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January 15, 2010 — I’m hired into the USPS as a Transitional Employee (TE) in the city of San Diego.

The job description states that this will never lead to a career position. The base pay is $21 an hour, but with none of the medical benefits of a regular. Stations will use us until they don’t need us anymore, then we’ll be sent to another desperate outpost. We are expendable. This is mercenary carrier work.

January 18 — The first person to speak to us during training is from the Employee Assistance Program. It’s her job to make sure no one goes “postal.” (A bad omen for a new position?) We watch an hourlong video about reading the “language” of dogs.

January 30 — Last day of carrier training. It’s also the instructor’s 20th anniversary of being a letter carrier. A classmate thinks it’s a good idea to give the instructor a card. For some reason, this classmate announces to everyone that the card was my idea. I leave training looking like a teacher’s pet.

February 3 — It’s my first day at the Andrew Jackson Post Office (92115). I arrive dressed in a plaid shirt, corduroys, and postal hat. I meet my supervisor, Greg, an imposing man with very white skin, bulging eyes, and what looks like coke-jaw. Probably an ex-Marine. The first thing he asks is if I’m military. “No,” I say, adding, “I used to write internet content!” He tells me to wait in the swing room. After awhile, a 20-year carrier named Rick takes me out. We have a pleasant time delivering mail until the sun goes down.

February 8 — Two days post-training, it’s Rick’s day off. Greg tells me to “case” — the term refers to putting magazines, fliers, etc. into correct order — and “carry” Route 17.

It’s a Monday, which also means it’s a big junk-mail day: every carrier hates Mondays. Greg tells me to take the coverage there, too…after only two days of training. I’m fucked.

I go out. The day is too hot. It takes me forever to find anything. The junk-mail keeps falling apart on people’s lawns. At 3:30 p.m., I call the station and tell Greg I have quite a bit of mail left. I expect him to say, Well, you tried your best… What he says is: “WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS IS, BRADFORD, SOME KIND OF GAME? This is people’s livelihood you’re dealing with!” He tells me to stop delivering the advos and finish up. I make it back to the office, where Greg tells me to go home. Before clocking out, as if nothing has happened, he asks how I liked it. I’m on the verge of tears, but I tell him I could get used to it. He says, “Yeah, you’ll probably dream about it tonight.” And I do; yes, I do. Nightmares about letter-carrying.

February 9 — I scavenge through old uniforms in the break room. Hello, sweat-stains! Greg gives me some final training, then sends me out with Charles. Charles lifts my spirits by reminding me that a job is a job, especially in these rough times. Things will be all right.

I can’t stop looking at his fingers.

(…You come home every night, and your fingers are torn to shreds. You are constantly jamming them into rows of paper, which get up under your fingernails, under your cuticles. You don’t vote in elections, because of the paper cuts endured from political mailings. You spend each night cutting your nails down and removing the broken skin around them…)

February 10 — I arrive to work, spirits up. Greg hones in on my good mood and sets out to destroy it. He assigns me Route 33. He gives me a pep talk: “Route 33 is a ghetto route. On coverage days, they get a lot of mail, because they live in apartments, and they’re poor, and they like the coupons, but on normal days it’s not too bad. Now, there are 400 deliveries on this route which means…” He performs some sort of calculation to determine how many deliveries I’ll have to do per minute, which comes out to about 1.3 — he thinks. “C’mon,” he says, “you’re into computers.” Reminding him that I wrote internet content is probably a bad idea. Greg says: “You can do this. They’re poor, and you’re an American.”

The mailman/dog relationship is no lie. It’s like they can smell it on you, a scent that triggers their hunting instinct. But the owners are worse. Opposite of owners who talk to their pets in baby voice are the ones who scold their pets as if they were aristocratic children.

The mailman/dog relationship is no lie. It’s like they can smell it on you, a scent that triggers their hunting instinct. But the owners are worse. Opposite of owners who talk to their pets in baby voice are the ones who scold their pets as if they were aristocratic children.

It’s three p.m. I believe I’ve been doing a slow-but-steady job, but then I turn around, and Greg is there — on the street! watching me carry the route! — along with the station manager, Jim, who is old as hell. I am unnerved. After a few deliveries, Greg pulls me aside. “I’m not seeing the attitude,” he says. “I don’t expect you to have technique — you’ll learn that later — but you don’t have the attitude!” He grabs my satchel and does an exaggerated impression of a goofy letter carrier. Supposedly me. He hands back the satchel. “I can’t have you out here past 4:00. A white boy like you in this neighborhood, you’ll get shot. Just work on your attitude.” He and Jim leave. I carry past 4:00. I don’t get shot.

February 12 — Supervisor/boss/hardass Greg eases up. He gives me a couple hours on various routes. When I return from one of them, he says, “That was pretty fast.” I’ve never felt more validated. Old-as-hell Jim — who licks his lips constantly — also tells me, “Good job.”

(…“Fingering the mail” is the official term for, well, fingering through the mail, but that doesn’t make it sound any less second-basey. “Finger the DPS until you’ve found all the letters for the first address, then finger all the flats that also go to that address. Make sure you have all the letters and flats fingered before arriving at the delivery unit, finger finger finger…”)

February 16th — I go with Mike, the senior Transitional Employee, to Mission Valley to pick up express mail for the 92115 zip code. Mike drives a large black SUV with a license plate that reads something like “MIKEALOB.” On the way, he tells me to be wary of the regular carriers (the “regs”) and that, as a TE, the most important thing is to shut up and do whatever management says. No complaining, no filing with unions, nothing. Again, we’re expendable. You can tell that Mike has a sense of pride at having been with Andrew Jackson for three years. When we drive past the college area, he comments about how tiny girls with big breasts are amazing.

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Comments

freetrashypaper March 28, 2012 @ 2:50 p.m.

I think delivering mail in a city like San Diego is easy in comparison to doing that somewhere that has actual seasons with 3 month long winters

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normadeplum April 5, 2012 @ 8:53 p.m.

I delivered for years in Buffalo. And now locally. Every town has it's plus side. The common traits are always there tho. This article is spot-on!

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619ninja March 29, 2012 @ 3:49 a.m.

I use to be a mail carrier back in 1980.One of very few women who did this at the time.Seems like things have not changed very much,good money,lots of hours,very poor management,bias to the good old boys and vets,regulars wary you will work too fast and get an add on to their route,a unique business with no start and no end,upon returning to the office the mail is always stacked,waiting for your return,over time very daunting.

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urbanator March 29, 2012 @ 8:50 a.m.

Thank you, Ryan, for your humorous account of being a TE. I absolutely loved it. I am a Postmaster in Missouri and can relate to everything in your diary. I've always thought they should come up with a sitcom based on the real experiences of a postal worker. Maybe you can come up with a script!! Have fun and keep writing!

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RPMAILMAN March 29, 2012 @ 11:11 a.m.

What a frickin cry baby. "I'm on the verge of tears" he states. I just retired after 31+ years of carrying the mail. Every aspect of mail delivery. From the nasty parts of town where you often hold your breath just to get down some streets. To the High dollar areas. After my initial training I had a walk-out route. You walk from the station and deliver mail working out of relay boxes. Two months in we had a 9 inch snow. Yep your legs feel like rubber after a few hours trudging through that mess but you push on.You can't take these comments about being late, and all the rest of them , to heart. You just smile hand them the mail and move on. I was an OJI trainer for several years and when my new trainees complained about heat, cold, long hours or being exhausted I just reminded them of what my Dad taught me. It is alot hotter, alot colder and mentally exhausting in the unemployment line. It is a good job. Even like in Ryans case where he gets no benefits he is still making $21 to walk or drive around and put mail in a box. Are there jerks out there who only want to complain. But once you know the customers you will reap many rewards. Are the majority of managers morons who are only managers to get out of real work? Sure they are. Otherwise they would be doing the same job as you. Will you freeze your butt off somedays? Sure I have carried mail in 42 below zero windchills. Will you fry? Yep last summer our city set a record for number of days over 100 that had stood since the 1930's. Will you get frustrated because it seems to be impossible to keep the mail dry while delivering in downpours? Yes again. Do I regret my 31+ years as a Letter Carrier? Not one bit. If it weren't for health issues I would still be out there delivering each days mail.

