Monday, October 31, 2016
By Mel Carriere
This election season was brutal, and it's not quite over yet. Here in San Diego it seems that political mail volume soared to new heights, even as voter apathy soared to new heights along with it. Although many of us are not enthusiastic about going to the polls next Tuesday, November 8th, the mass mailers more than covered the enthusiasm gap by inundating maiboxes with a paper tsunami that literally leveled everything in its path, particularly me. All of this laborious lugging of ballots, voters guides, revisions to voters guides, and knife thin political ads ranging from postcard to poster size has sent me home exhausted and nursing deep paper cuts, every day.
The question is whether the American public, or even the candidates who benefit from this holocaust of trees, this mass defoliation of millions of acres of irreplaceable forest, thank us for our efforts spent wearing down our already impaired muscles and joints with this extra burden of paper that doesn't weigh much per piece but has your straining satchel scraping the sidewalk when you stuff the blue canvas bag so tight that the seams start to split. No, rather than express their undying gratitude for our efforts in making democracy work, they are already shouting "rigged election," and lining up to lynch a letter carrier on every street corner.
Instead of looking in the mirror and saying "I suck, I am a totally uninspiring, uncharismatic, unabashedly unprincipled, unloved, unpleasant, uncouth undesirable," failed candidates and causes are looking to throw you, just an underpaid, underappreciated underling, under the bus. Every public office-seeker keeps a stable full of scapegoats for pets to drag out bleating and head-butting in the event of failure, and one of these always has a postal logo emblazoned in bold blue letters across the horny nubs on top of its head.
The truth is, the USPS makes it easy for those aspiring to public office to complain when their favorite candidates, namely themselves, fail to top the polls. Unfortunately, sometimes things happen to the mail. It is not a perfect system, mistakes are inevitable, but their effects are magnified and multiplied when they happen in the height of the election insanity.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, an "unknown number" of absentee ballots were returned to sender because of a mistake in a mail-sorting machine. Even though "Issues such as these are isolated and the vast majority of ballots are being delivered to election officials without incident," as a Postal Service spokesman was quoted correctly as saying, some embittered nominee is going to use this incident as the reason for why he or she is not being showered with confetti or pelted with champagne corks at a post-election party.
In Denver, Colorado, an electoral college-tilting total of three voters complained that their mail ballots had been returned to them. It must have been a very slow news day over there on the Front Range of the Rockies, because the story made headlines. While not very significant in the big ballot picture, some long-faced loser will pick up this political football and run with it like Leon Lett returning a fumble in Super Bowl XXVII. Also like laughable Leon, he will ultimately fail when some political Don Beebe knocks the ball, or ballots, out of his hands just shy of the end zone. Let's face it, three votes does not an election make, but postal bashing is fun and always raises weak ratings on a day when nothing important is happening in the world.
Are there lamentable lapses that occur when politics and post office mix? Yes, but I believe these isolated incidents of mail-processing snafus ultimately balance out when mail voters show up at polling places to vote twice, as Donald Trump reportedly urged his Colorado supporters to do. Isolated incidents of mail fraud like this balance the scales of isolated incidents of lost, returned, or misplaced mail ballots, for a net effect of zero.
Meanwhile, until Super Tuesday rolls around, go home and take an Advil for your aches, spread the Icy Hot on your ills, because you sure aren't going to get any comfort from the enraged electorate or the belly-aching baby kissers.
Interview tips and more for aspiring CCAS on Tough Nickel
image from: https://cavotes.org/announcement/2014/feb/may-27-2014-last-day-request-vote-mail-ballot
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Okay, I admit I probably wasn't making good life choices when I raised my right hand back in December, 1993 for something other than to give my Billy Idol White Wedding impression. I had a wife and a year old son to take care of, the bank I was working for had gone belly up, and the Post Office money looked too damn good to say no to.. So I joined the approximately 20,000 others who piled into the Scottish Rites Center, took the test, and became one of the approximate 100 or so among the ranks of the "uneducated" who was accepted for postal employment
In retrospect, maybe it wasn't one of the most brilliant moves in my life - I often ponder the "what ifs" and "might have beens" if I had done otherwise, but here I am and there is no use crying about it now.
In spite of spending a lot of time wasting "taxpayer" dollars daydreaming, instead of working, about how things would have turned out if we had gone to Med School or taken the Bar Exam, we old school Postal Employees believe we're a pretty clever lot. The hring standards have been lowered these days, simply because the starting wages are less when you adjust for inflation (which we are not smart enough to do because we are only postal employees, after all), but back then it wasn't easy to get this job. It was a highly competitive process, and maybe only 5 or 10 out of a thousand were able to sneak through. They sold books and courses and even had classes about how to pass the test. If you were smart enough to get in, I think a little self congratulation was appropriate.
Therefore, I suppose this is why it rankles me when somebody bursts my bubble by implying that we, the proud men and women of Planet Postal - a warped little world in a skewed orbit around a dim, distant star in the uncharted regions of deep space, are less "educated" than those of obviously superior interstellar civilizations who would turn their noses askance at us. This is exactly what someone did in the comments section of one of my articles yesterday. Here's the comment:
I'm not going to share this person's real name, so let's just call him Ed, since he is obviously so"ed"ucated. Poor Ed, you just don't get the bang for your buck with a college degree anymore, do you? Back when I was coming up, you couldn't even get out of junior high, much less college, without knowing that "regretting" has two 'ts,' not one. Before we get started here, take my "advise," Ed, and recheck your resume to make sure you are not confusing the noun "advice" with the verb "advise" anywhere else. This could be why you are forced to work for the Post Office now. Some hiring managers reading your resume might actually be familiar with proper English construction. Not many, but some.
