- Business and Employment
Mel's Miscellaneous Musings - Postal Double-Speak, More Dog Problems, Mel's Woes for Early June
Dog of the Day - Beware the Ferocious Fuzzy Furrball!
The Postal Service and the Fine Art of the Euphemism
In this hub I am going to bring you up to date on various events and concepts I have come across in the Post Office during the last few days or so. There is no particular theme to this befuddling conglomeration of words I have set down here, only a few random thoughts and events that have wrinkled the fabric of my existence a little bit lately. Anyone have an iron?
First of all, I would like to discuss the concept of "Postal Double-Speak," or the fine art of the euphemism, which means, to paraphrase dictionary.com, the substitution of a relatively mild word for one thought to be harsh or offensive. To give an example of this, at a stand up talk on Friday our manager told us that we were on the verge of becoming an “enabled” office. At 7:45 in the morning I am usually not in the right state of mind to digest complicated information, so as I sat slumped over there on my stool, waiting for the coffee to kick in, my ears actually perked up a little bit. The word “enabled” actually sounds like a good thing, don’t you think? It implies the concept of empowerment, of giving a special ability or authority to someone or something that did not have it before. Therefore, as the word first fell upon my drowsy ears I might have actually thought for a minute that our delivery unit had won an award or something.
As the supervisor droned on, however, my initial enthusiasm began to wane. Apparently this special distinction of being “enabled” meant that we were going to get special visitors to our Post Office; and these visitors would not be bringing pizza and donuts to fete us in recognition for our enablement. It began to sound like being enabled was not such a good thing at all, completely contrary to what my perception of the word told me. Instead, in postal-speak this state of being enabled implied that we were on somebody’s bad list, and these visitors that would soon be on their way would be hanging around, shadowing us, hovering over us, scribbling unsettling notes on their intimidating postal clipboards in an effort to try to un-enable us, to lead us back onto the straight and narrow again.
“What does being enabled mean?” A coworker on the next stool over whispered to me.
“I think it’s a nice way of saying that we suck,” I replied.
According to the supervisor, our deliveries per hour had dropped off precipitously from last year, a period when I remember we had been doing fine, making the back cover of the District newsletter for our spectacular performance, cruising along happily in a completely un-enabled state; being blissfully ignorant, in fact, of the terrible implications of the word. But now the Post Office had taken a perfectly fine, innocent word and twisted it around for devious purposes, perhaps to plant the seed of doubt in our heads that nothing meant what we thought it meant and perhaps we should just keep it zipped up and accept the postal meaning of words for the sake of our own sanity.
For me, having muddled through a few books in my time, this rewriting of the dictionary had rather sinister overtones. It made me think back to the world described in George Orwell’s 1984, a novel that seems to be less like fiction and the more like reality the more that time passes. In 1984, the agency in charge of rewriting history by inventing flattering lies about the leadership is known as the Ministry of Truth. More insidiously, the agency where people are taken to be tortured when they disagree with the leadership is called the Ministry of Love. Both of these are prime examples of euphemisms, or double-speak, if you will. Of course, just like nobody in the post office is fooled when management speaks out of both sides of its collective mouth, nobody in 1984 is misled by any of these lovely sounding titles either. It's pretty clear that when you are being shipped off to the Ministry of Love it’s not because they are going to throw you a nice balloon and cupcake party. The purpose of double-speak, therefore, is not to fool the people; but to make the people doubt reality as they know it. When people doubt reality they doubt their own brains. When people doubt their own brains they will gladly let others do their thinking for them.
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that the Postal Service is torturing employees - yet. Maybe when the "visitors" show up they might bring a water board or two with them instead of donuts, I don't know. What the Postal Service is trying to do, I believe, is try to make us squirm a little by taking what was once a positive sounding word and altering its meaning to something dark and threatening so that we will get nervous that our world sits on shaky ground and get our lazy butts in gear. To tell you the truth, I'm not really upset that our performance is being called into question; maybe we deserve to have a fire lit under us so that we'll kick it into gear again. What does bother me is when people try to blindside you by changing the English language. Leave the English language alone, please. It has worked fine as a medium of communication for centuries now. I don't think that the institution that tried to unilaterally do away with Saturday delivery should also attempt to unilaterally change the meaning of English words. But there must be some secret back office somewhere in Washington where exiled Postal Managers come up with off kilter meanings for existing words, which seems appropriate because your typical postal manager doesn't have a firm command of proper English usage anyway. Just read some postal emails sometime, you'll know what I mean.
Double-speak seems to be increasingly prevalent across the board in our modern society. More and more we are afraid to tell the truth for fear of hurting someone's feelings, or is the real reason much more sinister than this? I wonder if good old double-speak is strictly a Postal phenomenon, or if it something that occurs in the private sector as well. I would be happy to hear all thoughts on the issue, including non-postal thoughts, so please submit them to me below in the Comments section.
Agents from the Ministry of Love swept down upon us as predicted on Saturday. The station manager was nowhere to be found, of course, leaving only a couple of lowly 204Bs on the scene to take the blame and do the penance for any mortal postal sins uncovered. At this point the results of the investigation are pending. Wait - I think I hear a 204B being water-boarded!
Have you been victimized by Double-Speak in your workplace?
Flats on the Floor!
More Close Encounters of the Furry Kind
On Thursday I added still another dog episode to my constantly growing compendium of encounters with our fanged friends. As I was approaching a doorway three large to medium size dogs were moving swiftly toward it from the other direction, foaming at the mouth Cujo style in anticipation of enjoying a mouthful of mailman flesh. They managed to push the door open with their slippery, rabid noses and I just as quickly slammed it back shut again, my reflexes being finely honed to react quickly after many years on this job. Regrettably I jammed a knuckle pretty painfully while pushing the door in, and of course all of the flats on my arm went flying all over the patio, in the manner you can see in the picture above.
As the dogs howled out in protest of being denied their lunch I, of course, I had to pick up this untidy mess of flats and put them back in sequence again. Meanwhile, the owner of the dogs sheepishly appeared at the door and I expressed my discontent that the dogs had been able to push the door open.
The dog owner chuckled. Whatever you do, never chuckle at a perturbed mailman who has just suffered indignities at the hands of your hounds. Take a timeout if you need to; go hide in a closet and laugh out loud if it makes you feel better, but don't do it in front of your ruffled letter carrier, who is in a pretty foul mood already for what your unrestrained dogs have done to him.
Hmmm...What happens next? Stay tuned for the upcoming episode of Malcontent Mailman Makes Mirthful Mongrel-Owner Move the Mailbox to the curb.