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Found out via text message from one of the other subs that I will be on the heavy route (R5) all next week. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… perhaps I’ll do a little of both.
On the one hand this will, almost by itself, pay for an iPhone upgrade and approximately the first six months of service (there will be overtime involved, see).
On the other hand, thank goodness next week is not one of the most important and hectic weeks of the year for a pastor.
On the other other hand, thank God I don’t have articles due. As in two of them.
The government called me today.
Jim Regular, who carries R5 was already scheduled to be off on Tuesday and, as has been the case since I started there more than three years ago, I was assigned to carry the route.
The call this morning was from the same guy who’s been calling me for 39 months to tell me that Jim has called out ‘sick.’
He said, “Hi Jim it’s Jake from the post office” [ed. - Jake is not his real name].
“Hey, Jimmy Regular called out today, on R5… do you know that route?”
A smart man would have said “Why, no Jake, I don’t know R5.” Unfortunately, I am not that man.
We’re nearing the end of what’s called a “mail count.” Its’ a national rural route nightmare during which every piece and parcel of mail at every rural route in the country is counted. By hand.
At least the carriers don’t have to count all that mail. The supervisors do it.
The bad thing about mail counts is that, amazingly, whatever volume you usually have suddenly drops for the duration of that count. Why is this? Well… your guess is as good as mine. And I can make some pretty good guesses.
Anyway, this particular count has been particularly bad, what with the economy and all. The guy I sub for told me this morning that his route (he always refers to it as ‘our’ route, which is chummy of him), will probably go down to a J route. This means that he will have to work a six day week every other week. For me, it means that I will only do his route once every other week unless he is sick of on vacation.
All the routes are going down, and more than one could turn into a a J route. One or more of the shorter rural routes may even disappear.
The net effect of all this possible change may be, for me, a more reasonable amount of work. In recent months, everything’s been crazy. Yes, it means less money too, but I’m willing to trade away large paychecks in return for a longer life (or at least a slowdown in the rate of graying of my hair).
Of course, we’re talking about the Postal Service here, and they’re GREAT at finding ways to confute the expectations of carriers, and basically stomp them into the ground.
So this, to quote Pink Floyd, is where we came in.
Wow. It’s been two weeks since my last post. There was a time when I posted every day. Those days are, sadly, over. In fact, I’ve been thinking about shutting down this blog altogether. I’m not going to do that… yet. But there probably won’t be much new stuff around here for the foreseeable future.
Just thought you’d like to know.
Okay, now that the business is out of the way, here’s what’s going on in my life.
Another rural carrier smacked into the Teal Tank with his postal truck last Saturday. It was his fault, at least that’s what I think. I won’t go into the details of what happened but here’s the short story. I was backing up to the loading dock when the other guy backed out of his parking spot and headed right for me. He was about 50 feet away. I didn’t have room to keep backing up to get out of his way, so I threw the Teal Tank into drive and stomped on the accelerator. I almost made it. He hit my back bumper. The bumper is still attached but it’s kind of hanging off. It’s cracked in several places and there is some damage to the back of the wheel well too.
I’ve heard from some people that because both vehicles were moving at impact that we might both be disciplined (I don’t know what ‘disciplined’ means, but I know that I will raise a holy stink if they try). We’ll see. The supervisor called me in for a meeting on Thursday… our head union steward was there. That’s usually not a good sign. But they let me leave the meeting and go back to work after I answered their questions.
Later I asked the supervisor about it and she said only that those sorts of meetings are required after an accident and she hadn’t decided anything yet.
Regardless of how long it takes her, it won’t take me long at all to decide what to do if they try to pin this on me.
Today at the post office we had a light, no make that a very light day. I was flying through my DPS (distribution point sort), which is a postalspeak for pre-sorted letters.
Flying, that is, until the postmaster came and ordered all the rural carriers into his office so that he and the rural supervisor could explain the upcoming mail count to us. For. Forty! Stinking! Minutes!
So there went my short day. I made it to my 3 o’clock interview for the magazine just on time, but I had to haul some serious butt to get there.
Something has happened to make every day of this week a nightmare.
Earlier in the week I doomed myself to the same fate tomorrow too. If only I’d known…
Jim Regular, the carrier on the heavy route R5 is off on Saturdays. His sub happens to be a teacher, which means that she can’t work during the week. She only works Saturdays. Except for this one. She took tomorrow off. The guy I sub for, Doug, on R7 is also off. Normally this means that I would automatically be assigned to R7. But when the supervisor was drawing up the schedule I volunteered to take R5 so that Ann, who is always helping everyone and who hates R5 (typically she has trouble sleeping the night before she does the route… that’s how bad it is) wouldn’t have to do it. I’m an idiot.
Hindsight is 20/20, you know. But if I were making the decision tonight I think I’d still do the same thing. I’m a glutton for punishment.
Idiot. Glutton for punishment. Rural sub. Jim.
Sorry for this post folks but I have to get this out of my system and writing about it is the only way I can think to accomplish the goal.
Things at the post office have gotten ugly. I’m giving serious consideration to quitting. In fact, I almost quit on the spot today but good sense (and the need for income) prevailed.
This work week started on Tuesday, the day after a Monday holiday… which is always evil, and got worse from there. Yesterday I was called in to deliver route 6 (the route I live on). I took the marriage mail so the regular carrier on that route wouldn’t have to do it today when he came back. His name is Mike.