Okay, the teacher is done spell checking and otherwise grammar correcting the assignment, so now let's get down to identifying any logical fallacies in Ed's arguments.
First and foremost, Poor Ed is employing what is known as a "false premise." Dear Lord I hope Poor Ed was not planning on going to law school, or he will be eaten alive by some stern logician. A false premise is "an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism." In this case, Ed is incorrectly proposing that nobody in the Postal Service has a college degree. What he has failed to investigate is that the corridors of Post Offices across the land are littered with pieces of paper proclaiming academic achievement that mostly get swept up and thrown out by the custodian, along with plastic bundle straps and broken rubber bands.
Indeed, there are plenty of broken dreams of unfulfilled potential here in the Postal Service. Many of us have, or know a coworker who has a pretty framed degree hanging on the wall at home that gradually gets moved further and further into the inner, scarcely visited rooms of the house as it becomes a source of ever more embarrassing questions. Could be that Ed's future postal boss also has one of these eye-catching, but largely useless decorations that he or she doesn't like to talk about? It is possible that Ed's trainer has one too.
Which causes me to wander off the point to speculate about the value of a college degree these days. In this day and age when "free trade" agreements have caused good paying jobs to be outsourced to low paid workers in other countries, everybody is going to school to try and get a better paycheck. From what my feeble Postal brain grasped from the laws of supply and demand in college Economics class (Yes Ed! - I have a piece of paper too, how remarkable), as the supply of any given commodity goes up, its price, or value, goes down, everything else being equal. Which means, in plain English, that these pretty pieces of paper don't mean squat when everybody has one, which is probably why Poor Ed is looking for a job in the Post Office now.
I wish Ed all the best. I harbor him no ill will or rancor. I just wish he would get over himself and get some wisdom to go along with that impressive degree he has hanging on the wall. I wish he would stop making unwarranted assumptions about people based on what he perceives to be the skill level of their jobs. I wish he would learn some humility, because if he walks into a Post Office with this attitude he will be humbled more quickly and painfully than is probably good for his delicate, developing ego.
And one other thing I wish. I wish Ed would take my "advise" and learn to speak English.
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Wednesday, July 20, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Stevie Wonder just called to say I love you. Postal Customers check in sometimes too, just to let letter carriers know. Not to let us know that they love us, necessarily, but to pass along what's going on in their mail-related lives, to give us a heads up about what sort of exciting, life-altering manna from Postal Heaven might be dropping into their mailboxes. They pass along a friendly little smile on a sticky note, but the X-ray vision of any experienced Postman can see the dripping, snarling fangs issuing a dire warning from behind the cute upturned corners of that ink drawn grin.
You see such a preemptive epistle in the photo above. Translated into non-postal English, it can be summarized as: Hey dumbs**t, I'm expecting my check, so don't f**k it up!
I get the point, Fabian, you sticky note scribbler extraordinaire. I understand your angst. You need to get paid, just like I do, and you are in a high state of anxiety because of it. But there are a few problems presented by the way you have chosen to bare your soul on a post-it.
First of all, when your Social Security Check finally rolls in through the inter-dimensional magic of mail delivery, it will probably have your last name on it too. I don't think it will just say FABIAN above the address line. I could be wrong, but I think most of the time the Social Security Department, as well as most other US Government institutions, require a last name. If you don't have a last name, you might want to think about getting one. I know you were in a frenzy of fretfulness when you penned me this lovely note, but if it turns out you do have a last name, you should have included that on the note. Yeah, the barn door is open and the cows are already out, not much we can do about it now - but in the one in 17 billion chance you randomly stumble across this blog on the Internet, please update the sticky with all the pertinent information.
The next somewhat troublesome thing I was wondering about, Dear Fabian, is what do you think I would do with your anxiously anticipated Social Security check if you neglected to write me a sticky note to let me know it was coming? Stamp it up NO STICKY NOTE and return it to sender, even if the address is completely correct; then chuckle mirthfully about it with my coworkers? Ha! That silly old huckster Fabian forgot to give me a sticky note for his Social Security Check! - after which we all roll on the floor in belly shaking spasms of laughter, because all America knows that nothing makes Letter Carriers happier than making our customers' lives miserable by returning their checks to sender.
There is one more small problem that is making it difficult for me to deliver your Social Security Check, Fabian, in spite of your sticky note, or maybe because of it. Seems like in your rush to get this life-sustaining information to me, you almost completely covered up your address on the mailbox. It wasn't so much the sticky note per se, but the blue painting tape you used. You really went to town with that blue painting tape.
Contrary to popular opinion, most esteemed Fabian, letter carriers don't deliver via telepathy. Some of us like to see the addresses on the boxes we are delivering to. It...um, kind of helps.
