Saturday, June 25, 2016

Three Aggravating CCA Trainee Types that Make Me Wonder why The $#@! I Do This

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.


  1. I really enjoyed this post and will accept your challenge of an OJI horror story. I will also freely admit that I am know a regular but when I started as a CCA I fell somewhat into the Lost Puppy category. A large part of that reason was that I started carrying mail in a city I had only visited twice in my life and had never driven in. So I was absolutely lost and GPS was my constant companion my first 2 or 3 months. However, the OJIs in my office could not be more different and both in their own ways make it extremely difficult for CCAs to learn their new job. One insists that all mail needs to be delivered by name, not by house and street number. This is fine for regulars who have spent months or years on a route but the OJI is asking CCAs who have never done a route to deliver everything by name or not at all. The reality is that works on the OJI's route because the carrier keeps all names up to date and delivers in one of the wealthiest parts of town, where no one ever moves out and is entirely mounted. However, this is a college town, there are whole routes where only students live and with multiple CBUs that have never had names in boxes. It is an impossible request to make to new CCAs and nearly led to me being fired for taking 5 hours to do a 2 hour section that did have names up (not all of them correct) by doing it the OJI's way. The other OJI has an all walking route but carries letters in front of flats and cases in no SPRs. That means rather then having DPS in their hand and flats on their arm, this OJI carries everything on his arm, he has done it so long this way that he never misses anything but it is guaranteed that CCAs will if they carry this way. Finally both OJIs give no advice on how to organize parcels, they both know how to because they have been on their routes for years. They don't advise using the edit book to line up parcels, or take photos of the case and divide the LLV by sections using the case, or organizing by street, it is really just a free-for-all and in a college town with lots of students ordering online parcel loads on most routes (SPRs and oversized combined) are frequently more than 100 per day. I also don't say that just as a criticism I and even more veteran carriers then me have offered advice once in a while to OJIs on how to improve training but they don't listen to us and its the CCAs who suffer. I sincerely wish I could be an OJI, I know I would probably make different mistakes then the current OJI but my advice would be more relevant and helpful in making sure CCAs are not left hanging out to dry once training is done.

    1. You're right. They are asking the impossible of you. Thanks for sharing your story.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dear Anonymous---that is way too much work for parcels! I am a 30 year veteran and an OJI --- I teach them to pitch anything and everything that will fit in case. In the truck I tell them the best way (and I do this still when I do a route I don't know!) is to put the parcels in Alphabetical order by street and always take two or three streets up front at a time. Just quickly check what streets are coming up and grab them. IF you miss a short st NO problem Just go look in the back EASIEST way YOUR alphabet is your best buddy

    1. MM I know that's you when you're talking about pitching mail. I have done the same thing with parcels on an unknown route. Problem is, where I live I swear some of them don't know the alphabet. I have to keep it real simple. Thanks for checking in, my friend.