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Did We Win? - Early Returns Show USPS Makes Further Breakthroughs in The Parcel Delivery Business
Holiday Greetings from The Postal Tsunami
If you work for the USPS, I am sure you will agree that, whatever your capacity, the 2016 Holiday Delivery Season was a brutal one. Perhaps your experience will mirror mine as a letter carrier on the ODL (Overtime Desired List). I consistently logged 11 hour days, and for the first time in my Postal Career I worked on Sunday, in fact two consecutive ones, delivering Amazon parcels. The Amazon is a mighty, muddy river as it flows down from the towering Andes and spreads out across the endless rain forests of Brazil, washing cardboard covered treasures and sometimes perils to those waiting downstream. Some of those packages contain piranhas, so watch your fingers as you pry them loose from the rear compartment of your LLV, stuffed to the ceiling with a precariously packed load.
Apart from the increased parcel volume, obvious to everyone, even head-in-the-sand gaudily plumed supervisors, what made holiday 2016 so brutal is that it followed right on the heels of a brutal 2016 election season. There was scarcely a break in between trays of heavy, back breaking voter guides carried along with knife-edged, finger slicing political mail, and the subsequent barrage of cardboard containers that was not so much a tsunami as an avalanche that buried everything and everyone beneath it. I don't know about you, but I'm beat down, burnt out, done in, fed up, and any infinite number appropriate phrases ending with a preposition that may really be adjectives if you are analyzing them with a grammatical eye.
Mel Carriere's Postal Tsunami has now moved from Blogspot to Hub Pages. Hub Pages shares a more generous portion of the revenue, so there is no point carrying on that exercise in futility, frugality, criminality and other ugly nominalized adjectives. I hope you enjoy the new format, and will bookmark or follow The Tsunami to the extent that your cyber skill-set allows. Non-postal personnel are always welcome, of course, and I will try my best to enlighten and entertain you as well.
Two Charming 2016 Postal Holiday Stories - Big Brown And Beyond
Here are two rather tear-jerking true to life accounts from Christmas 2016 that clearly demonstrate both the public misperception about the Postal Service's continued role in an ever-changing world, and the harsh reality of that role in the eyes of our competitors.
As the sun was dipping dismally below the horizon and I was still hastily sorting letters and packages into a set of CBUs, a nice lady on my route, the kind that bakes you cookies even though one more cookie or piece of candy consumed from from well meaning but obviously not health and wellness minded customers will send you into unalterable arteriosclerosis, was rather obliquely investigating why I was delivering her mail so damn late.
"I would think that with the Internet your job would be easier at Christmas, because you're getting less Christmas cards now," she said with the air of authority expected from the head of the homeowner's association. This in spite of the fact that the back of my LLV was open and the uncountable abundance of parcels still stuffed in there, representing a mere fraction of those delivered on that day, were trying to tumble out and escape from the claustrophobic captivity they were suffering, being crammed in like non free-range chickens with 150 or so of their closest friends and relatives.
How do you respond to an inquiry like this without risking your continued Christmas cookie supply? I politely explained that Christmas cards never really were the reason for the season sending me home deep into the dark hours of the night, to melt into an exhausted puddle on the floor beneath the Christmas Tree during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. I explained to her that the packages, the ones that would bury her like a mining disaster if she stepped one inch closer to the back bumper of my vehicle and accidentally nudged it are, have been, and always will be the reason why your letter carrier shows up like Krampus in the middle of the night, so that you think he's there to drag away your naughty kiddies instead of leaving holiday happiness on your doorstep.
"Huh!" she exclaimed, trying to sound sympathetic but clearly not getting it, despite the preponderance of visual evidence before her. But I didn't have time to convince anyone. The postal clock was ticking its merciless hundredths away and I had to move on.
That night, or maybe it was one of dozens of other monotonously gloomy Yuletide evenings when I clocked out and went to get a little holiday cheer to revive my dampened Christmas spirit with, I ran into a rather disgruntled looking UPS driver in line at the convenience store. He was queuing up wearing a drab UPS jacket and those ugly big brown shorts that they never replace with pants, no matter how cold it gets. During those harsh Midwestern blizzards, I wondered, do their dangerously exposed legs freeze and fall off, especially since they never close the doors on their trucks, either?
Anyhow, I was buying a $2.19 32 ounce Bud Dry, my particular version of two-buck chuck, while I couldn't help notice he was purchasing a much more pricey and certainly palate-pleasing bottle of some snooty local micro-brew.
"That's the difference between your paycheck and mine," I said to him. "I can only afford to get the rot-gut, while you buy the good stuff."
He did not appear to be amused at all, so I turned the conversation in a more empathetic direction. "How's it going for the holidays," I asked, "Pretty busy?"
"Yeah," he shrugged, rather noncommittally.
"But you guys have those big vehicles to load everything into, while we have to pack it all into our little tiny trucks," I told him.
I think I struck a nerve. The UPS driver waiting in line like me to buy beer finally revealed some personality from the brown colored depths of his soul. "Hey, you guys wanted to steal all of those parcels from us, now DEAL WITH IT!" he said.
Ouch! I thought, and went on my merry way, lugging along my cheap bottle of Christmas cheer under one arm, concealed in a brown paper bag that was the same ugly color as that surly driver's uniform. But I soon realized that his less than amicable response had been an admission of defeat on his part, a recognition that the Postal Service is kicking his company's butt and possibly threatening his future ability to take home tasty bottles of uppity micro-brew.
Was your 2016 parcel load worse than 2015?
Anecdotal Evidence of Victory?
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against these UPS drivers, friendly or not. They are our Union brothers in arms and I wish them all the best, thinking there is probably enough for everyone to go around, at least until the drones fly in and take it all away.
But that UPS driver's rather heated acknowledgment that the Postal Service has severely impacted his place of business, corroborates my own admittedly limited set of statistics compiled on my route over the last year.
On October 15th, 2015, I started keeping an average of the scans I make on a daily basis. In case you are a geeky letter carrier like me wondering how to do this yourself, you hit Escape to get back to the main scanner menu, then hit 'D' for data. There you can see a running count of all the scans you have made. Of course there are other unaccounted for parcels that are not scanned because they do not have a bar code, and accountable items like Certified letters are also included within this tally, but it gives the letter carrier a fairly reasonable idea about how high his or her parcel volume has been.
From October 15th to December 31st, 2015, the average daily scans for my route was 96.18. From October 15th to December 31st, 2016, however, this same average was 124.29. This is a fairly impressive increase of 23.62%, if I'm doing my math correctly. Even if I'm not, it's still a pretty significant gain over the same period last year.
Of course, this is limited and anecdotal evidence, confined to one letter carrier's route, but I'm willing to bet you that when the United States Postal Service's official numbers for the 2016 holiday season are released, the tabulated gain will be pretty close to this.
So do my numbers mean that we are winning? Rather than popping the cork on some expensive vintage while perusing the holiday profits, will the UPS stockholders be joining me in twisting the top off a 32 ounce bottle of Bud Dry instead? Maybe it's too early to tell, but there's always room for one more tired drunk in my part of town.
Meanwhile, Happy New Year from Mel Carriere and the Postal Tsunami!