Of course, I'm the regular, so I know pretty much which box is which, but say I'm off the day that your patiently awaited check comes in, and the person delivering my route can't read the addresses because of blue painting tape, duct tape, welding flux, or whatever other adhesive device you have chosen to affix the sticky note with?
This brings up two more widespread myths embraced by the American Public about letter carriers that you, Dear Fabian, might also subscribe to. 1. - The day we are hired, we are expected to memorize the approximate 155 million addresses in the United States. This is why, when we're out delivering mail and a person from out of town stops and asks us where an address five zip codes away is and we say we don't know, he looks at us like we are either stupid, or lying.
2 - The second myth is that the same letter carrier delivers the same route 365 days a year, including Sundays and holidays.
Because of these popular mailman myths, Fabian, you are thinking that my substitute mailman will be able to deliver your check regardless of whether he can see the number or not.
Hate to burst your bubble, but neither of these myths are true. It is flattering, Fabian, that you think we are capable of such prodigious feats of memory, along with superhuman stamina to be able to work around the clock, every day of the year, but these things are just urban legend, not reality.
The reality is that we only have to memorize half the addresses in the United States. But we still have a problem, Fabian, because I have it on good authority that your particular address is not included in the half that my day-off guy had to memorize.
Sorry Fabian. S.O.L, I guess. But here's a sideways smile back to you, if that helps. :)
Keeping track of 155 million addresses is exhausting, so Mel requires a lot of expensive, high grade coffee to keep going. To help Mel buy it, please investigate what his sponsors have to say.
More by Mel on Hub Pages - Warning to all CCAs thinking about crossing over to the dark side. READ THIS FIRST1
Saturday, June 25, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Training day is upon us. The kids are growing up and making regular, which is a wonderful thing. I am proud of my CCA children and happy to see them prosper in the Postal Service, but this also means I have to break out of my comfort zone and train their replacements that are being sent down the pipe my way. The older we grumpy old farts get, the less we enjoy baby sitting for three days.
And yet I carry on with these extra, largely unrewarded, generally frustrating duties, for reasons I can't really put my finger on. At one point I said yes, and since then I'm probably too much of a coward, or maybe too much of a masochist to say stop it I've had enough. Physical beatings aren't really my kink, but I do have this peculiar propensity to endure psychological abuse with a smile, particularly if the abuser is of the fairer sex.
Don't get me wrong, it hasn't always been bad. There are times when I have had wonderfully low maintenance CCA trainees that I could have completely trusted the route to while I napped under a tree. But then there are days during my stint as an On the Job Instructor (OJI) when I would like to do a Denzel on them. In case you haven't seen the movie, this means driving the CCA to a crack-house full of shotgun-wielding, tattooed gangsters and leaving him there.
After a few dozen aggravating CCA Trainees have come your way they begin to classify themselves into neat little categories. The scientific laws of statistics, or perhaps some weird voodoo hexing numerology thing, means that OJIs begin to observe repeated patterns. Therefore, in the interest of continued CCA scientific research, I thought I would publish some of my findings here. Perhaps your observations corroborate my own, or maybe all of your CCA trainees have been postal precocious little angels that overwhelm you with their intelligence and ability to follow instructions. In that case, not only do I hate you, but what follows is not for you. For the rest of us, we OJIs who are busy yanking bald spots out of our graying scalps, here are three particularly aggravating CCA trainee types. This is not intended to be an inclusive list, only a sample.
Management Fast Track - Perhaps the CCA trainee type that makes me roll my eyes the most and wonder how the hell I ever got into this is Mr. or Ms. Management Fast Track - the trainee who was just s**t out of the fetid bowels of CCA Academy, but still prances onto the workroom floor the first day already thinking he's in charge, that the three days of training is just a formality, that management is instantly going to recognize his sagacity and wisdom, hand over the clipboard, and leave him to run the show with his CCA diapers still showing.
The peculiar thing about Management Fast Trackers is that these are usually the dumbest trainees to roll down the CCA reject line. In a CCA trainee dozen, Fast Track is the one broken shell egg sticking to the side of the cardboard carton. No matter how hard you jiggle him, he just can't be moved from his obdurate position of how the mail should be delivered, even though he knows nothing about it.
Management Fast Track will try to impress you with tales of his previous leadership positions. He was kimono coordinator at Benihanas, he was second director of bean grinding in a Starbucks, he was deputy chief of fry slicing at a hamburger stand. Although all of these positions look admittedly impressive on a resume, the fact that none of them relate to postal operations is irrelevant to our Fast Tracker.
But Fast Tracker will not listen to your words of accumulated experience when you are trying to explain how to do the job. Instead, he will cut you off in mid sentence, then proceed to screw everything up.
Once while demonstrating how to line up parcels in the back of the LLV to one particularly irksome Fast Tracker, he nudged me aside and crawled up into the back of the vehicle. "You look like you're 109 years old," he told me. "Let me do it."
On this Fast Tracker's first day on his own, it took him 9 hours to do a three hour chunk of a route. Meanwhile, as Fast Tracker was out delivering in the dark, that 109 year old carrier, who carried his entire route and probably an hour off of another, was already home drinking a beer.
