Welcome to the Post Office

The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

All day yesterday was my orientation session with the US Postal Service, and like orientation anywhere, it was mostly boring.

Here's a few nuggets of semi-interesting info jotted into my notebook — USPS has 640,000 employees, 230,000 vehicles, 63,000 post offices, and delivers to 175,000,000 addresses, not counting PO Boxes.


Employee orientation is conducted nationwide, live via Zoom. There were 252 participants listed on the giant screen, but each 'participant' was a local session like mine, with a few dozen people, so there must've been thousands of new hires getting oriented.

Our session started at 6AM Pacific Time, but pity the folks in Honolulu, who had to report for their first day on the job at 4AM.

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The two main speakers were executives, and one was OK but the other was kinda like Michael Scott from The Office, only not funny.

We got a pre-recorded pep talk from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who said nothing but piffle, then thankfully vanished.

Being Zoom, the tech glitched a few times, dropping us from the session, and the videos tended to freeze up.

Our local speakers all work in the building where our session was — where I'll be working — and they all seemed like decent humans, so I'm optimistic.

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Even by the standards of corporate meetings, the section on 'ethics' was tedious. For each ethical item on a long list of ethical items, it started by flashing the rule on screen, which Michael read aloud. For example, mail carriers can't solicit customers for an outside business while they're delivering mail.

And that makes sense. I ain't particularly bright, but I understood that rule almost instantly. Everyone did.

But then there'd be a video showing a mail carrier soliciting customers for his outside business while delivering the mail.

Next came the question: Is it OK that the mail carrier solicited customers for his outside business while delivering the mail?

Our local host took answers from the room, and unanimously, we all thought that the carrier should not have solicited customers for his outside business while delivering the mail.

The local host typed our answer into Zoom, while on-screen we could see answers coming in from every other postal facility across these United States. All of them said that the carrier should not have solicited customers for his outside business while delivering the mail, and the executive in charge read every local session's answer, out loud.

"Pensacola says it's not OK. Duluth says the carrier shouldn't have done that. Scarborough says don't do it. Quad Cities says it's not OK. Rewey WI says not OK. Anchorage says no sir. White River Junction VT says the carrier shouldn't have solicited customers for his outside business while delivering the mail..."

After ten minutes of this, Michael issued his verdict, which was... Can you guess? What do you think? Turns out, the mail carrier should not have solicited customers for his outside business while delivering the mail.

And then we moved on to the next of twenty very obvious postal ethical rules, videos, votes, and readings of the votes.

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The section on diversity was the same as at any other job. A white man in a suit (Michael from The Office again) read platitudes and showed us videos and kept saying, "We value diversity and inclusion."

And I believe USPS does value diversity and inclusion — our local session was as multi-cultured as my bus ride to the facility, which is great. But one day in one of these meetings somewhere, it would be nice if "We value diversity and inclusion" was read and said by someone who's not a white man.

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There was an interesting but too-brief overview of how the mail system works, showing a letter on its journey from a blue dropbox on the corner, through a zillion sorting and scanning and loading and driving and re-sorting steps, and finally to delivery. It's impressive what USPS does every day.

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During breaks, I walked around the facility, which is where I'll be working, and it's far more interesting than anything in the orientation session.

It's a regional distribution center with hundreds of huge machines for sorting the mail, and more machines (and cool pedal-operated carts) for transporting mail from one corner of the building to another. My favorite machine is a brilliantly-engineered but crazy spiral conveyor belt that carries sorted mail tubs up its loops, then over a walkway, and down a spiral the same shape but going the opposite direction.

From there the mail tubs roll onto a long automated and apparently computerized track that pauses like at a red light as it merges with other tracks, taking the mail tubs toward other parts of the huge building, where they're scanned and loaded and on their way. Like I said, it's impressive.

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Among lots of other paperwork, we were given the published pay charts, so now I know what my wage will be (low end of decent), and I joined the union (hooray).

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At the lunch break, most of us sat in the big meeting room, scrolling on phones or reading books, minding our own business, with no effort to make conversation. As an introvert/hermit, I appreciated that.

There was one guy a few rows behind me, though (there's always "one guy") who kept loudly trying to talk to other people, who didn't want to be talked to.

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Getting to the place involves ten minutes of walking from home to the bus stop, and twenty minutes walking from the bus stop to the building, which means round trip I'll be walking an hour every day. That's a lot of walking for fat lazy me, but I can do it.

Already it hurt my legs less than last week, when I walked the same walk as a practice run.

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As for what the job entails, I still don't know. My hope was that I'd be sitting at a sorting machine keying in zip codes all day, but clearly that's not right — nobody reads addresses at the Post Office; there are machines that do that.

In the entire facility I didn't see anyone sitting down, so apparently this job involves standing up and lifting stuff and walking around, maybe pedaling one of the carts. It's a physical job, not a sit-down job. Didn't see any fat workers.

I haven't done physical work for a living since my anything legal for $5 an hour days in the '90s, and even that was only once in a while. Last time I worked eight hours on my feet every dang day was at McDonald's in the 1970s, so yikes.

Someone's gotta do it, though, and 640,000 people do. It might get me physically fit for the first time in many years.

I'm gonna try to stick it out, even if it's a job that makes my legs tired and my pits sweaty. We'll see.

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My first shift actually learning the job is tonight, Tuesday, starting at 6:00 PM. I'll get off at 2:30 AM tomorrow, which means I can't take the bus, because my connecting bus doesn't run overnight.

I'll have to drive, and I hate driving, and my car isn't reliable enough to be dependable work transportation. It'll break down before I'm out of the job's probationary period, so I'll need to be switched to the day shift, soon.

But that might be difficult. In a union job, seniority rules, and the long-timers probably own the day shift.

So far, then, like any new job, this one's full of unknowns. 


The Post Office
Part 1     Part 2     Part 3 


  1. Doug, sorry you have to work nights. I didn't see that one coming. I suppose the Post Office never sleeps, but people have to. Keep checking the oil in your car. As long as it has oil, it will likely keep going until you can obtain bus service. Good luck, and congrats on the new job. Maybe they'll at least buy you some USPS underwear. They should give a brother a break.

    your brother,


    1. I've worked nights before, and liked it. Never had a job supply me with free underwear, though. That would be cool. Eagle embroidered I hope.

    2. The underwear should be embossed "We deliver for you" just in case you run into a lovely adorable. You never know.


    3. No adorables for me. I'm retired from all that. It just seems like soooo much effort, even with postal underwear as an enhancement.

    4. "Here's your package, ma'am" on the front.

    5. My shorts should say that across the back.


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