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normadeplum April 5, 2012 @ 8:56 p.m.

You sound like the cry baby. Those of us still deliveing applaud this young manfor his accuate account of what new and experienced carriers face. Uneducated management, unreasonable expectations, and yes, good pay.

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pse Nov. 21, 2012 @ 11 p.m.

Better a late comment than no comment - I'm guessing you walked 2 miles uphill (both ways) barefoot in snow drifts to deliver your mail ? I've always found that a sense of humor is helpful in life - especially when it comes to government entities. I am a PSE who has been abused since I started a year ago - far worse by the regular employees than management. I am accepting a TE carrier route position and will start training in a few weeks. I KNOW this job will exhaust me physically. I will often be burdened by weather conditions. My feet will hurt...alot. I will be criticized by my customers. I will work long hours at times. I am a realist - I know this is going to be demanding and I am up to the challenge. Yes, the money is good, but I have instrinsic reasons for accepting the job. I wonder if RPMAILMAN also has his own intrinsic reasons for being employed as a mail carrier - As hard as the job was, he regrets nothing. I enjoyed seeing the humor of my anxieties in your article - thank you Ryan! ...and thank you RPMAILMAN for helping me remember the non-monetary rewards of a job well done.

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Jill Ballard March 29, 2012 @ 2:07 p.m.

When I was a substitute teacher with San Diego City Schools, the kids and adults would tell me that I was late when I was filling in for a substitute teacher who failed to show up! Don't you hate it when people make comments out of ignorance?

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mailmantony March 29, 2012 @ 4:13 p.m.

You should read buokowski' Post office' it's a riot and will show how little things change at the PO

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Valerie Scher March 29, 2012 @ 4:16 p.m.

After reading this diary of a mail carrier, I have fresh appreciation for the folks who make sure I receive all those letters, ads, and bills. Congrats, Ryan, on your first-class delivery of a fine story.

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charliegrl March 29, 2012 @ 6:40 p.m.

This article was a blast to read. I'm a former TE (3 years befored they layed me off 2 years ago). Ryan you could'nt have wrote it better. That story is so true to the point; it had me laughing outloud. But I wanted to know did you ever get caught for the damaged van?

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sdmissy1 March 30, 2012 @ 2:23 p.m.

YEP!!...Tthis story is factual. And it's holds true for the TE's (now PSE's) at the Processing and Distribution plants. It's really not funny if you are the one enduring this type of treatment. Harrassment from the regulars. Threatened with dismissal if you don't work the long overtime hours (12~14hrs......even 15!!!). Not allowed time to take a sick child to urgent care or to visit your dying grandmother in the hospital. Not allowed to go home sick when you are throwing up on the floor in front of the MDO. No health care benefits of any kind. Not allowed time off for a Dr, appointment. Told by the MDO that if you call in sick, you better be on your death bed or you will be fired!!

Oh yeah, and to Mr. RPMAILMAN: typical comment from a cynical, bitter, unhappy regular - always bitching they want more hours, but want to do less work. You should be happy with your $30~$40/hr wage and be quiet!!

A serious investigation should be done by the Federal Govt for all the illegal work/labor practices that commonly take place at your local USPS.

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melcarriere March 30, 2012 @ 4:47 p.m.

Ryan, I found your article compelling, entertaining, and amusing. As a letter carrier and aspiring writer myself, I am insanely jealous, but must recognize talent when I see it. Keep it up because you're young and it is a dog eat dog industry, but you're off to a promising start. "Brad Pitt" faces sometimes have substance behind them.

One minor complaint. I was a 204B at Point Loma when you were there, so I will admonish you to take it easy on "Francine," because she tried to get your back. She is indeed gruff and irrational at times, and I've had my falling out with her, but I think she did the best she could.