Lost Puppy - Lost Puppy is that particularly frustrating CCA Trainee type who can't find the bathroom without a GPS device or a map. Lost Puppy is sincere enough, and really tries to do his best, but when you send him out to deliver a parcel it takes him 45 minutes to find the house, then he gets lost on the way back. A certified letter two houses back is a 30 minute proposition; you have absolutely no idea what he is doing back there. Did the scanner freeze? Did a kindly elderly woman offer to bake him cookies in exchange for lending an ear to her hip replacement updates? Did the mini-pack of Chihuahuas you warned him about drag him into the back yard, where he is being slowly devoured? Worse yet, or maybe better yet when you think about it, did he throw down his satchel in frustration and go home?
The inexplicable thing about Lost Puppy is that, although he clings tenaciously to your shadow and intrudes uncomfortably into your comfort zone while afoot - to the point that you almost trip over him when you back up a step; when Lost Puppy follows you in another postal vehicle he takes the concept of space cushion to new extremes of ridiculousness. He drives so far back that you have to squint to see the faint glint of the sun reflecting off of his LLV's windshield in your rearview mirror. Time and again you are forced to pull over and wait for him to catch up - idling impatiently while five mile long freight trains that have come beneath your respective vehicles pass by, or else the entire student body of the High School down the road lets out and swallows him up amoeba-like in a creeping blob of traffic.
Foot Soldier - Foot Soldier seems to be decidedly allergic to his postal vehicle. CCA Academy has so thoroughly terrorized him about the potential calamities that can occur behind the wheel that just walking into the parking lot to do a vehicle check sends him into a panic attack. I have seen Foot Soldier making the sign of the evil eye at his LLV, or even splashing the steering wheel with holy water.
Trying to get Foot Soldier to drive to different parts of the route, instead of walking, is a worse ordeal than taking a three year old into the doctor for shots. He would rather walk three city blocks to do the next swing than risk the nightmarish horrors of motorized transportation. "It's okay, I got this," Foot Soldier cheerfully insists before trudging off on a half mile hike, his heavily laden satchel practically dragging on the ground.
Even after Foot Soldier begrudgingly accepts the naked truth that sooner or later he is going to have to drive a mail truck, he will do so only reluctantly, and sparingly. I have stumbled upon foot soldier delivering a parcel while parked halfway down the block from the house. As he trudged up a long hill to drop off the huge package, I was reminded of one of those determined ants you see straining beneath the weight of a stone ten times its size.
I realize that in sending this article out into the Postal Universe I am going to ruffle the feathers of some CCA fledglings. You think we Trainees are so bad Mel, someone is going to say, but you should see that guy who trained me. That drowsy old fart was a real piece of work . He didn't teach me anything except how to hide and let other people do his work.
Okay, fair enough. I accept the challenge, I throw down the gauntlet. Give me your best OJI horror story in the comments section below.
Since alcohol consumption is prohibited on the clock, the only way Mel can dull the pain of a frustrating three days of training is through copious quantities of Starbuck's coffee, which is still expensive, in spite of Bernie's best efforts to fight for a government subsidy. To help the Tsunami stay afloat in a tidal wave of caffeine, please see what Mel's sponsors on this page have to say.
Contrary to what is suggested by the above movie still, I have never pulled a gun on a CCA trainee, although a few would swear that if looks could kill I would have been lugging their corpse back with the outgoing mail. This is not me in the above picture. The Photo is from the 2001 movie Training Day, with Denzel Washington.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
By Mel Carriere
I'm sure that if you work for the Post Office your Mailbox is flooded with Postal propaganda designed to boost your employee morale by reassuring you that our leaders are wise, enlightened people who have weighed their decisions carefully and have a firm grip on the reins. These newsletters are decorated with pictures of employees who seem to be so happy going about their daily duties that they would probably work for free, if allowed to. This, of course, is their desired effect, to hypnotize you into thinking that it is such a privilege working for the PO that you really don't need to be asking for more money when contract time rolls around.
The colorful bulletins - sometimes spewed out from the Area Office, sometimes by the District, are so littered with lies, misrepresentations, and half-truths that they would make Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels shake his head with shame if he was still alive, and not rotting in one of the nine circles of hell.
This mailbox littering, straight to recycle bin fodder I refer to as the District Dementia; not because I'm making fun of Alzheimer's victims, but because this tree killing waste of paper is really out of touch with reality, makes me shake my head too - not with shame but with disbelief. On Page 5 there is a photo of a new Postmaster being sworn in. She looks incredibly wise and benevolent standing there raising her right hand, but having personally made her acquaintance I know she is neither of these things. On Page 8 there is a diagram of some trendy pie in the sky abstraction called the 5-S system. Did we give up on six sigma and are now subtracting because smaller numbers are better for small minds? The 5-S flavor of the month announces that it involves employee participation, which elicits a chuckle from my cynical head, because Postal Service and employee participation mix together like Trump and Sanders supporters at an Albuquerque Cinco de Mayo fiesta.
The photo on Page 3 is the most egregious of all. This is the one that really rankles me, because it shows a Postal Employee standing up in the rear compartment of one of the new Promaster vehicles, which the Dementia proudly proclaims to be "State of the Art." The letter carrier in the picture is grinning so widely it looks like his face will split in two if he gets any happier. Somebody probably just told him a dirty joke, and the Dementia photographer happened to be walking by just as he was giggling at it. He can't be smiling because he is actually happy driving this beast. There's no way.
