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CCA Stumbling Blocks - How to Avoid Slips, Trips and Falls in Mail Delivery
Mail Delivery from the Ground up
Do you really want to know what it's like to be a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service? To answer this question, I'll open with a few lines from a Bubblews article I placed there on December 8, 2013. I contributed a lot of what I think was very good work on that devalued dinosaur cast in fools gold, and although they won't let me take any of it back I think it is only fair that I should be able to quote myself:
The opening line of the Alice in Chains song "The Rooster" goes "Ain't found a way to kill me yet..." Although I would never compare my day to day trials and tribulations as a letter carrier to the emotional trauma of the Vietnam war dealt with by this by this song, sometimes I find myself humming the tune as I go about my daily rounds. On a certain level the words seem to pertain to me.— Mel Carriere - Bubblews 2013
The article was about the weather gods being especially brutal that day. I was boasting that no matter how hard the invisible forces of the Universe tried to take me out, I was still around to defy them with my verbal hubris. The reason I was feeling so smug is because I survived falling down not once, but twice on the same day; a day it rained heavily and every surface was slick, every step a potential tumbling plunge into an unknown abyss. I endured to shake my fists in defiance at the heavens, but I could very well have wound up in traction, or at least sidelined for months with a broken hamstring, as occurred with a co-worker of mine.
I have probably fallen at least a half dozen times during my postal career, but who's counting? I have fallen backwards, forwards, and perhaps sideways. In addition to the falls, which may only number in the single digits; there have been innumerable near misses, such as the one time I tripped over a skateboard ramp while delivering in the dark and deftly landed upon my feet like a cat. That was years ago, when I was still young and all of my joints and tendons were in good shape. The time is coming when I won't be so deft, a time that I've spent the last of my nine lives, a time when the expression "Help - I've fallen and I can't get up!" will be heard by my supervisor as I scream through my cell phone while laying prostrate upon the ground, unable to rise to my feet.
I have slipped on every possible surface. I have taken a couple of mud baths during heavy rainstorms that were not carried out for cosmetic purposes. I have crash landed on slick tile. My head has been battered by angry, sucker punching tree branches that leveled me out and had me staring up at the fluffy clouds from the grass beneath me. I have fallen flat upon my stomach, a tumble that bruised by my ribs with my own cell phone carried in my shirt pocket. I have tripped over roots, bricks, and buckling sidewalks.
You might be thinking I am just extraordinarily clumsy, because you, aspiring City Carrier Assistant are as graceful as Ginger Rogers. But believe me, although the Postal Service may have a monopoly on first class mail, I certainly don't have a monopoly on inelegant ungainliness. Plenty of my co-workers have gone down for the count, and some have stayed down for a while. In response to your smugness, I'll just say that there are two types of letter carriers - those who have fallen and those who will fall. So you would be wise to heed my words and read this very carefully, in the hope that you can minimize your time delivering mail from the flat of your back and avoid lost work days, which as a CCA means lost paychecks.
Mud and Grass
Mud sports can be fun, for example when you are in a seedy bar with a dozen drunken sailors, watching bikini clad women wrestle in a pit. The application of mud can be great for your complexion too, for example when you are stretched out on a beach chair with cucumbers over your eyes, getting a massage from a massive woman named Hilda whose former job was the East German swim team, until she got ejected for steroids. But when you are delivering mail for the United States Postal Service mud baths are no fun, especially when you are carrying a bundle of letters in your left hand and a bundle of flats on your left arm and a heavy bag of parcels that acts like an anchor, dragging you down deeper into the slippery quicksand.
i have fallen in the mud twice that I can remember, and maybe other times too that I can't remember, because banging my head hard after the fall permanently erased that location in my memory. The first time I fell in the mud was because i stupidly crossed a lawnless yard that turned into a quagmire after a rainstorm. I deliberately avoided crossing muddy yards after that, but slipped again on mud years later when my foot briefly touched a bare patch on a waterlogged lawn that turned into a land mine of gooey muck. Now, you might think you are the head hog mud roller in the postal pigpen, but my advice to you is to stay away from the stuff, unless you want to go home looking like you just emerged from the famous outhouse scene in Slum Dog Millionaire. You are allowed to bring the mail back for safety reasons, so bundle those letters up and beat a safe retreat. away from that sticky mess.
Grass is pretty much the same concept. I don't think I've fallen on wet grass yet, but I have slipped on it innumerable times. If you are not at home on skates, and don't want to go gliding across a slippery surface like a Russian ice skating duo, avoid soggy grass. It can be a pleasant, cushioned landing, but sometimes there are perils like tree roots and rocks concealed within the silky blades that can cause pain and perhaps worse.
