Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Mailman!

This goes back to my previous post. Over my many years at the Post Office, I've always heard the same general comment: "You guys just come to work, pick up a bag, and walk around!"
Nothing could be further from the truth! A letter carrier's day is as structured, and in some instances micro-managed, as any other high-stress job.
Let's have a look at a typical mailman's day!

Upon clocking in, the carrier is expected to go directly to their "case", a large unit with rows of shelves with dividers about an inch apart, where the mail is sorted for that individual route. Each carrier has his own case, and must sort the mail there in delivery order. The office standard is 18 letters, and 8 "flats" (magazines, and large envelopes) per minute. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Imagine staring at row after row of dividers with addresses marked below them, and trying to get a letter in the right place.It's not as easy as it looks!

All the while, the delivery supervisor watches them, and makes sure they are sorting to standard. Prior to the carriers arrival, the supervisor has inventoried each route's mail, and, through a software program, determined the exact time the carrier should be on the street, and when they should return. The carrier is then told this information, and expected to comply. There is no room for debate! If there's 5 feet of fresh snow outside, and the wind chill is -45 degrees, it shouldn't take any longer to make the rounds than on a pleasant spring day.
After sorting the mail, routing the SPRS (small packages) and parcels, the carrier "skins the case", or ties down the mail in delivery order, and bundles it into relays. Each relay is a loop of a block or more, that the carrier delivers. After that loop is completed, the carrier moves on the the next one, until the route is completed. All the while, the supervisor is out on the street doing what is called "Street Supervision", checking the carrier's position on each route to where the software said they should be. Usually, any variation over 5 minutes will result in a "job discussion" (getting chewed out) when the carrier returns! Petty, isn't it?

Worse yet, when a carrier breaks for lunch, they may only take that lunch in an approved location. If a new burger joint opens up in town, and you're caught there, it could end up in discipline!
At the end of the tour, the carrier must return to the Post Office to return their equipment, keys, and any accountable items. Sometimes, the supervisor is waiting for them in order to go over problems with the carrier's performance. Sound's simple, doesn't it??

Now imagine doing this 5 days a week, day in and day out. When lightning is flashing overhead, and you're walking under trees in order to keep on time. Or when the cold is brutal, and the wind just makes it worse, and you have to finish that route. That's the life of a Letter Carrier!
I'm sure glad it's over!!

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