, whereas simply flipping that thumb around 180 degrees to a thumbs down can get you in trouble, especially if you are a movie reviewer and an unstable actor like Russell Crowe comes in swinging a telephone at you because he didn't appreciate your upside down digit.  Different combinations of fingers communicate different ideas.  Five fingers held up together to join another person's five outstretched fingers signifies approval, support, or solidarity.  Raising your little finger and index finger while leaving the two middle ones in a down position is a gang sign, however, and could get you shot in certain neighborhoods.

Finger communication used to be a good way to signal your truest, most heartfelt emotions and then deny everything later.  Words have staying power, fingers have plausible deniability.  "I was scratching my nose," you could always say in the past, "and when I was in the process of lifting my finger they got confused and thought I was flippin' the bird." 

Plausible deniability is getting tougher every day, because now everybody has a smart phone with a camera.  Earlier this year, the day I got back from vacation, a customer took a video of her harassing me at the mailbox, claiming I had misdelivered her mail.  I finally gave up and gave her a 3575 with the 800 number on it, because I knew she wouldn't be smart enough to remember it by herself.  Some people can't spell A-S-K, and they get confused when I tell them.  She claimed I slapped her with that 3575, which was utter nonsense.  She took the supposedly damning video into the Post Office, probably expecting they would either pay her off or at least  fire me immediately.  The video backfired on her.  We had a tough female manager at the time; the only one we have had with any real balls. She looked at the video, told the customer to stop harassing her carriers, then chased her out of the building.  I have never heard from that customer again.

I have seen the TV news report about the encounter that now famous Carlsbad letter carrier had with a customer, but unlike the general public, being a letter carrier allows me to read between the lines.  The carrier was parked in the red zone in front of the mail boxes, but where the hell else is he supposed to park?  Do the customers expect him to park half a block away to drop off three or four boxes?  Okay, maybe he blocked their car in for a second, but how long did they think he was going to be there?  Can't they chill for a few seconds while he finishes delivering THEIR mail?  To me it looked like the customers were setting him up because they wanted their fifteen minutes of fame, and unlucky for the carrier it happened to be a slow news day.

Unfortunately this mailman's middle finger got carried away, and it was caught for posterity.  Now his bird has flown and come home to roost all at once, though it was mysteriously blurred.  That blur could be anything, I would claim.  Could have been a peace sign.  Could have been a "You're number one."  Fingers have a mind of their own, I would tell the boss, you never know what they're going to say next, darn little buggers.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Eye in the Sky - A Postal Blowhard Speaks on Authorized Lunch Spots

By Mel Carriere

From Mel's Postal Dictionary:

Blowhard - a bag of wind of the high temperature variety, usually visibly bloated, commonly inflated by a belief that its talents and intelligence level are responsible for its elevated position in the workplace hierarchy, but more often than not occupies its present position because they couldn't find another butt to fill the seat.

There, you see, I could have been a lexicographer instead of mailman because I can write dictionary definitions like nobody's business.  So here is your ever humble Mel to report on blowhards and other topics at the end of physical year 2015, which up until recently I thought was fiscal year, until my error was pointed out Wednesday, the last day of the physical year, by a supervisor who is obviously smarter than the rest of us, thank God, and that's why she's in charge.  She kept saying physical year over and over again, so after the stand up talk, having realized I had everything mixed up, I walked back to my case singing Olivia Newton Jaundice Let's get Fiscal, thinking about how Zed Leppelin's Fiscal Grafitti was my favorite rock album of 1975, and worrying over the impending fiscal I had to get at the doctor's office on my upcoming day off, which might include a finger wave. So let's all get Fiscal, and talk about things that are happening at the Post Office as the new physical year rises from the ashes of the old.

Specifically, I want to discuss blowhards, a term I defined above, and I want to pose a question to those of you who are more knowledgeable in contract matters than I, in hopes that you will post a reply in the comments section below.  I have to confess I am confused by something a supervisor said at another stand-up talk (Not Olivia Newton John gettin physical), but another male supervisor who is king of the blowhards and will make bold pronouncements with little regard for whether they are true.  So even when he's right, as he might very well be in this case, I tend not to believe anything he says.

Postal Blowhard Supervisor started off his grandiose speech by implying that we should be grateful to him because he was going to share some of the elite inner circle secrets that were revealed to him working at the great Postal Eye in the Sky for several weeks, a place located in a concealed bunker at a former processing plant on a lot that is up for sale for scrap but nobody wants to buy it because it's contaminated.   According to him he is sharing this privileged information with us because he really appreciates all the work we do, so he said. The main theme of his speech was that letter carriers were getting busted left and right by the great Postal Eye in the Sky, which of course spies on you through your friendly blue hand-held scanner.

He related to us the story of one carrier who got called out because he was stopped 22 minutes in the same place.  The Eye in the Sky was on the job, thank goodness, and dispatched a supervisor to the scene of the crime to investigate before matters could escalate.  

"What are you doing here for 22 minutes?" the supervisor asked.  I'm paraphrasing the story.

"I had to use the bathroom."

"The bathroom?"  The supervisor looked around.  "This is a residential area.  Tell me where you used the bathroom and I will go and tell the customer thanks, on behalf of the Postal Service."

"Okay, I lied," the letter carrier quickly confessed.  "I was taking my lunch."

Immediately I was confused, so like I should have done a little over three decades ago when I was in school and in the same state of befuddlement, I raised my hand.  "We're not supposed to eat lunch in our vehicles?" I asked.  I eat mine in my LLV everyday, so this was troubling information.

"Oh no," he quickly clarified.  "You can eat lunch in your vehicle, but you have to be in your authorized lunch location."

Mr. Blowhard dismissed us from his little smoke blowing, chest thumping party, and I went back to my case, where I spent a few moments digesting the information we had been blessed with by this generous, nice Supervisor who really cared about us. 

