A very big machine

The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

Monday was sunny like springtime, unseasonably warm, and then a huge hailstorm and wicked thunder in the evening, and when I woke up on Tuesday there'd been accumulations of snow.

Some of this is familiar from Februaries in Seattle when I was a kid, but never one thing after another like yesterday and today.

My first eight hours doing postal work was mind- and leg-numbing. I stood beside an enormous sorting machine that's about a block long, with a conveyor belt on the top that carries packages, and automatically dumps each package off the conveyor belt, based on its zip code, down chutes and into one of hundreds of jumbo-size bags — different bags for each small geographical area.



& links

Feb. 15, 2023

I was one of a large crew of people standing beside this mammoth machinery. Our assignment was to replace the bags as they're filled with packages, then label the freshly-filled bag and toss it into the appropriate enormous wheeled cart that'll take it to trucks at the loading dock.

This was my entire shift last night — standing by the machine, replacing sacks, tying and labeling and tossing the sacks, and pre-labeling the next sacks to be used.

It kept me busy, though. Occasionally, packages landed on the floor instead of in a sack. More rarely, packages got stuck in the chute.

The machinery never stops, until all the day's packages have been sorted and sacked. When employees go on a break, other employees take their spots beside the machine. It was exhausting, but the mail must go through.

Chairs are not allowed, nor are headphones. My legs held up, and I only complained once about all the standing. You might spend five minutes leaning, as nearby bags fill. Or, a bunch might get filled up at once, and you'll be sweating like a boy on his first date.

With about 45 minutes remaining on my shift, the day's last package had been sorted, and the conveyor belt was empty. We wheeled all the bag-holding frames out of the way for the janitor, and then everyone walked to the break room and did nothing until our assigned leaving time. I finished a book I'd been reading, and my book count might go up if early quitting is the night shift's norm.

I won't be working the block-long package sorting machine every night, though. I'm supposed to be sort of a utility infielder, working with any/all the enormous postal-sorting and moving machinery that fills the building, depending on any night's needs.

The guy who showed me what to do has been working at USPS for three weeks. By halfway through my first shift, I could've taught new hires to do the work. It's work so mindless I could've left my brain at home.

My impression is that this will be the most boring job I've ever had, and all the loud and complicated machinery makes it like working in the movie Brazil

We're all supposed to punch a time clock, but none of the new hires have been given a time-card yet.

Nobody's told me my work schedule, except that I was supposed to work 6PM-2:30 AM on Tuesday night. I'm going back tonight at 6PM, not because anyone's told me to, but because there's no money in waiting around for someone to call me and say "come to work."

I've asked co-workers about all this, and they say it's ordinary. I haven't asked my boss, because I haven't met him or her yet.

At orientation, and even in the email telling me when and where orientation would be, they were sticklers on shoes — you're not allowed to wear sandels, athletic shoes, canvas shoes, clodhoppers, casual flats, etc.

Well, in the break room after the line had been shut down, I noticed that none of the other employees were wearing the required footwear. None. Neither was I — I wasn't planning to buy new shoes until it felt like the job was working out.

So far, only one co-worker seems likely to get on my nerves. He's a very talkative guy who stood adjacent to me, beside the giant package-sorter.

He said that he writes a blog and has a podcast, where he likes to complain about everything that's wrong with America. I didn't ask him what's wrong with America, in his opinion, because I know what's wrong and don't care about some stranger's opinion, so I don't know whether he's left, right, or tin-foil hat.

I also hadn't asked if he has a blog.

And now, some non-work-related complaining:

Some months ago, I bought a mouse from Amazon. It's shaped 'ergonomically' (i.e., weird) but it works. Until today I'd never noticed that it has an extra button — the ordinary left-click, right-click, and scroll wheel in the middle, but also a small, unmarked button above the scroll wheel.

That button is perfectly placed for an accidental click, and several times I must've accidentally clicked it. Today I figured out that it it changes the scroll rate, from an inch on the screen to a mile. Every time I've accidentally touched it, I've had to stop whatever I was doing to reset the scroll rate through the computer's settings. That's the way God intended people to adjust the scroll rate.

I had assumed that the laptop forgetting my setting for scroll rate was an indication that it's getting old and I'd need a new laptop soon, so I'd already bought the new one (I like to plan ahead). But nope, it's just some son-of-a-bitch engineer at Amazon giving a mouse a new feature nobody asked for. 

