Saturday, July 1, 2017

Part Three - Chapter One – Going Postal

In July last year, the Tennessee Haymers all flew back to Los Angeles for the marriage of my niece, Emily, to another Max (Boigon). Meanwhile, Max Haymer’s wife, Amy, was almost nine months pregnant. Maybe we could kill two birds with one stone and be there when she popped. We got our wish. On the day before we flew back to Nashville, Amy and Max Haymer had a little baby girl, Lucy, and, of course, she is the sweetest little thing on earth. How about that, I’m a great uncle. Well, maybe not so great, but really good.
Jonathan, our oldest son, came back from China that same month and met us in Los Angeles and was able to attend the wedding and be there for the birth of little Lucy. The timing couldn’t have been better. I was so happy to see him – we all were. He looked great even though his hair was almost military short. At this time, he was in his last month of college at MTSU. He changed his major from engineering to global studies since the classes he took in China reflected that course of study. Being so sick of school; he wants it to be over as soon as possible. Just wait until you get out into the real world of business, my son, and you will miss the comfort and security of being in school. I hope he finds a great career using his skills as an entrepreneur and a lad almost fluent in Mandarin.
  In September, with the book completed and my musical career at a standstill, I decided to get a real job. It had been long enough. Donna had been carrying the financial burden for way too long and it was time for me to contribute. Better late that never. I had gone to the local post office here in Thompson Station and after talking to Brad, the man at the counter, about job opportunities. He suggested I go online and check out the USPS website. I did, and got a job a month or two later.
At first, the job seemed all right. I was in training and helping Emily, the fifty-something, stressed-out, postal lady on route 25. It covered two subdivisions, Canterbury and Tollgate. I don’t know how she did it in the time allotted, which was 8.4 hours. If it weren’t for me helping with the Amazon packages, I don’t thing she would have finished the route in less than twelve.
Before I got my postal legs, I had to train in the Nashville facility for a few days. I didn’t mind, they not only paid fifteen buck an hour in the classroom, but also for the mileage to get there and back. I thought it might be a sweet deal. Boy oh boy, was I ever wrong about that!
In the training, they stresses safety this and safety that. Safety, as you probably guessed, was the main priority. Not so! Since they didn’t have a postal van for me to drive, I was notified that I had to use my own vehicle, a Toyota Sienna minivan, sit in the passenger seat and drape my left arm and leg across the console. This, in my humble opinion, isn’t the safest thing in the world. I was advised to get a “suicide knob” for my steering wheel, that way I could do broad turns with my left hand. I went to Tractor Supply, bought one for twelve bucks, and installed it right away. I also purchased a flashing light which attached to the roof by magnets. I was all set.
Since the USPS made a deal with Amazon to deliver their packages, you wouldn’t believe how many there were; especially over Christmas. Sometimes I had to make three, even four trips from the post office to my route. With just the packages alone, I was out more than ten hours. I couldn’t imagine doing this route for real, even if I started at dawn I would never make back until dark.
Let me explain something about being a postal carrier. Do you think it’s just delivering mail and packages? Wrong! The first thing you do is remove the trays of mail and bring it to your little three-by-five foot cubby hole. Fortunately, the mail is sorted by address, and if your really good, you can take the trays right to your vehicle (with the packages, magazines and flyers, and what-have-you) and go right to your route. Very few carriers can do this since you are sorting and driving at the same time. Safe? I don’t think so. You think texting and driving is bad, this takes the cake. So, most carriers sort the mail into the hundreds of addressed slots, add the periodicals, magazines and flyers, and then put color coded markers where a package or registered letter corresponds to that particular address. This could literally take hours and you still have to pull all the mail, magazines etc., and markers down and put them in order back into the trays. By now, more than half the day is gone and then you go out to your van and load it all up. Not a fun day.
To make matters worse, the postmaster that hired me retired just before Christmas and a new postmaster came to town. Let’s call him Fat Albert. Fat Albert was a four-hundred pound butterball that liked to push his weight around. He had his sights on me, since I was the last carrier to leave for my route. Emily was on vacation, and it was now up to me to do her whole route (previously I had only covered one subdivision at a time and she did the other; now I had to do both). The day before my trial by fire, Fat Albert wanted to see if I could sort mail in another cubby hole, I think it was for route 22. I had no idea where anything went. The mail slots are not linear and cross streets interrupt the direct flow of the addresses, so nothing was a straight shot. You had to memorize the streets. That was the only way.
FA told me I was working too slowly. I told him I was doing the best I could. He asked me again when I was going to be through. I looked at the stack of magazines (maybe four hundred more) on the table and said, “When hell freezes over.” That didn’t go over to well. Then I said, “Since you have been working for the post office for what I assume years, why don’t you show me how it is done so I could learn from your expertise?” He said he was not going to sort my stuff just to prove a point. He knew as well as I, he wouldn’t have been able to do any better.
I also made suggestions heard by deaf ears. Government job. Need I say more? One such suggestion was that there should be a dedicated Amazon package delivery person to lighten the load of the mail and magazine delivery. He told me that instead of trying to change the way the post office does things, why didn’t I concentrate on doing my job better.
The day finally came when I had to do the complete route. It was a nightmare. I didn’t get back into the post office until nine pm. I then told Fat Albert that I couldn’t do the job anymore. I quit on February 5, 2016. He looked shocked.
One final note. I found out they had taken my advice and hired a full time package person. Too late. I was already gone.