A couple things started to bother me.  First of all, I suppose I have been mistaken to believe that I am entitled to eat where I want to during my unpaid lunch break, as long as it falls within the magical mile radius I think we are granted by the contract, outside of which the LLV turns into a pumpkin or you drive off the edge of the Earth, whichever comes first.  I mean, by definition the word authorized, as in the term authorized location, means that somebody is exercising authority over me, which by extension extension implies that I am on the clock.  And if people are authorizing me, or giving me orders at any given moment of the day, that means that I should be getting paid for it, and I'm not.  What I'm trying to say is that if you want to tell me where to take lunch you ought to be paying me for it.

For those of you heavily immersed in the chapter and verse of the letter carrier contract, is there any validity to this concept of authorized lunch locations, or was Mr. Blowhard Supervisor just spewing out superheated air from his inflated head to intimidate us into staying in a place where we can be easily cornered.  Or was he trying to imply that 22 minutes is way too long to spend on a thirty minute unpaid lunch break, and maybe we should cut it to 15 or better yet, zero.

I am trying to update the items in my Postal Dictionary, if you could give me a hand.  Does the word authorized lunch spot really have any contractual basis, or does it mean whatever Blowhard Supervisor says it does?

Happy Physical year 2016 - Mel.

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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sample This! - What Do Y'all Do When Your Scanner Talks to You?

By Mel Carriere

When you are a letter carrier and you start to hear voices talking to you in your vehicle it could have one of many causes.  First of all you could just be loopy because of the heat and you need to pull over and hydrate.  Secondly, the ghost of that welfare mama whose check you killed right before she died in the crack house fire is clinging to your LLV; her cursed, vengeful spirit whispering in your ear in hopes you will drive off the road.   These days, with the advent of the GPS era there is another cause which makes less sense then the others but still needs to be discussed.  This is that your postal scanner is actually talking to you.  Sounds stupid, I know, but it happened to me, and since I was on my medication that day I'm pretty sure it was real.

When I left the Post Office around 9ish some day early last week I went to do an hour and fifteen minutes of overtime on another route first.  As I approached the first delivery on my route at 1685 I heard an eerily robotic voice issuing forth from somewhere, telling me I had to sample five mail pieces across the street at 1680.  

I slammed on the brakes and let the initial shock wash over me - that of being spoken to by a device that wasn't the electronic leash slash cell phone in my pocket blaring out the voice of my wife scolding me because I spilled milk on the floor and the ants were dancing in the kitchen.  Then I looked down at the scanner screen, because the mysterious voice seemed to be emanating from its general direction, and saw the same "sample five items" message displayed there.  

At this point several puzzling questions began to occur to me.  First of all, was I expected to cross the street out of sequence, dig through the DPS for five pieces of mail I could "sample," and make the delivery out of order?  Secondly, what did they mean by sample, exactly?  Was it like a hip-hop sample, where I take five letters and mix them together, to the general confusion and mostly drug induced entertainment of everybody?  Was I supposed to take a picture of the mail pieces, and if so how?  I know these scanners are equipped with a camera, but I don't know how to access it.  Next, what if there are not five pieces of mail for that address that I can sample? 

Confused, I called my manager.  This was not helpful, because she was equally confused and didn't know what I was talking about.  She spoke to me calmly and gently, as if she thought I really was hearing ghosts of pissed off postal customers past in my ear, and told me not to worry about it.  I took her at her word and somehow exited out of the program after getting an ominous message asking me if I REALLY wanted to exit without sampling, as if there could be possible consequences, such as jail time, or perhaps being tethered by my wrists from the ceiling in the Inspector's Gallery with electrodes attached to my sensitive regions; a place where no one can hear me scream.  

I wondered if I was perhaps being tracked and penalized because my arrival at my first delivery did not match what DOIS projected, because I did my overtime first, as we are instructed to do.  Could it be that the supervisor had not yet made the DOIS assignments, so the scanner reported back saying I was taking an hour and a half break, and this had caused deafening sirens to go off in Supervisor Spying Central - a hidden underground bunker a little like the Central Intelligence Agency War Room, but without the intelligence?

When I finally did arrive at 1680 about an hour and forty five minutes later the voice came back right as I was pulling up to the box.  These little GPS spy machines are deadly accurate.  They can track the testicles on a flea from outer space.  Anyhow, I noticed to my amazement that not only did 1680 have 5 letters to sample, it had about nine of them, and it made me wonder how the scanner knew that.  Does it talk to the DPS sort plan on a daily basis?  The problem still remained how to sample them, but it finally occurred to me to scan the DPS bar codes on the mail pieces.  It worked!  The scanner gods were appeased and I was allowed to go about my business, without any further intrusions into the sanctified, private inner space of my LLV.

A couple days later my Manager went to a meeting and asked about the talking scanners.  She said that yeah, they were doing this everywhere and that I did the right thing by scanning the bar codes.  Good thing they told us about this in advance, instead of after about 14 letter carriers drove their LLVs into a ditch!  I found out later that this happened to one of our CCAs too, and she was so startled she almost had an Early Onset Incontinence Episode (EOIE) in her postal pants.

The point is, who has time for any of this sh**!  What I should have done in the first place was lift my proud middle finger to that blabbermouth scanner and tell it to "Sample this!"

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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Labor Day Letter to our Postal Plant Manager - Why Can't We Have the Luxury of Screwing up too?

By Mel Carriere 

I really don't want to put a bummer on your Labor Day Weekend.  I try to think about all the positive things organized labor has done to give us holidays like this where we can relax, have a few beers, and enjoy the fruits of our "labors."  But centuries of fighting for our rights through collective bargaining has not yet altered the basic fact that somebody in management will sooner or later come along and do something stupid that we have to pay the price for.