Neither the Promaster or the Postmaster particularly inspired me, in this Dementia issue.
Here is a direct quote of some of the Dementia's lies and made up facts about the Promaster:
With our demand and schedule of the cargo vans that are on the road for a minimum of eight hours per day, facilitating stop-and-go deliveries and retrievals of packages, and operating in all types of weather conditions (Incomplete sentence not mine - Mel). Our specifications for replacement vehicles included: an increased cubic capacity to accommodate a changing mail mix, as well as improvements for operator efficiency, ergonomic benefits, and the higher roof and better access to the rear cargo area. The cargo vans had to be customized to accommodate our fleet's specific needs, such as form holders and mail trays.
I have had the misfortune of driving the Promaster, so my experience is not of the "wishful thinking" variety, as is the case of most of the new postal systems lauded by the Dementia and other self-congratulatory rags published by the Postal Service. Here is my personal review:
- The Promaster does not, as stated, facilitate "...deliveries and retrievals of packages." The thing is as long and cumbersome as a battleship to park, and you have to exit on the traffic side of the street. This is a dangerous feat, as are other negative features. For one, even though UPS big brown blocks off entire parking lots to deliver one shoe box size package, we are not supposed to double park, which I don't know how the hell is possible with this Promaster dinosaur.
- Climbing down from behind the wheel is difficult, not to mention a safety hazard. There is a huge step down (more like a flying leap), on the driver's side, and a thin running bar on the passenger side that you can easily miss if you have big feet. My driving instructor actually slipped and fell on this while he was showing me what a bitchin' safety feature it was. Furthermore, if you have old, painful postal knees like me, climbing down the nose bleeding distance from the driver's seat to the Earth's surface is something like rappelling down the north face of Everest. It's not a user friendly small step for mankind, like in the LLV.
- I will admit to the increased cargo space, but it comes at a cost, because it ain't easy to climb up to access it. As I mentioned in the previous bullet, you almost need mountaineering gear to make it safely up that running board into the cargo compartment.
- Ergonomic? Are you kidding? Okay, if you are a sugared-up CCA straight out of kindergarten you can probably bounce up into the cargo space to fetch your mail, but as for us old timers ravaged by years of pounding, bumpy, grinding pavement, crawling up there to get a package off one of the shelves is a painful proposition; a four Advil affair on a good day.
- Outside of the considerable package delivery difficulties I mentioned earlier, if I had been in a perfect postal paradise with no parcels I wouldn't have had particular problems parking the day I drove it. A coworker of mine, however, with a Promaster permanently assigned to his route told me that on garbage day and Saturdays all bets are off. Sometimes he has to rearrange swings to get the mail delivered, because he just can't squeeze it in.
- Where are the advertised mail trays? They vanished somewhere in the Dementia's brain fog, where I am sure you could find the elusive, mythical ergonomic features too, swimming side by side with Nessie in that Loch Ness of wishful thinking.
Who the hell talks like this? Sounds like it was cut and pasted directly from the Promaster sales pitch, because they couldn't reprint the off color joke he was really smiling at.
Oh - there is one good thing about the Dementia and similar other raving rubbish - it's fun to go through and see if any of the satisfied, smiling faces are people you know. It's the postal version of Where's Waldo.
Have you been tempted by an offer to move up to Postal Supervisor? Read Mel's latest on Tough Nickel before you leap:
In order to endure the painful ordeal of crawling into the Promaster to review it for you, Mel needs lots of pricey coffee. Being the self-indulgent narcissist that he is, he is never satisfied with mere Folgers, but has to show off to his friends by drinking Starbucks. Please show your appreciation for his constant sacrifices by clicking on his ads.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Mel is mobile again! He's got his wheels and hopefully his mojo back. I apologize to my faithful readers, but I was away on a kind of self-induced tsunami sabbatical, caused by transportation issues and a sort of mental hibernation that accompanied it. Now that I'm rolling once more I feel saucy enough to refer to myself in the third person again.
The eye-rolling monotony of postal existence has not changed since I wrote my last blog post three months ago. Supervisors are still repeating the same stupid things at the same insipid, wearisome stand-up talks. I could blog their inane absurdities every day, but then my posts would quickly resemble the repetitious drivel they spew out. You get paid for enduring them, but not for reading me, so I'll spare you.
Needless to say, I've been at a loss for ideas, but if you do any kind of writing you know that you can always count on some idiot to come along and bust you out of your writer's block - kind of like Michelangelo dynamiting a block of marble and producing the Pieta. This is hardly the Pieta - it's more like the obscene garden statue I saw of a troll scratching himself, but it operates on the same general principle.
My sudden burst of inspiration took place in a Target store a couple of evenings ago. Target has taken a lot of heat lately, simply because they want to try and make people comfortable in the bathroom. I don't want to join in on the Target bashing. I like Target, I shop at Target frequently, but they really have to rein in some of their maverick employees.
I was standing cooling my heels in a nearly empty Target checkout line while some kid cashier wasted his time, and mine, trying to flirt with a lady who looked old enough to be his mother. He was attempting to seduce her by explaining the complexities of his Target Point of Sale System. When he had exhausted his repertoire of nerdy amorous advances this admirably patient woman was finally able to escape and I, at long last, was able to step up and pay.