I would invite you to visit my facebook page under my pen name, Mel Carriere.

None

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normadeplum April 5, 2012 @ 9:01 p.m.

Ryan, please don't deliver mail anymore. We are the donkeys that do that. We need you writing! telling stories. Go under cover at many jobs and tell the story!

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PostalJanitorSanDiego March 31, 2012 @ 3:50 a.m.

I enjoyed EVERY bit of this entire story. Mr. Ryan Bradford, you should publish this in a real BOOK. You have TALENT. I enjoyed your honest account of being a 'TE' Letter Carrier. I am a USPS Custodian for 2 different stations in San Diego. I was a Clerk from 2000 to 2010. In 2003, however, I tried carrying mail for a total of 8 days in Pacific Beach 92109. I can empathize with what you had gone through. No matter what anyone else says, carrying/delivering mail is NOT easy work!!! I have great respect for you, Ryan.

P.S. I have worked at most of the stations that were mentioned in this story (when I was a window clerk). I actually know who 'Greg' is. lol

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Chrstnochoa March 31, 2012 @ 9:37 p.m.

I'm a te, I been with the post office for 6 years, and your story is 100% true! It sucks, but who els is gonna pay me $22hr in these tuff times.

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PLPostman April 1, 2012 @ 11:06 p.m.

I retired as a Letter Carrier in 2009. I worked at the Point Loma Office for over 20 years. Yeah, work at the P.O IS hard and not just for TE's but Regulars too. Your comments Ryan, regarding customers and coworkers indicate that you are the wrong person for the job.

"The rain is soothing. You take satisfaction in letting it destroy the mail you’re delivering, as if it’s punishment for customers expecting you to work in these conditions"

Really? Punishment for customers expecting you to deliver mail in the rain? What did you think would happen on a rainy day? You would sit inside the van until it stops raining?

The Christmas comments, I don't know what to say

“Thank you for carrying our mail.” There’s a $20 bill. Or a box of chocolates. Or even a goddamn plate of baked goods. Those regulars who called in? F--k ’em. Those cards meant for them are now mine."

You think you worked long enough to make those kind of decisions, a noob with no street creds. Yet you write about the PO as if you were credible.

I'm glad I retired before having to share the workplace with you Ryan. Why you made it past 90 days probation is beyond me. Stick to writing and quit the PO if you haven't already, or maybe you've been fired for all I know as this was written in Jan 2010.

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offroadw April 1, 2012 @ 11:45 p.m.

Dear Ryan and San Diego Reader,

This has been the best article I've read in the Reader in a long time! I was laughing so hard that I drove my coworkers from the break room (seriously, I couldn't stop). At the same time, my heart went out to all the postal workers and the crazy stuff they have to put up with. The 'jobless' people who complain that the carrier is late? Oh yeah, that is sooo my neighbour. I have a PO Box and all the staff at the Box Window are amazing and I have so much more respect for them now. I think it's time for me to get some treats for my local mailman and all the box peeps! Thank you, postal workers-yay!!! Keep up the great writing, Ryan; looking forward to a more complete memoir on the bookshelves.

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CaliGirl23 April 2, 2012 @ 6:38 a.m.

This "Diary" of yours had me literally Laughing Out Loud! I will definitely be the first person in line to buy your book on this, Ryan. Good Job! And the ones who just don't "get" what you had documented in this entire article? They apparently have no sense of humor. Just saying.

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jenjen April 2, 2012 @ 8:45 a.m.

I'm never putting mail in a blue box on El Cajon Blvd ever again.

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diegoreds April 5, 2012 @ 9:26 p.m.