All right, I asked for it, I'll admit.  Nobody put a gun to my head and made me sign up to work my holiday on Saturday.  Therefore, I really have no right to complain about what a hellish mess it is was.  But then again, complaining is what I do, it is what this blog is basically for, because who would want to read my rosy postal portraits that are full of palm tree framed blue skies, like the pretty picture above?

So from my little corner of palm tree lined Postal Paradise I decided to pen this little letter to our Postal plant manager, who was at least partly responsible for the wearisome debacle that last Saturday became.  How was your pre Labor Day Saturday, by the way?  Let me know in the comments below.

Dear Postal Plant Manager,

First of all I am not usually a disgruntled type.  I agree with a lot of the ideas that you and others occupying positions of power throw out there for postal and public consumption, I just wish that you people would follow through on some of them.  For example, there is the idea of load leveling.  In concept keeping a smooth, even work load throughout the course of the Postal Week sounds like a wonderful idea, but your execution of the load leveling principle reminds me of having the passengers of the badly listing cruise ship Costal Corcordia quickly run to the other side, uphill on a slippery deck, to redistribute the weight.  Who am I but a humble mailman to offer an opinion on matters that are way over my pith helmet covered head, but in the future I don't think you should wait until the plant is sinking under the rivet popping weight of undelivered mail before you decide to push it all out to the delivery units the day before a holiday.

Problem is that you always have the unsung Distribution Clerks and Letter Carriers to pull your nuts out of the proverbial postal flames.  The Saturday before a holiday we are required to take everything, so by that juncture it is no longer load leveling but employee leveling, as it brings all of us long suffering delivery unit employees down to the same withered, frazzled, unrecognizable exhausted shells of human beings that we didn't really have to be,  if you had found it in your infinite wisdom not to give us one foot of flats on Thursday and Friday and 10 feet on Saturday.

Am I really supposed to believe that this extreme inundation of mail at the last minute just showed up at the plant out of the blue, that it hadn't been sitting there simmering alone in an abandoned corner while you made your numbers look really good during the week?  This look good now and to hell with later and everybody else philosophy was something you were more than willing to trade an atrocious Saturday for, because on Monday there will be nobody to scream at you anyway, and by Tuesday the tragedy will be nothing more than a distant, irrelevant memory lost in the nostalgic thoughts of beach barbecues and beered up baseball games that some of us had the energy to attend on Labor Day Weekend.

Again I proclaim my inability to believe that this avalanche of bulk rate flats we had on Saturday just materialized out of thin air.  Am I really expected to believe that the dedicated and highly motivated employees of corporate America worked extra hard generating countless mounds of mail on Friday instead of taking a half day like normal people so they could beat the traffic out to Vegas?  Was this truly the reason we were flooded with mail on Friday worse than when the dam busted in Johnstown - and you very respectfully Mr. or Mrs. Plant manager had nothing at all to do with it? I think there were so many delayed bulk rate flats piled up in the plant Monday through Friday; stacked to the ceiling like combustible cordwood, that the Fire Marshall would have condemned the place.

But our clerks went ahead and sorted it diligently and faithfully on Saturday, and our carriers went ahead and delivered it in the same manner because that's what we are there for, living in the trenches on the Postal front lines.  We exist to correct your errors in judgement, accidental or intentional, for the benefit of the American public.  We don't have the luxury of screwing up and won't do it on purpose to improve our numbers, but still you ties and skirts sit up there smug on Mahogany Row and complain about what a lazy lot we all are.

So very respectfully thank you, Anonymous Postal Plant Manager, for turning me into a one dimensional human being on Saturday that worked to the point of exhaustion, went home and performed basic biological survival functions, then slept the sleep of the rock breaker of the month on the prison chain gang, but without the honorary parking place.  Thank you for helping me to ignore and neglect my family by turning in at 8 PM on Saturday night while you probably partied late and long into the weekend, seeing as how I doubt you even worked Saturday, as the rest of the postal faithful did.


A tired, disgruntled but always respectful Mel 

Which Postal Poison Pill is for you? More Mel on Hub Pages 

 The Postal Tsunami derives its coastal destroying power through copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What is Your Postal Supervisor Doing While Your Life Sustaining Fluids Drip Onto a Scorching August Sidewalk?

By Mel Carriere

Photo of Scooby, feeling a little loopy in the August heat, also by Mel Carriere

It was 97 frickin' degrees in San Diego yesterday.  I had the long weekend so I'm not complaining, but what the hell are we paying San Diego prices for if we are going to get Florida weather?  While my coworkers were out there dripping away their precious life's fluids onto the soil and sidewalks, instead of driving out some bottles of cold water I'm sure our supervisors we're sitting around complaining about how lazy letter carriers are and wondering why the hell they didn't bring their jackets because the air conditioning makes the office so damn cold.  Which raises the question, while you are out there baking your brain in the hot August sun and wondering why you ever signed up for this crap, what is your supervisor really doing back there in the PO besides grumbling about how slow you are?

I'll be the first to tell you that being a supervisor is a stressful and demanding job.  Sometimes Postal supervisors work 15 hour days, get compensated for 8, and when they complain are then told by upper management that they should work more efficiently so they can get the job done on time.  Typically upper management is populated by backstabbing incompetents who were bad supervisors who delegated everything to 204bs.  Therefore, they really might not be aware of the workload associated with running a Post Office.  Just don't think I'm accusing all supervisors of being lazy here - Typically about 30-40% of supervisors work themselves into an exhausted frazzle in order to pick up the slack for the other 60-70 percent who take extended lunch breaks and then lock themselves in their offices to play on the computer before going home early.

