Tag Archives: mail carrriers

All Hail to the United States Postal Service

“Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”. Most Americans, I’d say, think this is the motto of the USPS, but actually, they don’t have a motto. This particular quote appears as an inscription on a post office in New York City.
The quote itself is taken from the writings of Herodotus (circa BCE 500), the Greek philosopher that I remember as being famous for saying that you can never step in the same river twice. (Still a very profound thought.) But describing the Persian system of messengers, he said, “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey, and these are stayed neither by snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.” Think Pony Express. It also reminds me of the origins of the Iditarod.
The USPS is in a very weird position. It’s mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and yet, it’s received no money from the taxpayers since the early 1980’s. So it’s expected to sink or swim on its own merits, by hook or by crook. But let them try to raise the price of a stamp by even one cent (which has to be approved by Congress), and watch the outcry. They are always between a rock and a hard place. They’re expected to act as a private company would, but without the ability to set prices or charge higher fees based on whatever hardships may be involved based on where they have to deliver. They have to deliver everywhere for the same price, regardless.
For instance, they deliver mail to a Native American tribe living at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, which they have to do by donkey.
This is an unsustainable business model. They cannot compete with private companies that aren’t hampered by these archaic regulations. FedEx killed them. Email killed them. In the sink or swim category, the answer is…sink. The USPS lost $5 billion last year.
Think about what you get in the mail these days. Bills and ads, mostly ads. Crap you just throw away. Wasted paper, and wasted labor to deliver it.
It’s no wonder that working for the Postal Service is very depressing. The employees are under a tremendous amount of pressure to perform, but in the end, what is the reward? Yes, you get very good federal benefits, if you can manage to keep your job. But how motivating can it be that your goal is “Don’t get fired”? The first mass shooting by an employee in the workplace in this country was by a postal worker. We even have a saying for it…”going postal”.
So…at work have a regular mail carrier named Alvin. Alvin is black. Always wears an earring and has a little soul patch on his chin. Has ear buds in his ears, connected to his cell phone in his pocket. There was a time when none of that would have been permitted. The ear buds and the earring may still not be permissible, so it could be that he attaches them once he’s out of headquarters, but the soul patch isn’t something he can take off and on. So the USPS has relaxed its standards…or, said another way, has migrated into the 21st century.
Alvin likes us, because we are always glad to see him, and we tease and joke with him, so he sometimes spends a few extra minutes with us, even though he is always in a hurry. On Friday he regaled us with stories. One of the stories is that the USPS now delivers on Sunday for Amazon. When you go to work, they give you your packages and map which says, “Go here first”. And how long has FedEx been doing that? Apparently there was a bid, and the USPS won. In another story, he told us all the things you can ship via USPS, which includes food and dead bodies. He also said that because of his appearance, he is often approached and asked to take packages from one address to another without postage and without it going through the normal channels. He said he thought that was the quickest path to federal prison for him. So he isn’t going there.