May 5 — I’m back in Encanto. I let the route control me.
Encanto uses me only three times during the month I’m stationed here. I get sent to Otay Mesa (92154), San Ysidro (92143), Southeastern Station (92113), Pacific Beach (92109), Paradise Hills (92139), City Heights (92105), Hillcrest (92103), Downtown (92101), and Riverfront (92104 and 92116). I meet Cheryl. She’s all right.
May 22 — Despite spending a week delivering fliers for the postal union’s food drive, I’m still enraged when the time comes to pick up people’s donated cans. It’s not like we aren’t already hoisting 50-plus pounds of shit. At the end of the day, I tell Cheryl I can’t wait for the National Association of Letter Carrier’s needle drive. She doesn’t think it’s very funny.
(…You never get a lunch. They say you’re entitled to one, but it never works out. You eat a peanut-butter-and-honey sandwich, an apple, and a granola bar every day for a year. Easy to make, fast to eat. Combine this with the 80ish miles you walk every day, in 80-degree heat, and you lose weight. You come into the post office pushing 200 pounds, and five months later, you’re at a trim 167. People begin to comment about how incredibly tan and slim you look. Slave labor makes you look great…)
June 3 — The supervisor at the Hillcrest station is named Dre. He fist-bumps me and says, “Fantastic work, Bradford!” at everything I do. They put me on a route that has over 40 swings (most routes have 20–30), and I don’t get done till after 6:00 p.m. I come back, and one of the Hillcrest regs asks how long it took me. I tell him, and he says, “Psh, I would have smoked that route.”
(…You take advantage of every restroom you come across. The worst is delivering in a residential neighborhood and not knowing where the closest bathroom is. Libraries are saviors, as well as community parks. I’ve only resorted to going in the bushes between houses once. Some carriers used to keep bottles in their vehicles, until someone forgot to throw away the piss-bottle and left it in the car for the next carrier. There was a stand-up talk about it the next week — No more pissing in bottles! Imagine it: grown adults being told how to use the bathroom…)
June 8 — I get a call from Lauren, the supervisor at Point Loma, who informs me that, from this point on, I will be stationed at the Point Loma carrier annex (which serves both Point Loma and Old Town — 92106 and 92110, respectively). Lauren is young, has a good sense of humor, and hasn’t let the job crush her, a true anomaly in the Postal Service’s middle-management. Even the regulars are nice. Point Loma is beautiful. I spend mornings in my mail truck thinking this is the best job in the world.
I pass most of the summer at Point Loma. The rich neighborhoods get so much shit, so many catalogs. They also like their mail delivered just so: letters in the slot, flats on the ground. Sometimes you’ll shove it all in, and customers will call you out on it. “Would you please not crumple my mail?” They mean the five Neiman Marcus catalogs that they’re just going to throw out anyway. But it’s not a big deal. Really, there isn’t much to complain about here, except the occasional old person, asking about their regular:
Old Person: “Oh, you’re not Alan! Where’s Alan?”
Me: “I dunno. I’m just covering for him.”
OP: “I haven’t seen Alan in a long time. Is he sick?”
Me: “Lady, I don’t know. He could be on vacation.”
OP: “I hope Alan’s all right. He’s been our mailman for 15 years. He’s super!”
Me: “Yeah, well…”
OP: “But you don’t know where Alan is?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
July 14 — Bad things happen in Hillcrest. They put me on another long route. I get to one of the last swings and find out there’s a scheduled pick-up from a business. Pick-ups are always a pain in the ass, and this guy has over 50 priority boxes. He helps me load them through the side door of the van, and I swear I hear him shut it. I pull away and make a sharp left. Turns out he didn’t shut the door. Boxes spill out all over Park Avenue, one of the busiest streets in Hillcrest. A woman screams. I stop my car in the middle of the road and gather boxes, hoping the customer hasn’t seen. The screaming lady comes over to help. “It’s scary that the door just opened like that,” she says.
(…For the most part, letter-carriers are the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, people who love their job and treat it with the same pride as a firefighter. But there are bad apples. Some regs can be shitheads. You see how they take advantage of union protection. They’re nearly impossible to fire and always want more hours but less work. You’ll cover a route for them, and they’ll purposefully miscase it to slow you down [regs don’t like it when you run their route, because management will see that their routes take less time than they’re allotted and add to it]. Or, sometimes they’ll sneak extra mail in. I’ve seen it happen…)
August 5 — A desperate-housewife-type woman in a black-and-neon tracksuit chases me down the street. She tells me she doesn’t think she’s getting all of her mail, which seems like a normal complaint, until she explains that it’s part of a Crip network that’s been stealing people’s mail out of boxes and taking identities. She says that the neighborhood has collectively lost an absurd amount of money, like 40 billion dollars. She asks me what she should do and seems annoyed when I tell her to get a PO box if she’s worried about her mail’s security. She says that a PO box would be too inconvenient.