I was the TE at Andrew Jackson before Ryan. Greg was my Sup. along with Mgr Rod (Tumor) Who yelled at me "A van (Astro) is a van (windstar)." (never cert. Astro) Greg used fear and Intimidation as tool, yelling at me for waiting in Break room before Clock in when Route was cased and ready. (he is looking after himself) I am surprised he did not run into M. Jordan in Encanto who loves observing Asians to a science. I was a County Carrier in Encinitas, CA years back delivering my 2nd route at 10pm at night. I endured the Abuse for 7 years "Good boy," until you question. I was transfered from Mira Mesa for not being a "Friendly Little Island Person." I had to get the union to force MGR to give my uniform Allowance....to Think was "Written Up," for not having the correct Shoes after twisting a Ankle. They would never Approve most of Dentist and Doc Appts. 6 days a week 10 hours a day per year contract..... Call in sick and your gone. Now the PO wants to hire TE's at rate of $12 per hour.... a Job is a job if your ready to go to different stations everyday...told to call back office twice till they decide where to put you.... New on route everyday.... Now the routes are 10 hours long guess Safety and night deliveries are everyday thing. The post office still has same people who will never Retire running things. Victor (Riverfront) and Rod are Regional MGR's. The union "Recardo's" (pres) praise to your questions "Be lucky your getting those hours." The Stories all TE's can tell. Ryan, this will be a best seller book if the Truth comes out. Still waiting for the USPS "Undercover Boss," episode... they are to busy giving each other Bonuses..... Congress investigation will Really uncover truth.....???? Only God will know...

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Ojibwa April 7, 2012 @ 8:03 p.m.

Ryan that was a great story. It reminded me to what I went through when I was a PTF. It sad now that it takes a long time before any new employee to become a regular. Keep it up and I hope you will do well with the PO.And watch out for those collection boxes that someone used as a Crapper ! Man that's nasty...... lol.

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PostalJanitorSanDiego April 7, 2012 @ 9:45 p.m.

No matter what craft you work for at the United States Postal Service, there is always some unprofessional, uneducated, and incompetent person working under Management. They are nothing more than a big, fat JOKE.

(Some Station Managers are the BEST, though.)

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sandiegosunriser April 10, 2012 @ 3:25 p.m.

That was a great story. It reminds me of a lot of jerks I had to work with when I was at the County of San Diego for quite a few years. Ninety nine per cent of the staff was great, but there always were one or two who had the maturity of a 3-year old...

We always, though, were allowed to go to medical or dental appointments and if a family member died, we were given a minimum of three days bereavement leave (more if you added your vacation time).

An investigation of USPS definitely should be conducted. It sounds like there is blatant discrimination and all kinds of abuse going on. I would not be surprised if these activities have been going on for the past sixty years.

Regarding access to a restroom, carriers should be allowed to use bottles in their vehicles, regardless if someone forgot to remove theirs. Why should the whole staff be penalized because of one person? Serious health consequences can occur when a person does not relieve themself for long periods--just ask any public school teacher.

And if a carrier wants to use my bathroom anytime, that is fine with me. After all, we are only human...

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ddfatcat May 10, 2012 @ 9:35 p.m.

As a 37 year vet of the PO I can say this isn't half the shit that goes on in the P.o

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sovelo2002 Nov. 4, 2012 @ 5:04 p.m.

That's sad & true thing which has being happened everyday in all of united states. mostly, if your Supervisor or Manager don't like you, they will submit a form 1723 to move (kick out) you to other stations. and you will be told that they like you very much but no choice. because...(many reason such as some regs come back from injury, or someone won the route here, so we are full...) Don't trust them. if so, you must have done something they don't like or just simply don't like you whatever you do. as everyone knows, you are a good worker or not, it really depends your boss! but I don't think Regs or managements are happy to do that. Life is amazing, sometimes your fate treats you just like what you treat others. God is fair, don't worry to much of those anuses. almost all managers and area bosses are anuse in USPS, Supervisors are just lick their anuses... whatever you are in this such ugly world, remember: the most important thing is Never loss yourself, be a good man, take care your family,and be nice for animals. you don't have to donate something to poors ( Govt took 1/3 of our scanty imcome already). so far, many companies hire part-time job. they give you full time work but part time pay! no any benefits ( insurance, vacation, sick leave & holidays pay), even like Bank of America.

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