Tuesday, December 08, 2009

On being a mailma'am

I have NO idea if people are curious or interested in the typical day of a mailma'am. If you're not, there's always this. Otherwise...

I am a part-time flexible carrier, or PTF. Your mailman is probably a regular carrier: somebody with their own route, which they carry (deliver) five days a week, 8 hours a day. They know your name, when to hold your mail while you're on vacation, how old your kids are and the names of your in-laws and pets. When your regular mailman has more than 8 hours of work in a day because of the volume of mail, or has a doctor's appointment, or is sick, that's when we PTFs step in. So you only see me every once in a while, and I'm usually looking lost, frustrated, and/or harried. Where is the mailbox? Where is this house? Where is this street? Who lives here? Etc.

Sometimes, though, when your regular mailman goes on vacation, or is out on short- or long-term disability (twisted ankle, repetitive-strain injury), you might see me every day, especially if I opt on the mailman's route while he's gone. When I opt on a route, I effectively become the regular until the regular mailman returns: I get his days off, his start/end times...kinda. More on that in a bit.

I like short-term opts because it allows me to really learn a route: who lives where, how long the various sections normally take to deliver, who wants me to leave packages and who would rather come down to the PO and pick them up, where the bathrooms are, who's got dogs, that sort of thing.

In general, the post office is expected to make money, to operate in the black. We aren't. Maybe in another post I'll go into that, but for now I'll just ask, the last time you were in Europe how much did it cost you to mail a postcard or letter? Compare it to the cost to mail a postcard or letter in the US. Also...is the Dept of Transportation expected to operate in the black? It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, I know. But put it in the back of your mind.

At our local post office, we have 21 routes, plus three swing carriers. (Your mailman has a five-day work week, but the post office delivers mail six days a week. The swing carrier delivers the mail on your mailman's day off, for five different routes.) We also have a relief carrier, a fill-in-the-blanks carrier for short-term and/or unexpected holes in the schedule. Earlier this year we had a mailman leave the post office, and our relief carrier took his route. (No one took the relief position.) Then someone else moved out of state, but no one took his swing. Then someone left on long-term disability, and a carrier switched routes, but no one took her old one. Then another mailman left on short-term disability. We also have a mailman who keeps deploying to Afganistan for months at a time, making his route a short-term opt. So by my count we have 3 routes open, and 2 short-term opts available.

Again, at our local post office, we have three PTFs and, like I said, I am one of them. The three of us have all opted into the three open routes, so there's no one available for the two short-term openings. There is no one available to cover medical appointments, or sick days, or days when a carrier goes on vacation. We have three temporary employees, who get no benefits or credit towards a postal carrier for time served should they become PTFs or regulars -- they're just like anyone hired by a temp agency. So most days we negotiate Japanese baseball game to distribute the mail from open routes so that it all goes out. Because, at the post office, it all goes out. And we stay out til it all gets delivered.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Very interesting, Bones. My GOP dad was just harshing on the USPS over the holiday, and goodness knows, he'd probably scream something about union this or union that if he read your story (even if you *don't* have a union!) But I wonder if he'd want to take those temporary routes....