Friday, September 24, 2004

Going postal

As I mentioned before, there was a time when I worked for the U.S.P.S. This post office was located on an army base in Europe. Besides civilians, military personnel also worked there, which made it all the more fun when something had to get done.
If you never worked in a military environment, you may not realize that the average GI wants nothing more in his day than to do as little as possible. I'm not saying our service men and women do not do a good job defending us, what I'm saying is they want to get away from the day to day crap that has to be used a filler while they are waiting to go do their actual MOS.
While I worked there, I was able to truly appreciate how many ways there are to waste a human beings time. I witnessed one gung ho lietenant assigning mailbox cleaning duties. These were the mailboxes we used to sort mail, the public never touched them. They had to be washed out and made sparkling so that we might dirty them again when the evenings mail came.
I had the luck of being in charge of claims. First, let me explain to you how mail is shipped. You bring your package to the counter and have the postal person stamp it "fragile", with the assurance that it will be treated with care. You might even see it being placed gently in a large bin. What you don't see is the 70lb box that is set on top of it before it is rolled into the back. Let's say it survives that. It gets tossed into a nylon bag along with any other box that is going to that zip code zone. It doesn't matter if it is heavy or light. If it fits in the bag, it's going. That bag is tied up tight and then loaded on to a cart with other bags just like it. Now, it is an overseas PO like the one I worked at, the soldiers load an 18 wheeler with these bags. Think for a moment, what is the quickest way to get those bags in the truck? You guessed it, throwing! We used to have contests to see who could throw it the furthest.
It then gets driven to the airport, where it is off loaded onto large open carts that will be dragged to the airplane. Now, as a person loads the cart, all he is thinking of is how fast can I get this thing loaded so I can get back and go home. These carts often resemble a Jenga tower after 10 rounds. You tell me if you think it makes it to the airplane without falling off.
As the claims person (and one who does all the other stuff as well), I have to explain to GI Smith exactly why that priceless figurine that Aunt Susie sent didn't make it in one piece. I'm the one who had to listen to them rant and rave. Of course, Aunt Susie just wrapped her porcelain unicorn in newspaper with a brown paper overlay, so it doesn't make it safely. That little "fragile" stamp is not a stamp of invicibility.
We had a room dedicated to all the broken merchandise that had outstanding claims on them(claims never took less than 6 months to be completed), from computer monitors to car flywheels. I used to send out notice after notice to people who filed claims, trying to find out if they got their money. They didn't realize that I had to keep every broken piece of crap that came through my doors until I was notified that claim had been paid. What? You ask, "Didn't the USPS notify you?" Now why would it do that? It might save me 5 hours a week doing paperwork follow-up if it did that. How else can it warrant that stamp increase if it can't prove that all this work is being done?
Many a day I was glad that all the weapons were locked up in a seperate building.


Envoy-ette said...

Yes....Holland was the same way! I remember the guy throwing the sack of boxes (at Xmas) over the counter onto the floor where we were waiting in line. There was a definite "shattering" sound. But he just shrugged...and said..."that's what insurance is for."

TheDevilIsInTheDetails said...

Be prepared for the next hurricane katrina relief or find another one that's similar. As the Boy Scouts say: "Be Prepared"!