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.

What do you think - Watch the video

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