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!"

 What's in Your Mailbox, Mailbox Infestations and More - More by Mel on Hub Pages

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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.