Branches and Other Low Hanging Hazards
I love trees. I love birds and I love squirrels and everything else that seeks shelter, safety, and sustenance within the stately boughs of an oak, maple, or whatever majestic wooded plant adorns your neighborhood. But somewhere along the line some imprudent letter carrier committed a grave, unforgivable affront against the kingdom of the trees, perhaps using a wide trunk for an emergency pit stop. Since then there has been a protracted state of unremitting warfare between mail carriers and trees, and the trees are winning. We letter carriers have lost all of the battles, even the minor skirmishes.
My favorite tree story comes from a time I was crossing a lawn and a tree struck me with an unprovoked left hook that pancaked me flat on my back. I lay there woozy for a moment or two, looking up at the beautiful clouds floating gently by, and I seriously think I would have pleasantly checked out if not for a passing motorist who yelled at me. "Are you okay?" she screamed from her car. I replied with a groggy "yes," dragged myself to my wobbling feet, picked up my satchel and my wounded pride and went about my business like nothing happened.
The trees have allies in their relentless skull bashing terrorist crusade against letter carriers. The old fashioned garage doors that swing out instead of rolling up are also potential sources of cranial trauma when left open. Even the top of the postal vehicle door can be a head banger's ball for altitude afflicted mailmen and ladies such as myself. I have bashed my own skull against it so many times I now have a permanent groove in my head.
If you are one of those people, like me, who can't make head nor tail of your immediate surroundings; you have a good head on your shoulders but your head is just not screwed on right; you'll fall head over heels because they just can't beat any sense into your thick head; or perhaps your head is stuck up a particularly dark portion of your anatomy, then do me a favor and forego the floppy hat in favor of the pith helmet. The Floppy hat may be more comfortable and breathe more easily, but the pith helmet functions as a crash helmet for those of us who are always knocking our noggin against fixed objects such as, oh yeah, hanging potted plants.
Save your Skull
Bricks is Love
Krazy Kat and his mischievous mouse friend ignatz notwithstanding, bricks do not equal love, whether they are being thrown in the air by a deranged rodent or they are surging upward to strike you because of the mutual force of gravitational attraction being you and the Earth. By bricks I am basically including everything that serves the function of pavement; whether this be the rough edging stones that jut up to scrape and pound an elbow or the slick patio tile that seems to have no functional purpose other than to put the mailman in traction when it gets wet in a storm.
Unlike grass, which tends to yield softly and politely when your body makes contact with it; bricks, stones and tile tend to be cantankerous in nature and unresistant to your advances. Just last winter I slipped on the wet decorative tile on a front porch and crashed down hard on my scanner, which was in my back pocket. The delicate electronics in the device did not react well to being sandwiched between 230 pounds of man flesh and the unyielding planet, and it began to flicker madly and spit out gibberish. I had to call the supervisor to get a replacement.
Loose bricks used for ornamental pavement can also snag your tender tootsies and cause you to stumble, fall, or wrench an ankle, knee, or shoulder when you twist your body to regain balance. I recommend walking slowly and carefully across these areas, and any place you come across slick or broken ground covering. You don't want to risk being the star of a viral You Tube video that shows you squirming like a flipped over turtle as amused postal patrons look out the window and enjoy the blooper reel.
It is exhausting, not to mention exhaustive, to think of all of the ways I and my coworkers have fallen while wearing the postal blue. Years ago I slipped on the slick yellow paint of a speed bump, and emerged with a hairline fracture in my pelvis a year later that my doctor assured me came from that hard fall square upon my rump. A coworker tripped over a landscaping railroad tie that a customer had just recently flung across his usual path to the mailbox. This mishap kept him out of work for months. Sometimes your feet know the way but your eyes should nonetheless remain vigilant to avoid changing conditions in the landscape such as this. While working in an older part of town some time ago I buckled a knee when I stepped in a deep hole in a sidewalk. That particular strained and battered joint still doesn't bend all the way, like it should. And then, just a couple days ago, while contemplating potential mishaps for this article, I slipped and nearly fell on a clump of the hard seed balls dropped by our locally common pepper trees. Another coworker of mine fell when he slipped on the spiky seed pods of a sweet gum tree that were strewn across the sidewalk. All of these are hazards that you, Mr. Fred Astaire or Ms. Ginger Rogers City Carrier Assistant, should take note of and avoid.
I'm sure I'll think of a dozen other encumbrances, stumbling blocks, and impediments after I log off here, but is there any point in adding to an already exhaustive list that includes just about everything, including yard art gnomes that jump out to bite you and garden hoses that seem to come from nowhere and loop around your feet like boa constrictors? Just identify everything as a potential pratfall, don't get swept off your feet in the rush to get the mail delivered on time, don't be the fall guy or gal for an organization that only values you when you are chugging along at full steam, and in this way you won't start off on the wrong foot in your fledgling postal career. Good luck to you, and may all your sidewalks be dry and swept clean, and all your mailbox paths unimpeded.
In memory of letter carrier Daniel Duka, who carried his last swing in October 2015. A great coworker and friend. You are missed already.