Farewell to the Post Office

The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

This is depressing, so I'll try (but fail) to keep it brief.

I hated my second shift at USPS last night, and I'm giving up on the job. I'm too old for bullshit.

Soon as I got to the giant postal facility on Wednesday night, I stopped at the front desk, to make sure I was supposed to be working. See, showing up was only a guess —  I'd worked 6PM-2:30 AM the night before, so it seemed likely that I'd be working the same shift the next night, but nobody'd told me to report to work.

At the front desk, of course, they didn't know who I was.

Which isn't surprising, really — it's a giant postal facility where, I'd guess, several hundred people are working at any time.

It's hard to convey the enormity of the place — always there's an ocean of employees at dozens of airplane-size Rube Goldberg machines, and the machines are always humming, and mini-trucks and pedal-carts beep down the aisles, and more machinery is rolling above your head all the way to the back of the building where I've never been, and there's a wide passageway to a second building where I've also never been. It is a full-scale factory for processing mail.

It's jaw-dropping, seriously. They ought to sell tours for fifteen bucks. I'd maybe pay.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Anyway, I asked at the front desk, "Hey, am I scheduled to work tonight?"

They told me to check my schedule, but nobody'd given me a schedule.

They told me to ask my manager, but I haven't met my manager, or even been told that person's name.

They told me to ask any manager, but I wouldn't know who the managers are — nobody wears a suit and tie there.

They told me where to find maybe not my manager, but a manager, so I did what they said — turned right at the ginormous orange machine, then left where the blue conveyor belt turns left, then looked for "several people in an elevated section." At the elevated section, I spotted a very pretty black woman I recognized from orientation, and asked her, "Am I supposed to be working tonight?"

"You're one of the new hires, right? Then yes, you're working tonight."

"And when do I get a schedule? I'd kinda like to know I'm working when I come to work, and know when my days off are. And also, when do I meet my boss? When do I get a time-card, 'cuz getting paid is kinda the point of working...?"

She smiled at my barrage of questions, and promised that tonight I'd get a time-card, and also a schedule for the next two weeks. (I did not receive either.)

"Cool, thanks," said I. "Where do you want me?"

She told me to go back to the machine I'd worked at the night before, so I did.

And there I stood and worked for most of the night, watching the mail sort itself, picking up the packages the machine dropped, unsnagging packages that got caught in its maw, tying up 70-pound sacks of mail, and tossing each sack into whichever of the many different giant wheeled trucking bins matched the label that (usually) prints when a sack of mail is judged to be 'full'.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

On my first night, I'd worked with a few other rookies, and two experienced workers were there to answer our questions.

Last night, my second night, there was no help, no training, and the experienced people I was working with had no interest in answering questions. "You should know that," was the recurring motif. 

Also, my co-workers were switched out every two hours or so. There's a rotation system, apparently. With no signal or warning, the guy on my left and woman on my right and everyone all down the block-long machinery simply walked away.

Suddenly I was alone with 500 mail bags stretching an acre, to watch and tie and bundle the bags by myself. Five or ten minutes after everyone else had left, though, different people came and stood and worked around me. Introductions were never more than "Hi" and usually not even that, and then a couple of hours later, everyone disappeared again.

It was mystifying. The entire cast of characters kept changing around me. When I asked why, the answer was both too brief and too long, and indecipherable to me.

♦ ♦ ♦

At my last job, cell phones were prohibited. At this job, everyone looks at their phone all night long. It's understandable — other than pre-labeling the next mail bag, there's not much else to do while waiting for the mail bags to self-sort and fill themselves.

But every time I wanted to ask a question, it was an interruption of someone's conversation or a TV show, and interruptions were not welcomed. None of the dozen people I worked near all night were expecting to answer a rookie's questions. Only one of them seemed genuinely interested in answering questions, and she was gone with the next reshuffling.

I asked a question of the guy who took her place, and he simply shook his head no. It wasn't a language barrier; he simply refused to talk.

Eventually I stopped asking questions, and probably misdirected some mail. And that's actually, seriously not what I want to do, working for the Post Office.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The night before I'd shivered, so for my second night I wore my flannel shirt, but that was a bad idea. Instead of being cold, I was hot like fresh-baked bread, which added to my grumpiness.

It's amazing how slowly time moves when you're doing something tedious, but it moves even slower when it's tedious and frustrating and you're hot and sweaty from wearing flannel. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

But I did the job the best I could, until around midnight, two and a half hours before quitting time. That's when a manager I'd never met before came 'round and told me, "Tonight's workload is light, so we're sending you home early." 

OK, good night.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Getting my jacket and stuff from the open shelves where everyone keeps their lunches and personal effects, I saw Mr Podcast from yesterday, and several other rookies from orientation. All of us were being sent home early.

Mr Podcast was seriously angry about it, saying, "This is supposed to be a full-time job, not a go home early job." And I agree, but it was a relief to leave.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I don't like the night shift, but — OK.

Wish I didn't have to drive, but the buses don't run that late, so — OK.

I don't like being on my feet for eight hours, but — OK.

It's work that's dull, repetitive, and physically exhausting, but — OK.

After working two shifts, though, I still haven't met my boss, the training seems to be over, and I don't have a time-card or even a schedule. The closest thing to a work schedule is that ten minutes before being sent home, someone I hadn't met before stopped by my station and said, "Are you Doug?" and then he told me to be at work again tonight at 6PM.

I am too old for bullshit, and I will not be at work tonight at 6PM. Screw it. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Well, I tried to be brief. This page was twice as long before I snipped away the more boring and repetitive bits.

TL/DR: I'm unemployed again.


The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3


  1. On to the next adventure, thanks for the look inside the mail monster--Eel

    1. They didn't even give me a going-away party, so I threw one for myself. Invited nobody. Sat in my recliner. Watched a movie. It was lovely.


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