News you need,
whether you know it or not

Worried residents near Ohio train derailment report dead fish and chickens as authorities say it's safe to return 

How Climate Change is spreading malaria in Africa 

Sarasota climate expert urges preparation for climate change as Florida faces 'triple threat' 

Greta Thunberg says world leaders not even ‘moving in the right direction’ on climate 

"Extreme situation": Antarctic sea ice hits record low 

After release of video, lawsuit claims Alabama man froze to death in police custody, was ‘likely’ placed in jail freezer 

One in 20 US homicides are committed by police – and the numbers aren’t falling 

FBI announces investigation into Harris County jail system after 32 inmates die 

Georgia police officer accused of raping, dumping body of missing 16-year-old girl's body in the woods 

She asked the police to help her husband. They killed him instead. 

Republicans launch probe into COVID origins with letter to Fauci 

Virginia Governor opposes effort to shield menstrual data from law enforcement 

South Dakota passes first law that will force trans kids to detransition 

A standing provocation: the right’s ploy to overthrow student debt relief 

Mike Pence says 'we need to' ban abortion pills nationwide in new leaked audio 

Mystery links
There's no knowing where you're going




Clicks ahoy

Media "spy balloon" obsession a gift to China hawks 

9 rules for the Black birdwatcher 

The ruin and revival of the city that built America 

1933 article refers to the legendary Frida Kahlo as the “wife of a master mural painter” 

Cars are rewiring our brains to ignore all the bad stuff about driving 

All Shirley Jackson Award finalists get stoned.

♫♬  Mix tape of my mind  ♫

All Who Pass By — The Shaolin Afronauts 

Crying — Roy Orbison 

Five-Hundred Miles — The Proclaimers 

The Sound of Silence — Simon & Garfunkel 

Oh Yeah — Yello 

Eventually, everyone
leaves the building

Joyce Dopkeen

Kit Hesketh-Harvey 

Emory Kristof 

Eugene Lee 

Bob Orben


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.
Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks.
Special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.
The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3


  1. I once worked one day in an ice cream factory and man, at 30 below farts REALLY linger...Eel

    1. Yikes, that's colder than I would've thought for making ice cream. Did the company provide the heavy jackets, and did you get to take ice cream home?

      My pop-in-law worked for one of the Miller beer factories, and as a fringe benefit he got two free cases monthly, of any Miller beverage. The disappointment, of course, was that his selection was limited to Miller beverages.

  2. Bob Orben had the best job I've ever heard of, and the universe gave him 95 years. There are some upon whom the gods smile.


    1. I'd never even heard of him, but yeah, it sounds like a great job, and a great life.

      They say old people love reading obituaries, but I like it too, and I'm only sixty-something. You meet such interesting people in the obituaries, and they're dead so you don't have to make small talk.

  3. I assume the multitudes noticed, but I'll say it out loud. In the apostrophe graphic the Goodwyns failed to include an apostrophe in their name to indicate ownership; that was just about the only word in which they omitted the apostrophe.


    1. Ha! The picture is so small, I hadn't noticed that.

      I slightly suspect the image is fake, because a pro signmaker would be unlikely to get *so* much *so* wrong, and the lettering looks too neat to be DIY.

      Apostrophe errors annoy me lot's.

    2. There's a Western Wear store near me called "Back To Basic's." Every billboard has the apostrophe. The building has it. I hate it so, so much.


    3. That's pretty bad, jeez. How does that even happen? In setting up the business, did they never talk to a lawyer, an accountant, a city clerk who knew the basic rules of grammar? Do they think the rules don't apply in the boot business? Sheer anarchy!

      Maybe I had a great Language Arts teacher, but apostrophes never seemed complicated, and any time I get it wrong it's a typo, not confusion.

      I get annoyed even walking into Walgreens, where they officially eschew the apostrophe.

    4. >I get annoyed even walking into Walgreens, where they officially eschew the apostrophe.

      Apparently, this practice is common in the UK.

      I always hated the "SnackWell's" cookie brand. Like, is there a Grandma SnackWell somewhere shitting out cookies?

    5. I've eaten them, so the shits 'em out part seems believable.

  4. Aren't you old enough for social security? Why're you still trying to be a productive member of society?

    1. Two reasons, Henry. One is stupid, the other is childish.

      Stupid: For many years my earnings were minuscule and/or not reported, so my payout will probably not be enough to live on.

      Childish: When dealing with bureaucracy like SSA, where everything about the system is designed to be difficult, and keep people from their benefits, I soon become a fat lump of fury and frustration.

      Your question sparked my curiosity, though, so I've spent more than an hour this morning trying to get a payout quote from Social Security.

      Three failed login attempts with accurate info earned me a 24-hour lockout of my online account, and a phone call led to a long wait on hold, and when someone answered they couldn't hear me because we had a bad connection.

      And if/when I ever sign up, this will be the routine for the rest of my life.