A new report about a hack attack on Ashley Madison, a website that apparently promotes and facilitates marital infidelity, bears my hypothesis out.  Among the 36 million Ashley Madison accounts hacked, 52  were using a USPS.GOV address to log on.  I already know what your keen, discerning, critical mind is thinking right now; that 52 accounts out of 36 million is not very much at all, not even a drop in the proverbial bucket.  So our organization has a few under-worked philanderers with too much time on their hands and not enough sex on the home front, big deal?  No, what this really means is that we have 52 under-worked philanderers who were STUPID enough to use their postal email address to set up an account on the site.  I'm sure those 52 were not even the tip of the iceberg, but the handful of microscopic water crystals at the tip of the tip of the iceberg consisting of probably thousands of other supervisors who were smart enough to use a private email address to log in.  Even so, these uncounted thousands were still out there cruising for tail on a government computer with their feet up on a government-issue desk, while every once in a while adjusting the thermostat because it's just too damn cold in the Post Office in August, after which they go out to the workroom floor to yell at a 204b, then return to the computer and minimize the Ashley Madison screen so they can check up on where you are currently wasting time.

A spokesman for the Postal Service Inspector General said that "more information is needed before determining if any violations occurred."  I think that means the OIG has to make sure none of its own people's names are on that damning email list before they start pointing fingers elsewhere.

Perhaps the only solution is to start using GPS monitors on those fat-ass supervisors and station managers, admittedly not all of them, who take two hour lunches, tell the 204b to hold all phone calls, and then disappear into the office until 3:30, at which time they warn that trembling 204b doing both his and the manager's work on the computer that he better come up with an acceptable excuse to explain his or her absence in case the Area Manager calls.  Hmm...Maybe ankle bracelets would be better, ones that set off a deafening alarm wail if the manager punches out before eight hours are up.  On second thought, I don't think anybody manufactures an ankle bracelet that will wrap around some of those fat ankles I've seen waddling out of the Manager's office.  Any suggestions?

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What Extinct Mail Dinosaurs Do You Recall? A Trip Down Postal Memory Lane

By Mel Carriere

I just read an article on Postal News reporting that Columbia House, that seemingly indestructible mailing giant of yesteryear is going bankrupt.  This news came as a shock to me because I thought they died a long time ago, but it doesn't cause me any heartache.  Yes, I did get my 13 vinyl records for 1 cent (Can you believe that things are so expensive now my keyboard doesn't even have the 'cent' symbol?). I was a naive 14 years old when I received that musical manna from heaven, but after the happiness wore off I spent the next couple years dealing with the realization that I actually was obligated to buy a few things.  When you're a teenager without a job and a miserly old man yelling at you to get one every time you ask for a few bucks, this can be problematic.

 God bless Dad for teaching me character, and for teaching me how there's a sucker born every minute.  Now I'm older (yes) and wiser (eh-maybe), and looking back retrospectively on the glory days of mass Columbia House mailings I participated in early in my postal career, as well as other hogs of the postal parcel hamper that used to take up a lot more space within those dusty canvas or plastic depths than they deserved to.

Columbia House packages were a real pain in my blue postal pants.  They came in many sizes, some big and some small, but there was one particular size that just would not fit in an apartment mailbox no matter which way you turned it.  I seem to remember it was about a half a centimeter too big.  One would think our sagacious folks working in mailing requirements could have done something to have the musical mega-mailer shave off a couple layers of cardboard, but those bulky things always had to go to the door.  The real problem wasn't so much delivering them, however, as it was taking them back.  There were plenty of broke teenagers like I once was out there who would hand the packages back to me with the words "Did not order" written across the front in bold Sharpie pen, and would keep doing this until they got a nasty, threatening, legal sounding letter from the company.  This meant that every day I had at least one Columbia House item I had to stamp "Refused" after I got back to the office, when I was already rushing to do a hundred other things before I clocked out.

Another bad thing about Columbia House was that when these packages got forwarded they usually had a postage due charge that you had to collect on.  I would do my best ninja impersonation trying to leave a notice and sneak off the doorstep before somebody answered, but I invariably got caught, and once in a while there was a customer who actually wanted the package.  Who has time to stand there for five minutes while the customer protests "why the hell do I have to pay the postage?" - then spend another five minutes waiting for him to search the house frantically for pocket change?

I'm probably going to miss a few things here; and I welcome you to fill in the gaps in my memory down below in the comments, but there were a few other annoying mailings that used to suck the precious postal time transactor clicks away like bull elephants drinking at a waterhole.  One of these was cereal samples.  When I was brand new I remember dealing with cereal box samples where you had to match a tiny card with a tiny box in your sample tub.  There were sometimes about ten samples or so per swing.  I was new back then, I really didn't know how to manage this sort of thing, so I would always wind up missing about half of them, which made our 204b laugh at me when I got back to the office.  The only benefit of this mailing - I have heard, because I never dared this, is that some letter carriers would eat the samples going to vacant houses.  They would lug along a carton of milk on cereal sample day just for this purpose.

But the mother of all postal pains, of course, were the AOL CDs we used to deliver by the hamper full back in the late 90s, early 2000s.  Some days it seems I would spend half an hour in the back of my LLV sorting those things for delivery, only to find the slick metal cases piled up on top of mailboxes the next day by customers who had absolutely no use for them.  I take that back - I read somewhere that bird lovers were hanging the CDs from strings by their windows so that birds wouldn't fly into the glass.  I don't know how exactly that worked, but other than that they were worthless.  Now these relics are selling on Ebay as collectors items for $12.99.  Who would buy that crap?  Some slick shyster has a whole refrigerator box full of these in his basement and is suckering them off on collectible junkies.  What a racket.  I never want to see one again.

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.

 My latest on Hub Pages - What's in Your Mailbox? Part 4 - Homo Sapien Horrors

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't Get Comfortable - Can a "Good" Supervisor Survive in a Hostile Postal Universe?