It was a long day on Mike’s route yesterday. It’s not a full size route but it took me over 8 hours to do it because of the marriage mail, plus some of the leftover volume from Tuesday. On Tuesday it took me 9 hours to do two auxiliary routes. I will only get paid for 6.5 of those hours. I’ll get paid for about 7 of the 8.5 hours I worked yesterday.
When I arrived back at the PO on Wednesday, there was a note at my case urging me to check the schedule. It said that I was assigned to R7 (my primary route) for Thursday and Friday. Doug, who is a friend of mine, hadn’t said anything about taking those days off. It turns out his jeep needs brakes. While I was getting good and pissed off at R6′s case, Doug called and told me about the brakes and apologized for the fact that I would have to take the marriage mail on his route. I had just returned from taking the marriage mail on R6.
Today, on my way to the post office I got a text from Ann, one of the other subs, saying that Mike, from R6, had called out again. Since I was on R7 this shouldn’t have bothered me. There are only three subs now and all three of us were already assigned before Mike called out. This new development meant that we would have to split two aux routes between the three of us.
By the time I got to work I was ready to resign right there, turn around and walk out the door. The only thing that prevented me was the knowledge that I would only screw the other two subs over by doing that. So I went to R7′s case and started throwing flats as fast as I could, knowing that I would have a long day again. I kept envisioning the growing pile of work, the freelance deadlines, and the backlog of pastoral visits all of which would be put off one more day.
You may think that it could not get worse from here, but it did. Since I was on R7, which I can do very quickly (6 hours, sometimes less, on a route that is allocated as an 8.5 hour route), and since I had cased the marriage mail already, it would have been a really fast day. I could have time to do a piece of R8 and be home… maybe even by 3pm!
The supervisors were scrambling. They were trying by any means they knew to cover those two aux routes. They called the PO in a neighboring town to ask for help. Unfortunately, they also called Doug, the regular on R7. And Doug, thinking he would be helping me out by doing this, said he would come in.
They told me Doug was coming in to do R7, which I had already spent 1.5 hours working on. I had all the flats up and most of the unsorted letters in by this time. R6 was being served by another sub, Ann, who knows the route about as well as I do, which is to say not very well. So after 1.5 hours of work on R6 she had about 2/3 of the flats in. At that point, she was sent over to the two aux routes and I was taken off of R7 and put on R6. This effectively extended my day, already long, by two hours or more.
So now, I’m ready to quit. But I won’t do so until I find something else.
If any of you read this far, thanks. It may not have made a lot of sense, but it was good for me to get it out.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled intertubez, already in progress.
I haven’t had a day off since… I’m not sure, exactly. Today turned out to be one! But only just.
The schedule at the PO didn’t have my name on it, I finished the second of my latest articles last night, and I had no church related obligations today, so I was looking forward to a day to start working on my only resolution.
I was not so deep into a book called Disturbances in the Field when my cell phone rang. It was almost noon and only now was the government calling? I let it go to voice mail. Then the house phone rang and again I let voicemail get it.
Resolving to neglect those messages, I kept on reading until I came to the end of a chapter and needed a bathroom break. I checked the voicemails when I got back to my desk. The supervisor left a message in each mailbox saying only that she wanted me to call back.
“Harrumph!” I said and thought to myself, “I’m not calling back!” as I picked up the phone and called back.
“Nevermind,” she said. Did I mention I was still in my pajamas at this time?
What happened was that the carrier on R5, Jim Regular, called and said he had become sick while on the route. As opposed to me who is just sick of the route. He wanted to know if I could be called in to take over.
The supervisor performed a miraculous healing over the phone. She did this by telling him that if I were to be called in, I would get paid for the full day of work on R5 and that he would lose a sick day.
So I’m still sitting at home, though no longer in my pajamas. And as soon as I finish typing this post, I plan to re-engage the words of Lynne Sharon Schwartz.
For about three years now I’ve been working for the postal service. For almost as long as that I’ve been doing some freelance writing projects here and there, one of which is a standing gig as a ‘staff writer’ for a local business to business magazine. And of course, since July I’ve been serving as a part time pastor under appointment.
The freelance gig has been fun but it may be time to stop. I don’t want to lay it down but lately I’ve been thinking that something’s got to give. It will either be one of my three sources of income or my sanity.
Two things happened this week to get me thinking about this. First, one of the other rural carriers expressed surprise (it was more like shock, actually) that I have no interest in bidding on a permanent route assignment. Our senior sub was suspended in November and I don’t think he will be back. This changes everything. The time when I would be in a position to bid on an open route could come very soon. I don’t want to take one but I might have limited options. Taking a regular route (thought it wouldn’t be a full size route) would increase my hours spent working the mail, resulting in a corresponding decrease in available hours for the freelancing thing.
The other event was Christmas. As has been the case every year, I received a number of books as gifts. Each of these were books that I have been looking forward to receiving, especially Neal Stephenson’s latest, Anathem. As I opened successive gifts from my family on Christmas Day I realized that I had not started and completed reading a book since late 2007.
This realization caused me far more distress than the postal possibilities. Can a life without books be properly considered a life? I don’t know for sure but I’m leaning toward ‘no.’ I simply don’t have the time right now, and haven’t throughout this year, to devote to the reading of a novel or any book length narrative, fiction or non. The endless parade of writing deadlines, accompanied by the new weekly requirement of a sermon, have completely eliminated my reading life. Shoot, I barely read your blogs anymore!
This, more than anything else about my life right now, needs to change and I intend to make that change a reality even if it requires the forfeiting of a paycheck (albeit the smallest paycheck of the three I regularly receive).
Therefore, be it resolved: I will read books in 2009.