    2. After three back surgeries, two with no health insurance, I applied for disability and "early" Social Security at 63. It was pretty clear I couldn't work, so the SSA accepted me and started sending me checks and signed me up for Medicare somewhere along the way.

      It's pretty hard to live on Social Security, and I paid in some fairly hefty amounts. Work as long as you can so you'll continue paying into Social Security if that's going to be your primary income. Or get adopted by an Amazon exec. It's pretty much your choice.

      Live well and perspire.


    3. I was making additions to my comment when the Googs decided I'd stayed around and played around this old comment too long and booted me. I was going to add: I'm sure you know that the older you are the higher your monthly benefit. Again, if you have another source of retirement income, this might not matter so much, but if you don't then apply as late as you can.

      I should add that I lucked into a terrific person (caseworker?) at the SSA who was nothing but helpful, and actually got me back payments from the day I applied. It took a little while, but was pretty painless. Of course, once they invented phones without wires everything got harder.


    4. Yeah, I've heard that Social Socks pays better if you wait longer. I'll probably wait lots longer.

      My wife was disabled and had plenty to complain about, but she never much complained about her Social Security and Medicare, at least after she'd gone through the original rigmarole. She complained a lot about that, though.

      > ... once they invented phones without wires everything got harder

      This is so true I'm considering making it into a meme.

      I decided long ago to never plan for retirement and I'm not planning to start now, but there's no money in the family. When I can't work, my survival will be SSA plus a small pension (which I've been trying to get for a year now, but there's always another form to be filed and I'm allergic to filing forms).

    5. Doug, don't let the bastards wear you down. Just keep filling out the damn form, then the next one. It's your money. Just outform them.


    6. Eventually the bastards will wear me down, but not until death.

      They make it difficult to get Social Security, so I put it off. Big picture, that's why they make access to any aid program difficult — to keep people from getting aid.

  5. I'm trying to reply to a DH comment about seven comments ago, but, once again, the Googs do not believe in multiple, imbedded comments. So . . .

    "Language Arts"??? Is that what they call it in Seattle? Or did you go to a high school that specialized in ballet? In blue collar Tacoma we called it English. Of course, it wasn't quite that: It was the closest they could come to American English. I don't know what they call it now.

    I did have an 8th grade English teacher who couldn't sing, sing the last four lines of Eliot's "The Hollow Men", just as it should be recited. THAT'S language arts.


    1. Miss Sherwood, my Language Arts teacher, once said, "I don't even know what 'Language Arts' means. It's English, the language we all share, and it'll serve you well in life to learn it."

      She was right.

      I don't think any recital beats the original. It's the only non-musical recording in my playlist.

  6. Doug, endure the minor hassles with SS, it's worth whatever amount you will get. Believe me. It will reduce the number of hours of your life you have to give to this toxic American economic system/*way of life.* I sit at home 5 days a week now, and am as *less depressed* as I have ever been. I play with trading cards and ignore the world. Let the good times roll! https://www.youtube.com/live/DNKLprg9jVI

    1. Hank! I don't care in the slightest about playing cards, but I love your presentation style.

      So how do you know that Jack McKeon signed the card, and not his granddaughter?

      Maybe eventually I'll give Social Security my attention, but what a pain in the ass they make it. To even *request* a payout estimation based on my data, I have to input my earnings totals and then wait 4-6 weeks. Why do I have to input my earnings totals? Doesn't the government have that information already?

    2. I did not know about Spot Fetcher. What a legacy.

    3. In regard to McKeon's autograph, just like with most things, we can have no historic certainty. At best, we look for psychological certainty. Given the nature of contemporary American youth, I find it more reasonable to assume Jack signed the card himself than that an offspring would be willing to help the old geezer out.

    4. Can't dispute that. I probably wouldn't forge an old coot's signature unless there was money in it.

      Also, I wouldn't sign and return an autograph unless someone enclosed at least a few bucks. Do you enclose a few bucks when you're asking?

    5. No. I don't send money. If you notice in the background, there is a sheet of paper that says Hall of Shame, and it lists names and dollar amounts. Those are the returns I get from old-timers who want money. I watched enough fucking commercials, and bought enough tickets, I paid these guys already. The best ones to send to are old actresses. Most of them are like Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd, just happy some dope like me remembers them.

    6. Gloria was a good little third baseman -- good glove, good throw, no hit. She'd be able to sign, then throw across the diamond for a bang bang run-saving out.

      johnthebasket, so called because nothing got by the neighborhood of third base

    7. Thought provoking. I can understand old-timers who want some money, especially if they're from the pre-millionaire era in sports. But I can also understand feeling that you've paid enough already, especially for any athlete who's ever endorsed anything.

