Thursday, February 12, 2015

Are you a Robber or a Runner - Thoughts on Inter-Carrier Conflicts

By Mel Carriere

I know I can be a horse's ass sometimes, but that guy up there in the picture would tell you he takes umbrage with you comparing me to his hindquarters, upon which he places a high esteem.  Therefore, says Mr. Horse here on the dusty back stretches of my semi ruralish route, keep your insults on a human level, and don't go getting other species involved.

We human beings are pretty good at slinging insults at one another, and most of the time this petty effrontery pretty much equates to the waste products that come out of my horse friend's back end.  Sometimes these barbs are good-natured fun,  but on occasion they cross over the line into nastiness.  Despite all the warnings about mutual respect that comprise the text of many a Station Manager or Postmaster's sermon after some postal employee's slip of the tongue has crossed the line, we continue to push the limits and test what we can get away with while wearing the postal blue.

This inter-carrier squabbling almost always works against the unity and solidarity that is required to stand up to management's often unrealistic expectations, and even contributes to the "divide and conquer" strategy that supervisors use to turn us against one another.

I came back from vacation on Tuesday, and it didn't take long for me to be reminded what babies we carriers can be, even though most of us in my senior-dominated station (where I am almost the "baby" at 51 years old), are probably old enough to know better.

Two of our letter carriers, and permit me to assign them the arbitrary, imaginary names of Juan and Joe, were going at it about each other's work performance.  Joe thinks Juan works too hard, and Juan thinks Joe doesn't work hard enough.  Joe actually started the quarrel, and although I missed the first part because I was actually minding my own business for a change, my ears perked up when I heard Joe express to Juan a sentence that ended with "...maybe if you didn't run your route so much."

Juan is kind of a hyperactive person.  He is not trying to kiss ass or show off, but he has a lot of restless energy and is always the first carrier to leave the station in the morning.  I don't know how he does it because his route gets a lot of mail, but if he is not the first one on the street he is always in the top two.  People like Juan can be frustrating because, whether they intend to or not, sometimes they make the rest of us look bad.

Joe, on the other hand, is rather leisurely in his approach to mail delivery.  Some would say he "milks it," an expression we use in our local San Diego mailman vernacular to refer to people who use more time than they really need to deliver the route.  I think there is one or two "milkers" in every station; and they can be frustrating because, whether they deliberately "milk it" or not, those of us who are busting our butts often have to pick up their slack when we just want to go home and don't really feel like doing extra work.

Another one of Juan's charming features is that he always says what is on his mind and consequences be damned.  So his response to Joe's critique of his frenzied work habits was a rather unabashed "Well at least I'm not stealing from the Post Office like you are."

This remark produced a rather stunned chorus of "Ooohs...." among us, and all ears tuned in eagerly to see which way this exchange would go.

Fortunately things did not get out of control.  Joe uttered a few more derisive comments in a low voice that I couldn't really hear too well, and then Juan wrapped things up by saying something along the lines of "Well, you know I just call them the way I see them."  I heard the two chatting amicably later on, so I think it really just amounted to a little baring of the teeth to check for signs of weakness, with little or no harm done.

I think every Post Office across the country has runners like Juan and robbers like Joe at each extreme, then everybody else in the middle who is either a semi runner or a sometimes robber or various combinations thereof.  There are days when all of us rob a little bit, but this is just payback for the running we do on the other days, so it evens outs.

The question I have is why we have to go at each other's throats like this, to the undisguised pleasure of management.  I have to admit that I'm somewhat of a runner too, but this isn't to get points, it's only because I like to get the job done.  If I drag my feet I find myself slipping into a coma and throwing the mail in the wrong boxes because I'm lost in a daydream.  But even though I consider myself a hard worker, I really don't care if you are not.  That's none of my business.  That's between you, the Postal Service, and whatever Supreme Being you call God, religious or otherwise.

In the past people have gotten on my case for working too hard, and this tends to bother me.  I believe in the mantra of an honest day's work for an honest day's pay and despite what some of the robbers think, I don't cheat.  I don't skip my lunch and breaks because, quite frankly, I don't have to.

There doesn't need to be discord between the robbers and the runners.  We get enough grief from Management as it is and there is no cause to add to that by clawing at each other's throats.  And please remember that sometimes the people we assume are runners are not really milking it as bad as we think.  For example, I used to think the carrier who had my route before me was a robber, but then when I took over I found out the route really was somewhat of a be-atch, so now I kind of regret my negative thoughts.

Incidentally this so-called "robbers" customers loved him. That's something I hope I can measure up to, and is really what it is all about, don't you think?

Picture is my own, for a change.

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