By Mel Carriere

This is not a plea to declare this "Hug your Supervisor" day, or anything silly like that.  I would never go that far; some of them don't seem to brush their teeth so I it would be wrong of me to advocate getting any closer than you have to.  But I think we have all had the admittedly uncommon experience of having a supervisor that is organized, actually responds to your requests for the things you need to serve your customers and deliver your route efficiently, and isn't cracking your skull with his or her clipboard every day to get you to go faster.  These people are rare, I know, but they are out there.  The problem is that they just don't stick around very long, but quickly become casualties of the cruel and oppressive system they willingly participate in.  Like a male lion taking over a new pride, Postal Management tends to devour all of the young that don't carry the same defective DNA.

At my station, we currently have a supervisor who seems to possess those admirable qualities that are like the kiss of death for anyone aspiring to move up the ladder in the Postal Service.  He prints out our change of address labels on a daily basis (before him we got them once a month or so), he posts the DOIS report by the time clock like he is supposed to, and he negotiates with, rather than horsewhips carriers when he is running the floor.  Unfortunately, since he is the junior guy, the unpromoted 204b, he usually only runs the floor on Saturdays.  I predict he won't be running anything at our station pretty soon.  We have a tight inner circle of inept (dare I say ditzy) supervisors who are absolutely terrified by the threat of competence and scurry to chase it out the door just as soon as it makes its presence known.  If they performed their jobs with the skill and industriousness with which they eliminate rivals our post office would be a model of efficiency.

A friend and coworker of mine always greets the newbie supervisors with the words "Don't get comfortable," because he knows they won't stick around long, especially if the carriers like them.  Supervisors like this usually get left "holding the bag," or becoming scapegoats for bad mistakes or serious, willful breaches of postal regulations that they had nothing to do with.  For instance, they might be left running the floor alone with piles of curtailed political mail that have aged like rancid beer, not fine wine, to first class status.  Even though this poor sucker may been ordered to continue curtailing this way overdue political mail on a day when the other supervisors all conveniently take the day off, he or she is the one caught with his or her proverbial postal pants down when a representative from the Operations Department shows up in the station to make sure all of that mail has been delivered.  Weird things like this tend to happen in our Post Office to those who aren't thick like thieves with the rest of the scheming, calculating, and figuratively gnarled and warty coven members cooking up evil curses around the Postal cauldron.

Throwing your coworkers under the bus seems to be a sure fire way to achieve promotion in the Postal Service.  Spending most of your time on the phone, thumping your chest with some higher up instead of doing your job is another effective way of moving up the ladder.  Violating the contract, hiding mail, and harassing underlings look pretty good on a postal resume too.  Going about your business quietly and efficiently, on the other hand; doing everybody else's work in addition to your own, gets you thrown out quicker than last week's moldy bread.

So on second thought, if you are one of the few postal employees who actually likes your supervisor, don't hug them after all, but pretend that you hate them.  Spread the word that they are tyrannical bullies that don't know what the hell they are doing.  This will help them blend in with the rest of the useless, drooling, sad sack drones that are only good at feathering their own nest, and maybe help them stick around for a while.

Dancing with the Devil - More by Mel on Postal Supervision on Hub Pages

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.  I have removed Amazon.

Image of my LLV among the palm trees by me

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Death of DOIS? - Or: Better Uses for the Bomb

By Mel Carriere

I wrote this on August 6th, which probably quite by coincidence happens to be significant for two reasons.  The first of these is that August 6th, 2015, is the 70th anniversary of the day the US dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.  I don't want to get overly political here, I guess there is no use crying over spilled milk, especially if you are not Japanese.  It seems to me, however, that even though Harry thought he was doing the right thing when he lit that big candle, I think there were better uses they could have put the "Little Boy" to than laying waste to this coastal city on the Seto Sea; but I guess the fat cats wanted to get the biggest bang for their buck.  One idea would have been to drop it over Tokyo Bay for pure shock and awe effect.  Or perhaps they might have picked a remote military target to minimize civilian casualties.  Better yet, they could have saved it to drop on Eagan Minnesota, to take out the DOIS mainframe there before that postal destroying cancer could metastasize and spread its evil tentacles.

Turns out they might spare Eagan and the DOIS facility the 20 kiloton radiation treatment, because the second significant event I heard about today was that DOIS might be on its way out on its own, the powers that be finally admitting defeat and recognizing that DOIS, unlike Little Boy, did not give them the bang for the buck they were dreaming of when they dropped this nasty monstrosity onto the once pristine, pastoral prairies of the Gopher State south of St. Paul.  The shock and awe management expected from their DOIS bomb did not materialize, although the fallout from the Postal blast reverberated around the country and inflicted many unfortunate casualties among carriers that were displaced or reduced to PTF.

I received this tidbit about the demise of DOIS from a Union officer who dropped by my case today and asked me how I was doing.  You know me, I never complain about anything, so I told him I was doing just fine, that nobody had bitch slapped me with a copy of the violated contract lately. I suppose he could see the long shadow of my broken down Honda Civic on my face, however, and took that to mean that I really wasn't doing so hot and needed something to cheer me up.  So quite without my prompting, he gave me the heartening news that postal management is recognizing that DOIS is not giving them the accurate information they need to evaluate routes, so that when they actually go out and do walk routes they are coming back with despondent faces, because the numbers that the DOIS machine has been pumping up their already swelled heads with don't match reality.  He didn't actually say it like that, I threw in those colorful descriptive terms on my own, but that was the essence of the DOIS part of the conversation.

Furthermore, it turns out that the route adjustments they have done throughout our peaceful little seaside burg of San Diego are resulting in adding routes, not eliminating them, like they assumed would happen while they were drooling over the overly optimistic DOIS projections that the computer spits out from the foul innards of a mother board that is as warped as the heads on my Honda engine.  He said don't be surprised if they don't do the "you say toe-may-to, I say toe-mah-to" routine and call the whole thing off; and this would not surprise me at all. I think abandoning bad adjustments has been done a lot lately, my evidence being that we haven't had any new ones in at least four years, maybe longer.

