Monday, April 26, 2010

"A Drone is Born" : Part II

After I'd emerged into a semblance of consciousness I called my supervisor back at the post office.

"Yeah, one of the mail carriers called in sick this morning. I need you to do his route in Kippens."

I remember feeling vaguely amused that this guy actually thought it was the morning. It was 5:30 A-friggin'M and as far as I was concerned it was technically still the weekend.

"I...uh, listen, all I've done before is deliver ad mail," I protested. "Can I even legally do this? I think maybe you should get someone else..."

Dad, who was within earshot, suddenly grabbed the phone from me.

"Hi, can you excuse us for just a moment?" he hastily told the supervisor before covering the receiver and silencing me with a raised finger.

"You should never, ever refuse a request from your boss!" Dad scolded me. "And never refuse an opportunity or a promotion!"

I sighed deeply and stared at him, unable to protest. I regarded my father as an infinite source of authority and wisdom, and living under his roof, there was no way I would have refused after that. I sheepishly took the phone back and told my supervisor that I'd be there as soon as I could.

But before I go any further it should be mentioned that sometimes supervisors can be idiots with a "little big man" complex. They often don't question the ideas and directives of the powers that be above them and have no qualms seeing their staff twist in the wind or be humiliated. Also, that accepting a promotion might have been a no-brainer in the workplace of the Fifties to the Seventies but in the late Eighties and certainly into the Nineties it could often be the biggest mistake of your career. It's been my experience and the experience of friends that blindly accepting a promotion nowadays often translates into five times the responsibility and stress as well as less compensation overall since now you're working buckets of unpaid overtime.

Sorry, folks, I just wanted to counterbalance the earnest but naive advice that I swallowed wholesale during that very moment.

Dad drove me down to the post office and I zig-zagged to the front door like a drunken somnambulistic zombie. The cold, pouring rain revived me a bit and I was going to need it. I was about to experience the first in a life-long line of slapdash and grossly inadequate training sessions.

"So this is your route," the supervisor mumbled, handing me a crude map that looked like the sort of thing a drunk friend might scribble on a napkin to show you where the after hours party is going down.

"And here are your keys," he continued, nonplussed by my look of confusion. "Sean's gonna take you out in the truck and drop you off so you'd better get out there."

"Look, dude," I protested. "I have no clue what I'm doing. Where's my mailbag? What are all these keys for?"

The supervisor cast a world-weary sigh, undoubtedly pissed off that I was cutting into his water cooler time, likely used to mull over the ramification of last night's episode of "ALF".

"Sean's gonna explain everything, so just go out to the truck."

Still perplexed that I wasn't currently burdened by my weight in mail, I made my way out to the delivery truck where Sean was waiting as promised.

En route to the...uh, route, Sean nuanced the finer points of my duties:

"Alright, I'm gonna leave you at the first drop box. The big key unlocks those boxes, okay? Inside is your first mailbag and inside of each bag, batches of mail are pre-sorted together with rubber-bands to keep things organized. Grab the bag and follow your route map. Deliver stuff as it comes up. Eventually you'll get to a rural route box. You know what they look like, right? Use the smaller key to unlock that one and then fill'er up. The next drop box should be close by. Keep doing that until you get to the end of the map. Got it?"

Given the ungodly hour I'll confess to nodding off a bit. Being skewered by a direct question snapped me back into consciousness.

"Oh, um, yeah!" I enthused, checking quickly for drool. "Sounds pretty easy."

I feigned alertness by asking what I thought was a relevant query:

"Sooooo, how many drop boxes are there?"

"I can't remember for this route. Four or five, I think."

I had little time to ponder the ramifications of this as the truck skidded to a stop and I was cast out into the heavy rain like one of the the Space Marines in "Aliens" surging out of the APC onto the surface of LV 426.

The truck tore off and I shielded my vision from the heavy precipitation, looking for the first drop box, which revealed itself only as the mail truck pulled away. I fumbled with the keys to the door, my fingers already starting to go numb. My standard issue rain poncho was serving me well but dampness was setting in and my teeth were beginning to chatter.

I finally managed to breach the door of the gray, rectangular drop box and stood in stunned silence for a moment as I looked at the massive mailbag filling up every cubic centimeter. It looked like something a mob boss had left there to send me a "message". In retrospect, I guess the message was likely "You're F#@%*$, pally!" I cursed a blue streak as I hefted it onto my shoulders, proving that not just ants are capable of lifting twenty times their body weight.

I shlepped through the rain, becoming increasingly disconsolate as I began to realize the vast distance between these rural drop boxes. At one point in time I began to suspect that this was likely to become the postal equivalent of the Bataan Death March.

At first the route was like doing my ad-mail deliveries in a standard subdivision, with individual boxes for individual houses. Unfortunately some of these homes seemed like they were a quarter of a mile apart or set back off the road as if leading up into the Azarks. I silently rejoiced every time I encountered another rural route box, since I could open up the big panel door and huddle underneath it out of the rain for a moment while I frantically stuffed envelopes, magazines and small packages into whatever nook and/or cranny looked vaguely appropriate.

The down side is that I'd soon find myself encumbered again by a new (and seemingly heavier) mail bag. In retrospect, at least this was giving me some practice for a future career in marketing.

Yes, the mail inside the bag was bundled together in some semblance of organization. Or at least that was the theory. Often times I'd spend ten minutes compensating for the nearly random sorting techniques. As the day wore on past noon, I began to get borderline delirious from lack of food and rest. The rain began to smear my map into something Salvador Dali would have dismissed as indecipherable. I became increasingly accident-prone. Often times I'd find myself blinking at the sight of someone's copy of "Newsweek" bloating up in a puddle underfoot like one of those foam "Grow-a-Dinosaurs".

What may have taken an experienced carrier about three or four hours to do was now taking me more than double that time.

"At least I'm milkin' this $13.00 hourly rate," I muttered to myself as I kept trudging.

Mercifully, in either a moment of pity or guilt, Dad drove by later and started shuttling me around so I could deliver the rest by car. I think he technically saved my life that day, bless 'em. If not for him, I'd likely still be wandering around Kippens like a mail wraith.

At the end of the day, both of us were troubled by the amount of undelivered mail that we just couldn't reconcile and were forced to bring it back to the post office since we weren't instructed to do anything to the contrary.

The supervisor politely thanked me for my efforts but I was mercifully never asked to do it again. Part of me thinks this whole arrangement was not entirely kosher but it's much more likely that the post office was inundated the next day by complains about grossly mis-delivered mail and sopping wet Columbia House packages.

The saga continues...

EPIC: (I guess I should have kept at it)

No comments: