Thursday, February 18, 2016

Postal Safety Lip Service - Strange and Gory Tales from the Postal X-Files

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.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Slow Motion, Eye Rolling Stand-up Talks

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.

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