I was a lousy mailman, no ifs, ands or buts about it. My sorting was slow. My delivery inconsistent. My paperwork slipshod. My system for cataloging packages unworkable. I started my day when the sun rose and had barely finished by the time the street lights came on.
I have written previously about my experiences as a Census worker, but I have barely mentioned my short but memorable tenure as a U.S. Postal worker.
Psychologists and other people with fancy college degrees consistently point to the value of sharing one's feelings and memories as a first-step toward healing or banishing what haunts you. More than two years after I broke a few ribs delivering the mail, I don't believe sharing my experiences as a postman will help make the occasional rib discomfort go away, but what the heck.
There is something that has to be said right off the bat. I was a lousy mailman, no ifs, ands or buts about it. My sorting was slow. My delivery inconsistent. My paperwork slipshod. My system for cataloging packages unworkable. I started my day when the sun rose and had barely finished by the time the street lights came on.
Believe me, people stare when the mailman pulls up to their box at 7 o'clock at night. "Oh, all finished with dinner, ma'am? Here you go, ma'am. No, this isn't tomorrow's mail early, but that is an interesting way of looking at it. Have a good night."
To give you an idea of what my superiors at the post office felt about my ability (inability?), on the day we parted for the last time, they suggested that not only should I never attempt to deliver the U.S. mail again, I should give serious consideration to not collecting it either. Send a family member to the end of the driveway to check your mailbox, I was told. That will be much safer.
It hurts to be told you're not any good at something you have tried your best at (just ask Chan Gailey) but there it is. There's no shame in failure, however, that's what Unemployment Insurance is for.
I also have to point out, that my co-workers could not have been more helpful. The same goes for the people and animals on my route. Yes, I heard plenty of barking dogs, but I never heard a cross word from a mail customer or felt the bite of an angry canine.
What was the most difficult part of the job? The route was not easy. It was approximately 90 miles long, with about 300 to 350 stops. The route took me into the backwoods of Allegany County, N.Y. These motor vehicle paths had limited shoulders, big craters and overgrowth that obscured many a box. I may have done better on a horse. And keep in mind, I never did get to experience the route in real crazy weather. Rain and overpowering wind, yes. Snow and sleet, no.
But the route was not the only problem. There was nothing tougher than trying to drive while sitting in the center seat. Left hand on the wheel, right hand stuffing the hard-to-find boxes with letters, magazines, Netflix movies and bills. Not to place blame, but the Postal Service really doesn't offer training for sitting in the center seat and driving, left foot extended to reach the gas and break pedals. They did recommend never fingering the mail, or looking down for the next bundle while your foot is on the gas pedal. To do so, they said, could result in driving off the road and hitting an electric pole straight on, breaking a couple of ribs.
So in conclusion, to all my customers whose mail I mangled, lost or delivered three days late, I'm sincerely sorry. Of course, none of this would have happened if you had a post office box.