“O’ how full of briers is this working-day world.”

Most mornings I’m finished with writing Coffee by now and have gotten on with my day, but not this morning. I woke up late, had three cups of coffee and just took my time reading the papers. It has to do with the weather. Today is cool. It will be in the mid-70’s and will stay cool for the next couple of days. Today is also dark. The sun is hidden behind a cloudy sky. I think it’s a wonderful day.

I had to figure the day of the week when I woke up. Usually I have a Wednesday play which helps give definition to the week, but I didn’t have one this week so I am a bit discombobulated. Because I watch the Red Sox most nights, I don’t have favorite shows on certain nights to help me keep track. I guess in the long run it doesn’t really matter what day it is.

When I was in college, I worked every summer at the post office in Hyannis. Back then Hyannis was a sectional center which meant all the mail was filtered through there so they hired a lot of summer temps. I was a mail sorter. I sat on this weird stool which was tilted toward the mail sorting boxes, and I wore a rubber thumb to help me sort one envelope at a time. I had my own rubber thumb given to me when I first started, and I was warned not to lose it. That should have given me a hint about working in the post office, but it didn’t. At first they had me working the general mail which just meant sorting the mail into states or cities. It was the easiest board, as they called the sorting stations, to work. I had such a good memory that I was also sent to work the Boston station board sorting into towns around the city. I worked Massachusetts which divided the general mail into cities and towns, and I worked Illinois and Ohio. I never did understand why we broke those last two into towns. Working in the PO was about the most boring job I ever had, just sitting and sorting from noon to nine. Once in a while I’d get to cancel the mail and I always enjoyed that, especially the postcards as they were so thin a bunch would slide through the canceling machine all at once. Whenever I’d find a postcard all filled out and stamped but without an address, I’d sent it to a friend. None of them ever mentioned those odd people who sent them postcards. The best time of the night was when we had to tie out for the 9 o’clock pick-up. That meant every piece of first class mail had to go on trucks to Boston. We literally tied each bundle from each slot on the boards using two elastics and then each bundle got an identifying destination on a paper wedged under the elastics. That was hectic emptying all the boards, but it was the only time I had fun working there.

The last time I worked in the PO was the summer before my senior year in college. At the end of that summer, I was actually offered a full-time job starting after Labor Day. I didn’t laugh or snort or breakout in hysterical laughter. I just said no thank you.

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15 Comments on ““O’ how full of briers is this working-day world.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    I worked for the GPO on the Christmas shift and it was a great job for a student.
    Well paid and the folks were great. We would roll in around 4.00 am, sort, seperate, bundle, and then on to the bikes and out in to Epsom around 8.00 am. Breakfast was waiting for us when we got back and the second delivery went out around 11.00 am
    As seasonal help, I got the Epsom Downs route which involved a lot of riding and generally I came back with a flat tire much to the annoyance of maintenance.
    In rain and snow one home owner yelled at me for crossing the lawns of row housing instead of going up and down the paths. It was around the 20th of December and unfortunately she received no additional mail until after Christmas.

    • Kat Says:

      My Dear Hedley,
      I also worked there every Christmas vacation which was great as I then was able to shop for presents. You’re right about the well-paid and I got a night differential after 6.

      Delivery was always done by the regulars so we temps were stuck in the PO. We also never got fed!

      I wonder if the carper noticed she wasn’t getting mail.

    • im6 Says:

      “unfortunately she received no additional mail until after Christmas”

      You’re evil, MDH. Rightfully evil, but evil nonetheless!

      • Hedley Says:

        Just a punk kid with a bicycle. The sorters would hand me the mail and I would sling them back in the “no known address” bag. It went on for a while. I would like to claim for drama that she was looking hopefully out of her window for her Christmas cards, but none came.

        Maintenance was always pi**ed because I would bring new bikes back with both tires punctured and just take a new one.

        One of the permanent postmen was a youngster with musical aspirations and early one morning set up all his stuff for a concert in the canteen. He started up (playing Lennie’s hits and a couple of Beach Boys classics) and to a man the postmen got up and went back to work.

        I think that I invested by GPO money in a Levi jacket and a copy of Bowie’s “Heroes”

      • Kat Says:

        im6,
        I agree he’s evil!! I also agree rightfully so!!

  2. olof1 Says:

    We’ve had a very mixed day here between thunderstorms, just plain rain and sunshine. Nice temperatures though and a little nap after the visit to the vet made this a rather nice day.