As I approached the register I got a closer look at the twerp, and pretty much saw what I expected to see. The kid looked like he took second place in a Harry Potter look alike contest; like he didn't win because he was a little short and pudgy and had a pimple on his forehead instead of a bitchin' lightning bolt scar. His glasses were of the thick frame, pointy end variety we used to call "birth control" in the Navy, because they scare away most women. This is a real optometry term - if you Google or Bing it you'll get dozens of four-eyed dorks.
As I paid, the little twit tried to sell me on the advantages of saving 5% by signing up for a Target card. I understand he has to do this because Target big brother in the back room is watching; but that's not while I'm calling him a twit. You'll understand my choice of pejoratives in a moment.
I told Not Quite Ready for Hogwarts boy that while I wasn't interested in his card, could I please get an application for someone else to send in via the mail.
"Who do you want it for?" he said in a snotty, surly tone that he definitely didn't use on the God Bless You Please Mrs. Robinson standing in line ahead of me that he had been trying to impress. His inappropriate intonation sort of took me aback.
Although I didn't think it was any of his damn business who I wanted it for, I told Gryffindor Quidditch team reject that it was for my son. I did not add, because I shouldn't have to, that the kid is trying to establish some credit so he can finance an automobile. At the moment, he is content borrowing Dad's car and not making payments, so if I don't set the application in front of him he won't do it.
"He can apply here or online," the bug-eyed brat said. He handed me a flyer with the directions on it.
"What about the mail?" I insisted. "Can he mail it in?"
"Yes, he can do it at home on the computer," this obviously wand-less boy wizard replied.
"No, I mean the U.S. mail," I repeated carefully and slowly so that the idea would penetrate his brain, which was obviously so cluttered with Target-sanctioned mantras that he had forgotten how to analyze information for himself.
With an obstinance that would make Lord Voldemort throw down his wand and give up, Harry Potter's rejected evil twin, probably abandoned as a baby in a Diagon Alley dumpster, laughed and said to me, "Oh, I didn't even think they had a mail service anymore."
I was wearing my Postal Uniform.
Still standing stunned in front of the register, I couldn't help but wonder what he used those big, thick glasses for, because he obviously couldn't see straight. Maybe he couldn't fly his broom straight either, which is why he worked at Target instead of chasing golden snitches on the pro circuit. Filled with righteous indignation, meaning I was a little pissed off , I sort of barked back at him. "Listen, I work for the Postal Service. I bust my ass delivering the mail everyday." Did I really say ass? I can't remember. I hope not, but it's possible. I was kind of fired up.
"Oh, so that's why you want to use the mail," he said with a stupid sneer and snicker.
"No, that's not why," I started, but it was pointless to continue. I gave up, grabbed my merchandise and left.
This is what we're up against, Postal People. In spite of Target's costly computer hacks, they still insist on doing everything online. Not only that, but they would prefer to take all of your sensitive personal data right there at the store, to have you trust it to the safe keeping of Harry Potter boy, who not only failed Defense Against the Dark Arts, but I'm pretty sure flunked out in Potions class too.
All the stores are doing this. I tried Sears and Macy's, and got the same confused looks from everybody, like they wondered what planet I was from, asking for an application to send in via the mail.
I live on Planet Postal, if you really want to know, and I'm proud of it too. Go ahead - give your social security number to some four-eyed flunkee if you want, I'm going down the road to buy some stamps.
More by Mel on Hub Pages - How to Follow the Mail when The Mail Won't Move
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Thursday, February 18, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Every day postal employees are literally beaten to near unconsciousness by safety propaganda, to the point where they are literally slipping, tripping and falling over a perilous obstacle course of posters, videos, and mind numbing management blabber related to safety in the workplace.
Now I'm not here to tell you safety is unimportant. Unfortunately for those of us who are rolling our eyes and banging our heads against the metal sides of our letter cases during those interminably monotonous water boarding sessions known as stand up talks, people do need reminders, because a lot of folks think they are living on a separate plain of reality in some Einsteinian parallel universe where the laws of physics do not apply to them. Even if you tell these people 20 times a day "put on your seat belt," even if you imbed a nerve wracking electronic voice in their scanner with this message on continuous loop, tomorrow you will catch them driving untestrained through an intersection with the door open. So yes, I concede that while reminders are annoying, they are important.
No, my main gripe is not how safety is stressed, but how it is used. We have a supervisor who repeats the perpetual mantra "I don't want to have to tell your family members..." like it's on a rosary. She will swiftly and mercilessly punish you for safety infractions, especially if she doesn't like you. On the other hand, if she's in a bind, she doesn't have any problems making or letting you work when you are injured.
In other words, my question is, are postal supervisors truly committed to our safety, or are they only paying lip service to the concept, perhaps using it as a justification for discipline while completely ignoring it when convenient?
Here's a couple true stories as anecdotal evidence:
One of our carriers tripped on a manhole cover, severely injured a muscle or tendon, and was out for months. He could barely walk, but when he got back to the office after the injury the supervisor had him split the route before going to the doctor. Safety first!