      Then again, I've never asked for anyone's autograph and I don't know what I'd do with one unless it's on a check.

    8. The Major League Players Association was recognized in 1966. Before that, players got paid what the owners wanted to pay them. Virtually all minor leaguers and many major leaguers had to work during the off-season. Sears actually had a program in which they hired baseball players to work in their appliance and tool departments during the winter. If you shopped Sears for a refrigerator or a tool in the winter, you were very likely to see a major league player or a local minor league player on the sales floor. And make no mistake: minor league ballplayers were held in high regard by local fans. People got a kick out of buying a washing machine from the local team's shortstop. Pretty good deal: Sears made out, the players had a place to work until spring training (and get medical benefits) and the fans got to talk to their heroes. When I was ten, I lived across the street from Bill Hain, who was a utility infielder for the Tacoma Giants. The neighborhood kids thought Mr. Hain was a baseball god. Once in a while, he'd come out and play catch for a short time on a rare off-day at home. He'd cop a batting practice ball or two for us and signed a couple for me. It wasn't even his house. He was sleeping with the daughter of the family and they let him stay there. He was a gentleman, which is my highest praise for any man.


    9. Capitalist bastards all through history, paying the lowest wages they can. Fast food chains could pay every worker a decent wage with decent benefits, and it would probably add 50¢ to the cost of a Big Mac.

      Bill Hain: Ten years in the minors, and he missed the entire 1957 season.

      Huge dip in his stats for a few years after that, perhaps coming back from an injury. Sent down to AA in '59, and posted great numbers, which got him back to AAA for the rest of his career, but he never made the bigs.

      Is that sad? Or is it terrific that he got to play baseball all those years?

    10. I think the question is more profound than the answer would be. He was hoping for at least a brief callup when somebody got hurt, but it never happened. I think that by the time he got to Tacoma, he knew he wasn't going to have a significant major league career. Sadly, he never saw Candlestick Park.


    11. Most of us never get called up. Hell, most of us never make it to AAA.

      Glad I got to see Candlestick before they demolished it.

    12. I attended a game at Candlestick in 1965 and got to see Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Matty and Jesus Alou, Tom Haller, Jose Pagan, Juan Marichel on the mound, and many other favorite players (Tacoma was the Giants' AAA affiliate, so I saw many of the Giants on their way up). Of course, later in the game it was a little cold and windy, but it was a great experience.


    13. Ain't nothing like baseball, especially old-time baseball. 1965 qualifies as old time baseball, for me.

      Maybe I'd remember greats like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Matty and Jesus Alou, and Juan Marichel if I'd seen them, but it was always the game more than the names for me. I don't even remember who played at the first Giants game I saw at Candlestick, but I was wowed by the place. I'd mostly seen MLB baseball at the Kingdome before that, so almost anyplace would've wowed me.

      What I remember is, the Giants won, the concessions tasted good (unlike anything at the Kingdome), and the organist played "Happy Trails to You" when the visiting manager was ejected.

      The place was famous for its chilly winds off the bay, but I don't remember any particular winds in that game, or the half-dozen Giants games I saw. (Much more often, I went to the Oakland Coliseum).

      By the time they built their new place, baseball (and soon, San Francisco) had become too expensive for me.

  7. That's good advice if you have another source of retirement income, like a rich uncle or a Boeing pension. If not, you won't be able to live on SS and you'll wish you hadn't started collecting early, but there's no going back. You're a bright guy. Find a job where you use your brain at least a little and do it until you're at least 66. If you try to collect SS and work, even part time, they'll either tax you more or decrease your SS. Companies are hiring for low-paying but livable wage jobs. Some of the jobs are even fun. You would be a good find for the right enterprise.

    Sorry the USPS didn't work out. I think you caught them at a really bad time. Not your fault, but don't be discouraged. You have useful experience. Maybe a dressed-up resume would help. I'd be happy to help edit over the Web. Don't give up.


    1. Never worked for Boeing, and there are no rich uncles. I have a nephew and also a nephew-in-law who are both rich in my estimation, but they've got nothing for me and I ain't asking.

      I wanted to get out of the office work rut, so I haven't looked for that kinda work, but I dunno. Just when I thought I was out they keep pulling me back in, so that's the work I'll apply for next.

      My résumé sucks, both what's on it and stylistically, and I appreciate the offer, but nah. Getting it gussied up would be like wearing a suit to a job interview. It's just not me, and I try to always be me.

    2. You could compromise and wear a shirt and tie and no pants. Let your freak flag fly. Just a thought.


    3. Run it up the freak flagpole and see nobody salute...

      I like the modern touch of interviewing over the phone. Had one on Friday, another coming up this week. Them not seeing me has to help, seriously.


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