The NALC Rep told me that parcel volume seems to be the annoying fly buzzing around the server room and throwing the data off.  Try as it does, the challenged little DOIS choo-choo that couldn't just can't huff and puff and sputter its way up to the summit of the lofty parcel peak carriers climb every day as a matter of routine.  Meanwhile, the brain trust sits in the mahogany lined chambers at L'enfant plaza scratching at their straining skulls and coming to the conclusion, albeit reluctantly, that perhaps the parcels don't deliver themselves after all, like DOIS says they do.

Although the potential death of DOIS is encouraging news, the toxic DOIS mushroom cloud still billows above us and I don't think it is safe to take our radiation suits off just yet.  If there is anything I have learned after 22 years in this organization it is that there are a lot of stubborn people making decisions in high places who will stick to their bad ideas and their bad programs long after they have been absolutely proven not to work.  So let's not declare VE (Victory in Eagan) day just yet, although as a former sailor I wouldn't mind putting on my cracker jacks again (they don't fit), and kissing a cute nurse in the street.

For Your Friends Contemplating RCA or CCA - Which Postal Poison Pill Should You Swallow

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.  I have removed Amazon.

Image is attributed to:  "Atomic bombing of Japan" by Nagasakibomb.jpg: The picture was taken by Charles Levy from one of the B-29 Superfortresses used in the attack.Atomic_cloud_over_Hiroshima.jpg: Personel aboard Necessary Evilderivative work: Binksternet (talk) - Nagasakibomb.jpgAtomic_cloud_over_Hiroshima.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Image of sailor kissing nurse from:

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Things Not to Say (Or Do) to Your Letter Carrier on Their Lunchbreak

By Mel Carriere

On my blog header you can now see me stoically staring down the onrushing, coastal ravaging Postal Tsunami that obliterates everything in its path, thanks to some Photo shopping by my son, who trembles under the constant threat of being disinherited of the few pennies I have in my pocket if he doesn't comply with all of my silly, arbitrary, practically unintelligible requests. I don't know if you can actually see the new photo header on your phone, but if you go to your laptop; or if you are one of the few dinosaurs who still uses a desktop model you can see it there, and God bless you for looking and for using antiquated technology.

Today's topic is letter carrier lunches, a subject I think is near and dear to the heart of those of us who swing the satchel for a living, because lunch is that one precious half hour in an otherwise frenzied, feverishly paced, oppressively overburdened day where we can flip the bird at the world and say "Leave me alone I don't get paid for this." I eat my daily lunch in the same fairly secluded place where I am largely out of view of postal customers and supervisors alike. 22 years in this business, however, has taught me that if there is one thing that the sometimes mentally deficient, letter carrier annoying public is good at is finding ingenious ways to ruin our lunch.  Something tells me that if we could manage to haul our huffing and puffing little LLVs to the top of Everest to take this half hour midday break, thinking we would be safely secluded there, some determined customer from the wrong zip code carrying a 3575 notice left would find a way to scale the sheer ice cliffs with no ropes and no oxygen to ask if we have his package.

A large percentage of these lunch wrecking, peace perturbing customers are well meaning busybodies who perhaps are under the misguided impression that being a government employee means that they pay our salaries, which of course gives them the constitutional right to interrupt the lunch that they don't really pay for, even if we did get paid for it, which we don't.  On the other hand, other lunch wreckers are just meddling, bombastic jerks with nothing better to do than harass people.  The following list of what not to say to do to your letter carrier on his/her lunch break deals with both of these types, and I'm sure you can think of many more clever things not to say or do to you at lunch, which I invite you to share in the comments below.

Please don't say (or do) the following to me on my UNPAID lunch:
  • Can I get my mail?  I know you think you pay my salary, and I know you think I'm just wasting your time and taxpayer money lounging beneath my favorite tree, but no I am not going to cut my unpaid lunch break five minutes short or more to dig through the flats, parcels and DPS to pull out your mail, unless you are one of my favorite customers - which, chances are, if you are doing something like this you are probably not.  One lunch wrecker who somehow suckered me into digging through piles of mail in the back of the LLV swore he was going out of town immediately on an emergency and it was a matter of life or death that he cash his check now.  The very next day he was back requesting the same thing, apparently having teleported, hyperspaced, or astrally projected back from the one crisis, and now immediately needed his mail again to deal with another.  
  •  Do you have my package?  A couple of weeks ago a customer from the next route over accosted me in the blissful Eden beneath my peaceful postal lunch tree and rather rudely insisted that I had his package.  "What is your address?" I asked, trying to hold my tongue in check and be nice.  He told me his address and I responded that no, I didn't have his package, to which he angrily insisted that yes, I did have it because the tracking number said so.  "Yeah, but you have the wrong mailman," I answered, pointing to the sign at the corner, where my route and the neighboring letter carrier's intersect.  "Well, what time does he get here?" he asked with an annoyed scowl.  "No idea," I said, and kept munching.  I knew, more or less, but I didn't feel like telling him.  That's what you get for being a douche.
  • Aren't you supposed to be working?  A lot of postal customers don't actually say this, but I can read it in their faces as they deliberately buzz my LLV with their cars to try to scare me into cutting my lunch short so they can get their mail a couple minutes earlier.  One time some kids on scooters came by and actually did ask me this question, but in a way they indicated that they thought it was cool I was being sneaky and hiding from the boss - kids can appreciate sneakiness if anybody can.  "Yeah, but don't tell anybody," I answered, and my little co-conspirators scootered away with big grins on their faces, delighted that I had let them in on the secret.  But only kids get to ask this question.  If you are over the age of say 12 and you have the audacity to ask me this I'm putting your mail on permanent dog hold, even if you don't have one.
  •  Can you get out of the truck?  What really irks me is when some lady or gentleman who is either overly portly, lazy, or both comes by with a letter to mail when I'm eating and expects me to jump out of the LLV to fetch it.  Now, the one thing I don't mind doing when I'm lunch is taking your letter from you; unless it comes with tediously stupid questions affixed where the stamp should be, and I'll even take a couple steps out of my way to retrieve your letter WHEN I'M ON THE CLOCK.  But don't think your little mail boy is going to cut short his precious UNPAID half hour (I just can't stress unpaid enough) so you don't have to bother to put your rather over-sized, jiggling buttocks in motion. Therefore, don't be surprised when I pretend I don't see you and drive away, meaning you'll have to haul your rather pathetically inert carcass all the way to the post office after all.
  •  AND ABOVE ALL NEVER SAY:  I hate to bother you on your lunch break but...If you say this I'll know you are a lying, worthless sack, because if you really hated to bother me you would have waited until my lunch was over to bother me.  One fellow who "hated to bother me" did so because I forgot to put the flag back down on a mailbox two blocks over.  He walked those two blocks - in the rain, no less, to resolutely deal with the imminent doom that this postal crisis threat to the free world portended.  I just let him stand there and soak for a minute, then asked him if he wanted a Dorito.
So please don't perturb your Palm Tree Postman while he is blissfully ensconced in the shady, inviolable, sacrosanct confines of his lunchtime temple. We letter carriers across America go out of our way to make you happy; sometimes doing things that are technically not even within postal regulations if we really like you, but grant us this little unpaid half hour of peace, please.

