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Postal Customers from Hell - Version 1.0
"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night
stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion
of their appointed rounds."
-Saying attributed to Herodotus, Greek historian
-about 500 BC
The above poem has been the bane of Letter Carriers for the past 2,500 years. Although it was originally written by a pretty smart Greek guy to describe the daring exploits of courageous battle couriers, it got connected to the Postal Service when some snooty gentleman with a flair for dead language poetry decided to nail it to the wall of a Post Office. Ever since then, Americans have been quoting the passage as if it was the law, to the detriment of every man and woman wearing postal blue that has to navigate a myriad of obstacles that are stumbled upon on a daily basis. The most imposing of these encumbrances can be the very customers that the mail is being delivered to.
Of course I'm not saying that all postal customers are of the pain in the neck variety; I'm just saying that Postal Customers are just another representative sampling of humanity. They come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. At one end of this spectrum are those sweet, darling, constantly giving people who treat their letter carrier as a member of the family; the people whose dogs even swoon with delight and roll over for a belly scratching when the Mailman or Mail-lady walks by. Then there are the vast majority of people in the middle who don't go out of their way to be nice but who do not create any problems for carriers in their "swift completion of their appointed rounds." They just mind their own business, which is just fine. Finally, there is the borderline-psychopath element that seems to enjoy being hostile, abusive, and contentious.
It is this latter group that is the topic for today. They are a diversified grab-bag, and they come in every shade of neurosis imaginable. These are the people who seem to think that the d*** poem I posted above covers every imaginable barrier to mail delivery, and the Mailman or Mail-lady is obligated to deliver no matter what because the poem says so. It is impossible to cover all of these warm, wonderful, hug-able folks without writing a hub that rivals War and Peace in size, so I'll try to cover a few at a time, as I have the misfortune to stumble across them.
V 1.1 - Mrs. Frustrated Former Beauty Queen
Customer from Hell Number one is Mrs. Frustrated Former Beauty Queen. She is a self-proclaimed former knockout who has not aged well, to put it kindly. The mirror upon her wall no longer says complementary, reassuring things to her. She has not yet gotten used to the fact that men don't fawn over her beauty any more, and she takes out her frustration about no longer being worshiped as a goddess on every man she sees. This includes the Mailman. Once, when attempting to deliver a certified letter to her house, Mrs. FFBQ answered the ring by proclaiming in a very regal tone that "I normally do not answer the door," as if she was doing me a big favor by accepting her own mail and that I should be very grateful for it. I think she was suggesting that falling to my knees and kow-towing might be an appropriate gesture.
Mrs. FFBQ is starving for attention, and because people don't automatically give her enough of this anymore she turns into a pain in the a** to get it. She has the Post Office on speed dial, so that she can instantly complain about every minor deviation from what she believes to be proper mail delivery. If the letters are not placed in her box at what she considers to be the correct angle she will call and complain about it. There is no appeasing the ever changing whims of this goddess, and the letter carrier must move silently toward her box in order not to attract her attention. Walking past her house is like tiptoeing on eggshells.
Another major issue with Mrs. Frustrated Former Beauty Queen is her lawn, the Garden of the Goddess, which you can see below. It is the centerpiece of her world, and she is highly devoted to it. Mrs. FFBQ insists that the letter carrier not tread across her lawn for fear of a sprinkler head being broken. As you can see from the picture, looking for a sprinkler in this lawn would be about as elusive a task as finding the Holy Grail. This withered grass has not been blessed by the output of a sprinkler since it last rained in the Atacama desert, a place that receives approximately a half inch of rain on the average per year, and in some parts has not received a drop of moisture in recorded history. If there were sprinkler heads on her lawn at some point, it is possible that they have been trampled as Mrs. FFBQ parks on it, which in her judgment is not a factor in her sprinkler loss. Instead, she insists that all letter carriers are on a holy mission to destroy her irrigation system, and demands that they stay off the lovely, verdant meadow of her garden. I don't particularly wish to walk across that dead lawn anyway, for fear that all the moisture in my body will be immediately sucked down into that desiccated, withered expanse.
On the other hand, Mr. FFBQ is a very pleasant, smiling fellow and never has a negative word for the Mailman. In my opinion this is because A:) he must remain in a constant state of intoxication in order to survive the rigors of living with his spouse, or B:) He is a combat veteran who has survived so many traumatic experiences that living with his wife is a breeze by comparison.
V 1.2 - Mr. My Yard is a Mine Field
Mr. My Yard is a Mine Field expects the letter carrier to navigate any number of dangerous obstacles that he has booby-trapped into his yard to keep things interesting. It is possible that Mr. MYIAMF served on the Western Front during the First World War, and he never got it out of his system. His yard looks like a scene from the second half of the movie "War Horse." He has even let bees build a hive in his mailbox, and he still expects you to stick your hand in there to deliver the mail. "Suck it up, buttercup!" is his response to your complaints.
One of my co-workers skirmished with this customer last year, and lost. Mr. MYIAMF had heavily fortified the approaches to his mailbox using large stones, assorted fallen yard ornaments, and railroad ties. My co-worker tripped over one of the railroad ties and tore a hamstring severely. He was out of work for several months. Mr. MYIAMF probably watched the whole thing triumphantly from his concealed concrete command post bunker. He told my supervisor that my wounded co-worker was overreacting, the usual reaction that this class of customer has to mailman mishaps that take place on their property.
V 1.3 - Ms. But Of Course I Check My Mail Every Day
Dealing with full mail boxes is one of the more annoying tasks that a letter carrier is forced to carry out. Some customers will let the mail accumulate until the Mailman needs a shoehorn or a trash compactor to squeeze any more letters in. Once the stuffed box has filled to the point where the letter carrier cannot cram in a single letter more the mail must then be pried loose from the box, rubber banded up, and taken back to the Post Office. This is a time consuming task and no one I know of in the postal ranks likes to do it. The accumulated mail is then held for customer pickup for ten days; after which it must be returned to sender, by law.
Returning the mail to sender can cause a crisis, to say the least. Usually around the 1st of the month, when the largess of the taxpaying public is missing from her mailbox, Ms. But of Course I Check My Mail Every Day will storm into her local Post Office screaming unprintable invective against her letter carrier because that blankety blank has returned her mail to sender. There is nothing that a delivery supervisor can do or say to calm Ms. BOCICMMED down. She will swear that she checks her mailbox like clockwork every day and that the mean and nasty Letter Carrier is acting out of pure spite. She will even try to invoke Jesus to back her up, shouting out what a good Christian she is whenever she can squeeze this claim in between swear words. The implication she is making is that this is the greatest persecution since the Romans were feeding believers to the lions. She will bring down the wrath of God on her poor letter carrier and the Postal Service in general. The sky turns black and the earth trembles when Ms. BOCICMMED walks into the Post Office.
The only good part about this disagreeable encounter is that the letter carrier is out on the street delivering, leaving the supervisors and the clerks to take the abuse. But the fury of Ms. But of Course I Check My Mail Everyday knows no bounds, and she will eventually catch up to the letter carrier too. She is relentless.
The Tip of the Iceberg
The few examples of Postal Customers from Hell that I have presented here are but the tip of the Iceberg. As with Icebergs, the great portion of what I have left to say on this subject remains unexposed beneath the frigid postal waters. Letter Carriers are as vulnerable as the Titanic trying to steam across this iceberg-clogged sea, but nonetheless manage to maintain a cheery disposition while doing it. Anyhow, It is my sworn duty, at some undisclosed future date, to regale you with more horror stories of postal customers run amok. But in the meantime I leave you with the blissful delusion that all is well in the postal universe. Until we meet again,