Saturday, February 9, 2008

Make way for some Fe-mail

When I was in Junior High my Dad had a Star Route (he was an independent contract carrier for the Post Office). He would drive me and my friends to school in the morning in his mail jeep. The back door only opened from the outside so we had to sit in mortified view of the entire student body unloading from the buses while he hopped out of the front and strode around to the back hollering "Special Delivery! I've got some Fe-Mail". The reality might not have been that bad but you know how things are when you are low on the totem pole in Junior High (maybe you don't - lucky you). The point of this little opening story is to announce that I have finally (almost) completed training and am re-entering the world of mail delivery.

I don't remember exactly how many years my Dad delivered. It seems like forever but that can't be right because he also fit careers as a school teacher and bus driver into his life. When he delivered I would sometimes go along and help. I got a taste for the life of a carrier in rural America. After high school, marriage and a number of years floundering in retail I bid on a Star Route of my own in Park City, UT. I was stupid and young and I was the low bid by thousands. I got the route. Do two stupids make a smart? Matt joined me in the mail world. He partnered up with another carrier who only wanted to work part-time and we also took on a 3rd route that we split. Star Route carriers provide their own vehicles. If there is a breakdown we must have a back-up to make sure the route is delivered. At one time we had 7 vehicles (3 ancient mail jeeps, 1 suv, 1 sedan, Friq, and a right hand drive Scout) to ensure that we would have at least 2 vehicles running at any give time. There were some hideously awful days of delivery. Christmas season + 4 feet of snow + a vehicle breakdown + garbage day + bronchitis morphing into pneumonia = a 13+ hour day of pure, unfiltered misery. But there were also days of pure, contented satisfaction. Summer + light mail volume + a working right hand drive jeep + wildlife sightings + happy customers + some good tunes = a 5 hour day and the satisfaction of a job well done. We lasted 3 years before we had had just about enough of 6 day work weeks and vehicle maintenance. I am fond of saying "It was the best of jobs. It was the worst of jobs."

I know time can soften memory, filtering and diluting the worst experiences and putting a fuzzy, warm glow on the good times. Perhaps that is why I am so excited to get back to delivering. I am remembering all the ways that job is so right for me and putting a dimmer on the memories of all the hardship. I am convinced that this time around the good can still be really good and the bad can't possible reach the levels of the Star Route. Why? This time around I am an honest to goodness Postal Employee. I will be starting out as a sub so there is zero chance of year after year of 6 day a week employment. I also live in a different place. Yes, we have nasty weather but we will never (uh, never say never?) have snow piled up so high it buries all mailboxes. I am still responsible for providing and maintaining my own vehicle but I am in a better place financially now so that isn't the gnawing worry it once was. If I get knocked down with pneumonia I am not the only person running the route so I can hack up my lungs in the privacy of my own home rather than on the route. There will still be Christmas mail volume and garbage day but I can totally deal with that. What hasn't changed is the freedom of driving out of the office for a day of lone accountability, the wildlife (I saw an elk herd on my first day of partial delivery yesterday), that sing-song feeling of driving a route in spring with a breeze that feels like it is blowing right into my soul and clearing things out, that satisfaction of knowing I am giving the patrons the best service possible and the complete feeling I get when my car is empty at the end of the route. I dig all of that.

1 comment:

Tairah said...

I have often wondered about doing something like that myself. I really like reading your blog. I like the way you say things. Love ya!