    I worked in a super market and I enjoyed every second of it 🙂 Well not the part where I had to clean all floors before they opened the place but all of the rest 🙂 I too was offered a job and I took it. Stayed for around a year and then I started to work at Volvo Cars and stayed there for twenty years. I must have liked it because it feels like it was yesterday.

    I once posted a card to my sister and her family asking lots of questions and thanking for the fun we’d had the last time we met, then I signed it with two made up names 🙂 After a couple of years I asked if they had heard anything from those two 🙂 They are still a bit angry because they had been wondering for so long who they were 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Have a great day!
    Christer.

    • Kat Says:

      Christer,
      It spit rain for a while (meaning misty rain), but it didn’t amount to anything. The day is cooly damp which is a delight.

      I worked in the PO and then after I graduated worked in the Peace Corps then taught at the same school for 33 years until I retired.

      If you were my brother, I would have asked if you knew the people. It sounds like fun and not anything over which to get angry.

  3. BG Says:

    I had to smile at your description of “tying” the mail bundles with rubber bands. I also worked the mail for a few years but am a little older than you and remember when we really tied off the bundles — with twine. It was one of the first things we learned, and we were also taught how to break the twine with our finger after it was knotted (although sissies used a metal finger-knife). When rubber bands came along we didn’t like them, but it soon became the standard way of doing it.

    • Kat Says:

      BG,
      I remember that cutter you put on your finger. We used it to open bundles from other PO’s which were actually tied. I would never be able to break the twine with my fingers.

      The elastics were quick and easy to use on the bundles, and we had to be quick to get all that mail out on time.

      I never thought about tying and then mentioning elastics-I chuckled when I read your first line.

      • BG Says:

        After all these years, I have confess that there was a trick to breaking the twine; a way to quickly loop it against itself and snap it. After learning it you found that it became easy and quick — but you didn’t always share the knowledge with newbies.

      • Kat Says:

        BG,
        No wonder I had to use the finger cutter-being a newbie I didn’t learn that trick!!

  4. Zoey & Me Says:

    See? Girls got all the inside summer jobs, we guys worked the loading dock as mailhandlers. I was a Teamsters member right at the time an election was going on and the full time workers voted to create a new union, The Mailhandlers Union, and tied into the Laborers Union in downtown D.C. My wages were the same but the friendly Teamster guys were gone and no more chit chat inbetween shifts. I made a good buck that summer.

    • Kat Says:

      Z&Me,
      We were temps so we didn’t have to join any union.

      We had to take a test to be employed by the PO so maybe the guys didn’t pass! Actually, I don’t remember any guys on the loading dock except the regulars.

  5. Bob Says:

    I never worked for the post office even part time. With E-Mail, the internet, Fedex and UPS who needs the US Mail anyway. In my old neighborhood a retired airline pilot removed a couple of bricks from his wall near the front door. When the postman slipped his mail into his home made mail slot, he would shove back all of the useless junk mail to the post man as a protest. I think a first class stamp today is close to half a dollar since I haven’t seen one in a long time.

    My cousin in Florida has spent his entire working life as a mailman. He thinks he deserves his mail route because of his seniority, his lifetime retirement and medical benefits regardless that the postal department is on the verge of bankruptcy. Unfortunately, he will need those benefits because I think he is either bipolar, unstable or just mentally ill. From your description of working in a post office I can understand why a lifetime of that kind of drudgery would cause one to buy a gun, go on a rampage and take several of your coworkers along with yourself ending a lifetime of that kind of misery.

    The post office department is planning to close thousands of post offices across the country to save money. People are up in arms because somehow they think that they deserve their neighborhood post office.

    Today the temperature reached 105 degrees in North Texas and a line of thunderstorms formed across the area. They are producing short lived heavy showers, brief gusty winds with lighting. Much of the rain is evaporating before hitting the parched ground. The great drought of 2012 continues across the Southern Plains.

    • Kat Says:

      Bob,
      Back when I worked there, it was the only way to get mail sent. Now I too send my packages UPS and pay most of my bills on line, but I find it far easier to go to my local post office when I have to send registered mail or mail which I need to trace. The others, FedEx, etc., aren’t all that close to where I live. The PO delivers the junk, but they don’t send it so I don’t think it fair to protest to the PO-go to the source-the catalogue companies.

      The job was so boring, the same thing day after day, but it was good money in those days and was out of the sun and the rain so it was great summer job.

      I am so sorry for your weather. I watch the 11 o’clock news and they talk about the heat across the south and the mid-west. We just had the heat for a few days, and I found it horrible and exhausting. I wanted to do nothing but stay inside in the heat. i can’t imagine living like that day after day.


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