Another terrible tale from the Postal X-Files of the unbelievable: Even more recently, a letter carrier was bonked on the head when lowering the top gate of an APC. He bled severely and profusely. Not knowing what had happened, while going to the bathroom that day I saw bright red drops of blood leading to the sink. Hansel and Gretel could have followed these through the forest and they wouldn't have had the problem of birds eating the bread crumbs. The supervisor worked him a couple more hours casing routes before he left for medical treatment. Turns out he had to get staples in his head.
Admittedly, the injured employees have more than a measure of blame here. They should have told the supervisor "No I'm hurt and I'm leaving," or better yet, insisted that someone call an ambulance. But then again, about 90 percent of we human beings have this damnably dangerous trait of not wanting to displease people, even as the custodian is mopping up our life's blood behind us. Supervisors know this instinctively and take full advantage of it.
So what's it gonna be, Madame Supervisor? Does my safety really matter, or is it just one more thing you're going to beat me over the head with? I need to know, because I don't want to tell my family I'm flat on my back for six months because you didn't do the right thing.
Mel Carriere is notoriously unsafe while scribbling the Postal Tsunami without coffee. If you don't want to be accidentally jabbed by his finely honed nib pen, please help him buy coffee by clicking on his ads.
Mel's latest on Hub Pages
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
By Mel Carriere
Have you ever been in a situation so inescapably dull that you think time is standing still, or even going backwards, as if the person or people responsible for locking you in some dismal, inescapable vortex that makes you feel as futile as that spider trying to swim out of the whirlpool in your draining bathroom sink had somehow sucked you into a space-time wormhole where history endlessly repeats itself?
Okay, stop and take a breath from that exhausting run-on sentence. Already you're thinking I'm trying to mystify you with poetic hyperbole, and while that may be partially true, the paragraph above is exactly what the stand up talks in our post office have become.
You call them service talks, I call them stand up talks. Shakespeare said that a pile of steaming dog turds with your foot in it by any other name would stink just as bad. The only difference between them is the term you use in whatever postal dialect you speak in Upstate New York, or out there on the dead armadillo strewn Oklahoma panhandle.
Wherever you may work across this great Postal nation, the content of these long-winded harangues, however, is essentially the same. Those of us who grew up in the 70s remember watching reruns of the same tired cop shows over and over again, because - and brace yourself children, we didn't have Netflix to switch to, and we couldn't even pop in a DVD. Postal stand up talks are something like that - an endless loop of Gilligan's Island reruns with no Ginger or Mary Ann for eye candy.
When you have a narcissistic station manager who likes to hear herself talk, even though she really doesn't speak English, it makes the stand up talks even more insufferable. This lady insists on giving a daily stand up talk, simply because "That's my style," she says.
Problem is, there are only so many ways you can repeat the same lie before people catch on that you think they're stupid and you're trying to pull a fast one. "The mail is light," for instance, means the same thing as "volume is low," which means the same thing as "total deliverable pieces is under reference." They're all the same fib, and it's even worse when you can't pronounce the falsehood within the standards of accepted English usage.
Yet once the station manager provides a soapbox, it creates a mind-numbing chain reaction down the row of stupidity dominoes. It seems there are always one or two blowhards in every station equally in love with what they see in their own cracked mirrors every day, and these folks will readily avail themselves of the opportunity to see who can ask the stupidest question.
If a dumb question does not immediately come to mind, rest assured that the determined postal stand up talk blowhard will find a way to speak, nonetheless, often by rearranging or paraphrasing the words of the preceding speaker. "Let me reiterate on what he said," or "I want to jump in on what she said, " or my personal favorite, "allow me to piggyback on what they just said."
The word piggyback has become the most overused term in the dictionary of Postal English, which was not written by me or my station manager,who does not speak English. I've said that before, but I thought I would reiterate, or jump in, or piggyback on that thought, since everybody else is.
My frustration with the recycled, rehashed, repeated postal stand up talk has grown to the point where I will ask you politely never to use the word piggyback in my presence, unless you are a cute chick in a bikini who wants to start up a chicken fight in the swimming pool.
Before you know it, with all the jumping in and piggybacking going on, a five minute stand up talk has turned into 15 or 20 minutes. Meanwhile, surprise surprise, the mail has not been casing or delivering itself. But if you try to use a long stand up talk as a justification for overtime your supervisor looks at you like you're speaking Swahili.
I understand that stand up talks, or service talks, or whatever other nifty name you want to put on this compost heap of regurgitated information, are sometimes important. I just wish that every once in a while somebody would have something new and fresh, perhaps even interesting to say.
But in the meantime, as the meme says, I just rolled my eyes so hard I saw my brain.
Photo of Mel's flooded route by Mel Carriere, who is not a photographer and will never be one.
Mel's latest Postal Customers from Hell, on Hub Pages
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Monday, January 18, 2016
It was a grueling holiday season but guess what - we made it happen! The scuttlebutt around the office is that Amazon is giving us a lot of extra FedEx and UPS business as a result of our stellar Christmas performance, so the fun continues! Parcels remain abundant even as the holidays have wound down. Anyhow, I am sorry for neglecting my blog, but with long hours and no days off it is sometimes hard to write. Pathetic excuses aside, I proceed with the Postal Tsunami's first offering for 2016, which I hope will be a great year for you and I both.
