Monday, December 19, 2011

Going Postal

I went to the post office at lunch today.  The line was all the way through the post office and out through the door and around the bend to all the post office boxes.  I thought I would take a picture.  By the time I got through the door and into the actual post office, my line-mates were angry.

"No wonder they are going broke!"  "This is so inefficient!"  "Oh, great time to go to lunch - thanks a lot!"  Etc., Etc.

I said to them "I worked at the post office for one Christmas, and it is NOT a cherished memory."  They laughed.  But the guy behind me asked me why I thought they couldn't do it better.  I asked him what he thought they might do - he suggested hiring more people.  I told him they are broke and besides, every window had a person behind it - working as hard as a person can.  I asked him to watch the customers - they all get to the window and haven't wrapped their box right, or don't have the address done right, or something - and it takes time.  I told him that line would be like that all day long - and the employees need to eat lunch and go to the bathroom occasionally!   And they have to deal with angry people all day long.  He finally said "No wonder they call it 'going postal.'"  Indeed.

I was 21 years old.  I had a "good" job, but in the early 70s, a "good" office job for a woman paid virtually nothing.  I applied for a job with the PO.  I took the civil service test and got the job.  I felt I had to take it - I think it paid about 2 times as much as the office job.  They put me in the back, sorting mail, to start.  I LOVED that job.  I threw mail all day.  I was good at it.  My hours were 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I could drink like a fish at night and still make it to work on time.  Unfortunately, as in most jobs, if you are good at something, they give you a job doing something else.  They wanted me to be a window clerk, at a small, two-person post office.

Me and the general public are not really the best possible combination.  I did the job well enough, but it was really hard for me to deal with all those people all day long.  And I didn't show up about one day a week because I was drinking so much.  One time I drank all night and showed up at work drunk - I ended up passing out at the window while trying to calculate postage to Taiwan.  I woke up propped up in an office chair covered with vomit.  Oh, the good old days!

I started looking for another job and when my old boss was called for a reference, he drove over to the post office, stood in my line and asked me to come back to my old job.  He paid me as much as I had made at the post office.  And that was a very good thing.

I lasted an entire nine months at the post office.  But I will never forget what it felt like to stand at that counter feeling like I was vulnerable and available to any kind of nutty chicanery the public could possibly come up with.

I am not only grateful that I am sober today, but I am grateful for the reminder of what it was like.  It was pretty awful.  I wish I could find my old partner from the two-person PO - because I made his life hell when I didn't show up or when I showed up drunk.  I heard he died just a year or so after I left.  I certainly owe him an amends.  I have nothing but respect for postal employees, it is a tough job.  And I am really glad I am not doing it anymore.

I wish I could go back and make amends to my old boss.  John was very very good to me.  He told me when I gave notice that I was a great employee - when I was there.  If I would have stayed, he would have put me on an attendance plan - ha!  As if a plan from a boss could keep me from getting drunk!

I am so grateful for the Grace of God -  I am sober and not dealing with any of these issues today.  And I hope the people I talked to today thought about it a little bit.  I hope maybe they will think before they go off on someone who is just doing their level best at a very unpleasant job.

Let's cut each other a bit of slack, OK?  Can we just make an effort to?  Ok, I'll get off my soapbox now.


dAAve said...

I hear ya.

I feel the same, not only about PO workers, but especially the police and all law enforcement personnel.

Syd said...

I agree with what you wrote about postal workers. They are besieged and with less money to do the work and fewer workers. Yet, many in the public expect to not have lines or wonder if a window isn't open. More and more services will be cut unless something is done to sustain them.

Hard to imagine you passed out covered in vomit. Those good old days are gone now! Thank God.

Lou said...

I deal with the public at large, and know so well how one person can make or break the day.

My town has the nicest PO workers I've ever encountered. They are unfailing nice/polite/funny. I love my mail carrier too!

Oh, and mean people SUCK.

Pammie said...

I did the UPS office this year instead because the 6 window post office by my office is down to 1 worker. That's an impossible task.
Oh..Hi Mary.

Anonymous said...

I try to Skype as it is Free and you get a video and can take pictures too-- or call on cell with free time minutes or email cards.. and try to use UPS at Staples for packages as they open at 8am. That is an hour before my local Post Office opens its windows. People wait too long to get things done, then Rant....When in Danger or in Doubt, Run in Circles---Scream & Shout. Maybe some of the Sour People will get a Personality for Xmas.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

I believe the amends you're making by speaking to people about the experience truthfully, like you did in line while others were complaining, thats a good amend. A change of attitude and a fresh perspective that provides love and tolerance to others. I sure hope I get better at it.

Anonymous said...

I went to mail a package last week and it was a two person counter. One person was busy individually weighing and stamping postage on 108 cards that a business person was mailing to her customers. I figured no problem since I was 2nd in line. Then the person in front of me proceeded to the other clerk and wasted about 20 minutes asking the most ridiculous questions that I began to wonder if Candid Camera was back on the air. I admired the professionalism and patience of that clerk. After a while I just decided the situation was so absurd that I should enjoy the humor in it. When I got to the counter we both joked about it and that was the end of it for me. But I know alof of people behind me in line were really angry. I'm sure they took it out on her although I'm not sure what she could have done differently. I could never have a job dealing with the public either.