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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Road Kill – Stories from the Post Office

Several years ago while I was still a Rural Carrier, I was helping my mom host an Elderhostel event. I never told them what I did for a living since it was irrelevant to my role. One afternoon some of the people were sitting around chatting and someone made a crack about postal workers. Another replied “Well you know, they only hire road kill at the post office”. I wanted to “out” myself right then. Earlier these same people had praised my intelligence and complimented me for my interesting presentation on California history. They were so impressed …Blah, blah, blah. What if they knew I was “road kill” too? I was outraged at the stupidity and insensitivity of such a remark. It was one of those moments in life where you stand there wondering what the right thing to do is. Stand with the underdog or pretend you don’t know him? I said nothing. But to this day I wish I could have set them straight about the incredible job postal workers do – 24/7 all over this country.
I have mixed feelings about my time in the Post Office, but I will say this: nobody knows except one who has done the job, just what it’s all about. Presently, there are nearly a million people working for the U.S. Postal Service as it is known today. Then there are the families and friends, whose lives are affected, not to mention the retirees. I’d like to share stories. Not “going postal” jokes. Although….
I never thought I’d be standing up for the Post Office. Except for one Postmaster, they were not very nice to me. I worked for them for only 8 years. But it was a job I will never forget. I’ve done many jobs in my life, but overall the Post office was the hardest. And strangely enough, the one I miss the most.
The reason I decided to start this blog was that lately, I’ve begun to see how much better things were with snail mail. Having worked for the post office, I appreciated the level of service and the job we did more. The other day, I was creating an email list of customers for my home-based business (I had to do something after the P.O. put me out after getting hit by a car and not being able to do my job anymore – more about that later) so I took the settlement money from the insurance company and started a business. I entered the list, being very careful to type everything right. I had made a point of telling everyone to write legibly – what does that mean in the modern world? – people can barely write at all. Of course I got a mailer daemon. No such address. I thought “XXXX” lost that contact! Then I remembered the post office. We used to get mail addressed to “Grandma Jones on Second St.” There was always someone who knew who that was – usually the carrier for Second St. who went on the same route everyday and knew all his/her customers. All I had to do was sort that envelope to route X and the carrier knew the rest. Not with email. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. No office of dead letters. Sent off into the ozone never to be heard from again. Now how many of you have had snail mail lost? I know there’s a joke about that – but honestly, how often has it really happened? Compare that to how many times you have had email lost. Sometimes it disappears before you even send it. The computer snags up and all is lost. Maybe that’s why email is so short. That’s all you can remember of whatever you planned to say before the computer ate it. I rest my case.
Then just two days ago another snafu that would never happen at the post office. I had ordered some software and it was being delivered by FedEx. Someone had entered my home address incorrectly, leaving off one digit. First FedEx called to say there was no such number on that street. The next day they called to say the courier (sounds more upscale than carrier – as in postal carrier) said all addresses on that street had five digits (getting better). Oh yes, they didn’t leave their phone number. It took me over an hour and several phone calls to get some help. The command center, or whatever they call it, knew my address because it was connected to my phone number, but the local “hub” didn’t have that capability. It should arrive tomorrow – 3 days late. Once again the letter carrier would: 1) have recognized my name; 2) known what the address was supposed to be; and 3) most important – delivered it anyway. So my question to you is – Are things really getting better?
I’d like to hear your postal stories.