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.