More by Mel on bad Postal Customers here

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.  I have removed Amazon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More on how Planet Postal Revolves Around Amazon - Still Beating this not Quite Dead Horse

 By Mel Carriere

We should all give thanks to whatever postal gods we pray to that we work for an organization in which our unions still protect their workers against the most extreme abuses, however quaint and antiquated that concept seems.  It seems like we are slowly and insidiously being taken over, however, by a company that treats its human resources as if they were disposable, automated cogs on the production line, and I guess you figured out by the title that I'm talking about Amazon, again.  I'm sorry to beat a dead horse, but the horse is not really as close to kicking off as you think. Every day I go to work reminds me that it is alive and kicking and ready to buck me off into a steaming pile of Bezos' royal manure if I miss a scan, or, heaven forbid,  bring back one of Jeff Bezos' precious parcels for any reason other than maybe the house burned down.  Even then, I think a letter carrier is better off throwing the parcel on top of the smouldering ashes than risking the wrath of some Bezos-brainwashed supervisor by taking it back to the Post Office.

If Jeff Bezos had a not quite dead horse to beat like me, you bet he would flog that animal mercilessly for not making production quotas.  He has already started to sneak his heavy handed, 19th century style management into the postal service, which became clear to me on Tuesday during a stand up talk that had me shaking my cranium like a cheap ballpark bobble head doll manufactured in some Vietnamese sweat shop. If you read my previous July 16th blog on the subject then you are aware I was already amazed by how all other classes of mail are subordinated to the Amazon shipment, but now I understand that the health and safety of Postal employees is also to be sacrificed so that Prime arrives on time.

To my great astonishment, after she finished berating us in aforementioned stand-up talk about our poor scanning performance, our station manager added, by way of afterthought, that Amazon expects its packages to be delivered at all costs.  To quote the boss, Amazon doesn't care if the delivery point is blocked or is unsafe.  By implication, she was saying that we as postal employees shouldn't let little nuisances like our own safety get in the way of somehow getting that box past ten snarling pit bulls, through an impassable mesh of sticky spider webs that haven't been cleared since the first Bush was president, over a pile of broken beer bottles and rusty car parts and onto the front porch.  She didn't explain how we are supposed to handle the impossible logistics of this but shooed us back to work before anybody could ask any complicated questions.  We have some old timers in our station that ask some really complicated, tiresome questions, and she knows this.

So now it seems our Postal managers are starting to ape Jeff Bezos' style, and from what I've read about Bezos this is a disturbing trend.  An article on entitled "Worse than Wal-Mart:  Amazon's sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers" tells you everything you need to know just from the name.  According to this story by Simon Head, Amazon's work floor management principles are a 21st century relic of a 19th philosophy called Taylorism.  The Taylorism mindset includes ruthlessly increasing employee productivity targets until they are almost impossible to meet - meaning older, slower workhorses like your dear blogger will be put out to pasture, oppressive employee monitoring via satellite navigation computers - signifying that if you don't get back from the potty in time you're in big trouble, clipboard carrying foremen like the all seeing eyes of Big Brother stationed everywhere in the warehouse to prevent "time theft," and a merciless production tempo that includes hustling across the production floor 13 to 15 miles a day at a pace that would snuff out your satchel swinging ass in no time at all.  I'll post a link to this article and I think you should read it, because if you work for the Post Office it just may apply to you, I am sorry to say.

Secret inside sources for the Tsunami confirm my suspicion that Jeff Bezos really does have his meddling fingers deep in the Postal production gears, and even has a voice in our hiring practices.  According to one Tsunami insider, in postal test sites for the Amazon Fresh grocery shipping program, offices are seriously exceeding the contract-mandated City Carrier Assistant (CCA) cap, and CCAs are being trained at the rate of 8 per day at one office in particular.  This, apparently, at Bezos' behest that only CCAs deliver the Amazon Fresh packages.

So you see that this horse on my route  up there, which I am relentlessly beating with this Prime parcel, is not quite dead yet.  Therefore, I will continue to hammer on it until I see proof that Amazon is no longer running our postal operations, or until I am shipped off to the great Postal glue factory myself.  If Bezos continues to get his way, that might not be as far off as we think. Older workers on his Amazon assembly line from hell routinely get put out to pasture, so don't think he's not thinking about replacing the tired old nag you are with some young stud CCA, if he can.  And just in case you PETA people are freaking out about the perceived equine abuse here, no horses were actually injured during the production of this blog, or flogged with any Prime packages.

