(…Apartment routes suck. They’re full of lockboxes that usually require one or two keys to actually get to, and then you deal with boxes full of shit that people never empty, so you end up cramming everything in. If you live in an apartment with a lockbox, check your mail every day. For the love of God. I don’t like to destroy mail by jamming it in, but sometimes I’ll do it on purpose…)
February 23 — Pat, a regular, asks if I carried his route. “Yes,” I say, and then he tells me all the things I did wrong. “Look,” he says, “you don’t put any mail in the boxes labeled vacant. And when you deliver the advos, do it like this.” He pantomimes folding paper. “Because when I’m out there, I like to jam.”
March 3 — Two girls holler “Sexy mailman!” at me from a McDonald’s drive-through. Makes/ruins my day.
March 10 — I’m running the collection route: collecting the mail out of the blue boxes along a particularly trashy part of El Cajon Boulevard. I open a box and the unmistakable smell of feces wafts out: someone has finagled some human shit in there. The physics of dumping directly into the box seem tortured, which means it was probably picked up and placed inside. This seems profoundly sad. I scan the barcode on the box, but leave the shit-mail alone. I finish the route, for the next two hours feeling unhappy for the kid who won’t get a birthday card because someone crapped in the collection box. When I finally get back to the station, I go up to old-as-hell Jim. “Uh, Jim, I don’t quite know how to tell you this but…” He finishes the sentence: “…someone crapped in the collection box.” Then he tells me that I still need to bring it back. I do this. Despite the disgust of the other clerks, Jim finds the whole thing pretty damn funny. HAZMAT comes to take care of the shit.
March 11 — Greg calls and gives me the day off. In all my time with the post office, this is the only time a supervisor will tell me to take a day off.
March 28 — The weather turns beautiful, even by San Diego standards. The job becomes easier, and I love everything about it. I finish a route early and return to find Hardass Greg in the office. I’m hanging up my keys when he says, “You’re really getting the hang of this, aren’t you, Ryan?” I say, “Yeah, and I’m liking it a lot better, too. Especially on days like today.” I make a gesture that takes in the air all around us, the beautiful spring air. Greg smiles, a genuine smile. “Just wait until summer, you’ll love it,” he says.
April 10 — I deliver a rooster, sent overnight express. I deliver it to an apartment complex.
(…You begin to get the hang of the job. You take pride in being a civil servant, with an altruistic sense of duty. But this will be a fleeting period. There are no incentives for being good at your job at the United States Postal Service. If you finish early, your reward is delivering more mail. So you begin taking your time, or you finish early and read in your car for an hour, perhaps get a coffee. San Diego is a beautiful place. Sometimes you just look at the beach…)
April 21 — I do my work, come back to the office near 6:00 p.m. Old-as-hell Jim tells me to go back out to help Mike Mikelob. One of the daily goals for the post office is to get all carriers off the street by 6:00, but I think, “Oh, well, more overtime for me. Possible double-time.” We finish up by 7:00 p.m. It’s dark when we get back.
April 23 — I jam a route, after which Hardass Greg says, “Ryan, come here.” He has my timecard in hand. He tells me that I’m supposed to report to the Encanto station the next day. I figure I’m going out on a loan. “All right,” I say, taking the timecard. Hardass Greg hesitates. “Yeah?” I ask. “Nothing,” he says. I don’t know it yet, but this is how Hardass Greg says goodbye.
April 24 — I borrow my girlfriend’s car (I’d been riding the bus to Andrew Jackson) to get to the Encanto post office. The supervisor here is Elizabeth. Elizabeth has an accent best described as Transylvanian; that’s the kind of fear she instills. Hardass Greg’s power came from brute presence, but there’s a dark fire in Elizabeth’s eyes that devalues your worth as a human being. She calls me into her office. “I want you to know my expectations if you’re going to carry for me,” she says. “I’m strict but fair.” She then says, “You must take control of your route, DO NOT LET YOUR ROUTE CONTROL YOU!” I say, “Wait, what is this? I’m here with you for just today, right?” Elizabeth says, “No, you’re stationed here now. Permanently.”
I knew the routes over at Andrew Jackson, and being sent to a new station is like having to learn the job all over again. I’m having feelings of abandonment and frustration, mixed with the realization that I’ll have to buy my own car. It makes me want to cry right there in Elizabeth’s office. “Nobody told you?” she asks. She puts me on a route, whispering, “This is a black neighborhood.” It rains for the entire shift. I lose my pen and have to ask an elderly lady if I can have hers. I tell her it’s my first day.
May 4 — I haven’t even worked a full week at Encanto when the San Ysidro station calls. Saul is the supervisor there. I like him; he’s the first one I’ve met who doesn’t emit hatred and disappointment. When I call at 3:00 p.m. for help, he sends out a Transitional Employee named Adrian who goes by “Rocky.” Rocky is older, graying, has braces, and sounds like Cheech Marin. His home station never uses him, either, so it’s the first of many times we run into each other. He talks of the supervisors at the other stations. “Just wait till you meet Cheryl at Riverfront station. She’s GOOORGEOUS.”