I haven't been secretive about the fact that I was in management for a while, four years of that spent on a detail assignment that had nothing to do with beating up letter carriers. When I did decide to try the 204B thing, it was only on an experimental basis, and I did it based on the misguided assumption that I could make a difference for the better. Because crappy people of limited intelligence taking supervisory positions is the cause of the whole lousy labor/management relationship, I thought that maybe if I did it I could make a difference for the better. I felt a sense of duty to use my talents to help change the situation. But then I discovered that management didn't care about my theoretical intelligence, or about anybody fixing a broken system. They just wanted a butt that could fill a seat without complaining too much, and somebody they could place the blame on when necessary. The situation was hopeless, so I abandoned ship in an inflatable life raft before my soul could sink into complete oblivion.
True confessions aside, I'll get on with the story. When I was on a detail assignment back in those days, one of the things our office did was damage control whenever a zero bundle was reported. For those of you who are unaware of the Postal Service's once vital, but now woefully neglected EXFC system, I will give you a little primer on it, to the extent of my own spotty knowledge of how the process really works. From what I understand, our auditing company Price-Waterhouse places bundles of mail into collection boxes, then measures what percentage of these letters arrive overnight in a certain local delivery territory, usually comprising a metropolitan area. When none of these letters arrive overnight it is called a zero bundle, and it sets off deafening alarms in the Operations Department. Not actual audible alarms with flashing red lights, but the effect is exactly the same. People scramble for battle stations, and an immediate investigation is launched to see who is responsible. The culprit is usually a letter carrier who didn't pick up a collection box, or a manager who didn't assign a letter carrier to pick up a collection box. Of course the manager will always s**t on some letter carrier and say so and so was supposed to do it but didn't. I have heard, although have never seen it for myself, that sometimes a manager has a copy of the collection box scan in his desk and, when in a pinch, will scan it without actually having anybody check the box. This trick has probably changed since we got GPS on the new scanners. Whatever the case, a letter carrier will almost always get blamed and the manager will get a promotion for being resourceful. You know how it goes.
EXFC used to be very important in general, and zero bundles in particular had to be avoided like an Ebola victim bleeding out in your bathtub. I know that's a horribly vivid comparison, but it's the most appropriate one I could think of on short notice. The times they are a changin' since the downgrading of first class mail that took place last year, however, and as proof I offer up my own recent EXFC experiment, which I dejectedly report resulted in another zero bundle. It didn't set off any virtual alarms in any virtual Operations Departments, but it does demonstrate how crappy first class mail has now become, for lack of a better technical term.
Early last week I finally got around to finishing the Christmas thank you notes for customers who were thoughtful towards me during the holiday season. Wednesday morning I put 20 stamped thank-yous in the outgoing mail slot of my neighborhood CBU. On Thursday I went to work anticipating that I would be delivering at least most of them on my route as I made my rounds. I work about eleven miles from where I work, so it should have been an EXFC slam dunk. Instead, my letters laid a big goose egg, a huge zero bundle with a capital Z. None of them came in on Thursday. Not a single sad and lonely little thank you note came trickling down the first class pipeline.
I found this strange and disappointing, because in Xmas 2014 every last one of them arrived overnight. Patiently I waited for Friday, thinking that maybe the regular was off on Thursday and had failed to check the outgoing mail. That would be a poor excuse for a lack of overnight performance, but better than accepting the horrible reality that our first class mail standards are now abysmally inadequate; incapable of serving the American Public as we are sanctioned to do.
Still nothing on Friday. Snail-Mail was no longer a mostly jokingly used metaphor, it was the literal truth. I had visions of sluggish gastropods painstakingly lugging my little thank you notes down from the plant with agonizing slowness, little blue eagles painted on the sides of their curvy shells.
Saturday I was pleased to discover that my thank-you notes had not been lost in the mail. They finally oozed down their slimy path to our Post Office; or at least 19 of them did. One is still missing, perhaps not having been unloaded from the curled cargo compartment of some particularly lethargic slug-related invertebrate. That thank you note is still in transit, and since today is a holiday, won't get there until tomorrow (hopefully), 6 days after my eager fingers first deposited it in the outgoing mail.
6 days used to be considered bad performance for a letter to traverse the country, much less eleven miles in a city crisscrossed by ample, open freeways, and prowled by stressed out delivery employees who regularly exceed the speed limit.
I did notice that the postmarks on my overdue thank-you notes said January 14th. That could mean that somebody did fail to pick them up on the 13th, the day I deposited them. Even so, they still should have rolled in on the 15th, at least most of them. Instead, they got trapped somewhere in the postal drain between Chula Vista and San Diego - a nasty first class sinkhole as clogged as the still broken toilet in our men's restroom (another blog, another time), and they didn't drip in until the 16th.
Meanwhile, sometimes Amazon packages don't show up until 11 AM, and they still have to be sorted by the clerks and delivered by the carriers. I've done that topic to death, so I'll let it rest, leaving you with the concept of "skewed priorities" to chew on today, as you grow old by your mailbox waiting for your delayed W-2s to roll in. Happy belated New Year from the Tsunami!
The above image, which is not me but very well could be, comes from: https://theycallmejane.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/snail-mail-it-does-a-heart-good/
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