 Read about Amazon's abusive workplace practices here

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.  I have removed Amazon.

Bezos image from:

Horse photo from me.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Amazon Gets what Amazon Wants - Will the Real Postmaster General Please Stand Up?

By Mel Carriere

Do any of you out there getting kind of long in the tooth, like me, remember that 70s game show called To Tell the Truth?  I used to watch that show every afternoon.  For you youngsters in attendance, the program consisted of three contestants pretending to be the same person noted for some famous or infamous distinction, but two of these contestants were impostors and one was the real deal.  Three or four "celebrity" panelists on the show would ask the contestants questions and then try and guess who the real person was.  Seems like Kitty Carlisle was always one of these celebrity panelists.  I don't know what she was famous for to begin with, but she was a celebrity panelist on everything.  Of course I digress, but after the questioning was over the  host would say in very dramatic fashion "Will the real --- please stand up?"

Recent events in our little post office made me think of a Postal version of To Tell the Truth.  I guess we would have to exhume Kitty Carlisle and Peggy Cass (another professional celebrity panelist) to do this, which could be problematic, but here's how the game will go.  We'll get Megan Brennan, our current titular Postmaster, retired PMG Pat Donahoe, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos - who doesn't have anything to do with the Postal Service but it sure seems like he does, to serve as contestants and then see if our distinguished panelists can figure out who the real Postmaster General of the United States is from among these three.  Don't turn the channel - the answer isn't as obvious as it seems.

I include Pat Donahoe as one of the contestants because, judging from the way that Megan Brennan tenaciously clings to his misguided, boneheaded policies it seems like he's still in there running the organization, despite her vow to "keep mail relevant" and all that.  And I threw Jeff Bezos into the mix because the obsequious urgency with which the USPS bends over backwards to make sure his Amazon packages get delivered and to the devil with everything else makes it look like he really could be the one calling the shots.  Our panelists, in their various degrees of decay and mortification, are really going to have their work cut out for them.

My confusion over who the real PMG is began last Tuesday, when the Amazon shipment didn't show up on time.  After we clocked in, the supervisor informed us that Amazon was not yet in the building, but she said that if they didn't make their 8 AM cutoff time we were just going to leave these packages for tomorrow.  That sounded reasonable, everybody's got to play by the rules.

Guess what - As it turns out Amazon doesn't have a cutoff time!  Amazon finally rolled in about 8:30, after most of us had already pulled down and were getting ready to hit the street.  After some heated discussion around the telephone which probably included a good browbeating by some hot-shot upstairs, our supervisors instructed us to roll our parcel hampers back to their assigned places and punch onto 734 until the clerks finished throwing the Amazon.

Last year this time I don't think very many letter carriers would have been grumbling about this.  At that time our organization was still emerging from a prolonged slump, and I think we were just happy to get business from wherever we could.

But over the course of the past year or so, it seems like Jeff Bezos has been wriggling his far reaching hands into the postal gears more and more, and it's starting to look now that our operations revolve exclusively around trying to keep him happy.  

I had thought that the road toward complete Amazon appeasement culminated when Bezos got Sunday as his private delivery day.  But just like Hitler kept going after England and France gave him Czechoslovakia, apparently Jeff now expects that all postal operations will be subordinated to the plastic wrapped Amazon shipment on the back dock, no matter what time it drops in.

Last time I checked, first class mail still represented the biggest chunk of postal revenue.  I have the Q2 report on my computer, and if I'm reading it right, first class mail is still about 43% of total revenue.  On the other hand, total "Competitive" Mail (meaning revenue from parcels), is roughly 22 percent, and priority mail brings in about half of that.  I can't even find Amazon as an individual line item on the report.  The point I'm making is that even though the first class product has declined it is still our exclusive bread and butter, the one revenue source that we and nobody else has a right to.  In spite of this, first class mail is now routinely delayed, and overnight delivery of local first class mail may be nothing more than a curious relic in the postal museum, right next to the Pony Express exhibit.

So even though Jeff Bezos doesn't even command his own line item on the financial report, the organization literally grinds to a halt and carriers are dragged back in from  the parking lot and put to twiddling their thumbs on 734 time to keep him happy, this despite his company not being much more than a floating log in our total revenue stream.  Customer service suffers so Amazon can have first crack, and vital mail items that we are legally mandated to deliver in a timely manner, per the woefully neglected "Service" component of our organization's title, get stashed in a shadowy corner of the local P&DC so that "Prime" can land on the doorstep overnight.  

I haven't counted how many times a supervisor told has us to take the late first class mail for a ride and hide it in the 3M case when we get back from the street, but you bring back one missed Amazon parcel back from the street and guess what?  Your little blue butt is going back out again to deliver it.

So now we come to the defining moment of our Postal version of To Tell the Truth, the one that you the studio audience has anxiously awaited after listening to our dead panelists fire off their list of keenly articulated questions at our contestants; Mr. Donahoe, Ms. Brennan, and Mr. Bezos.  In breathtaking fashion, our host now gives the famous command that is the signature moment of the program:  "Will the real Postmaster General of the United States of America please stand up!"  The audience takes a deep breath and oohs and aahs as the impostors deliberately heighten the emotion in the studio by falsely shifting and stirring in their chairs.  Then the real PMG rises up.

I'll let you guess who that is.  Thanks for tuning in.

Read Jeff Bezos' Mein Kampf

 The Postal Tsunami gains its coastal destroying power with copious amounts of Starbuck's coffee,  which is not cheap.  Unless they completely annoy or offend you, please take a look at what my blog sponsors on this page have to say.

Image a compilation of a photo of Megan Brennan from and a photo of Jeff Bezos from  "Jeff Bezos' iconic laugh" by Steve Jurvetson - Flickr: Bezos’ Iconic Laugh. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons -