I was going to write a new post this morning and this post came up in my draft and I guess for some reason I never finished it. It refers to a day in December prior to Christmas and rather than delete it, I figured I might as well post it! It talks about the challenges of being a Postal Worker in winter during the Christmas rush, but in the life of a Postal Worker there is always some kind of challenge. Right now, with the covid-19 crisis going on there is a whole new set of challenges. It hasn't made national news like the meat packing plants or nursing homes, but postal distribution centers have been hard hit with the virus as well.
This photo was taken this afternoon right outside of my front door - because I wasn't about to get out in that mess!
After 30 years of working for the US Postal Service and being required to brave weather like this, both as a letter carrier walking a 12-mile foot route and as a Postmaster being responsible for 33 carriers and a fleet of vehicles, let me say I'm very MINDFUL of having the luxury to stay at home. This peaceful beautiful snow-filled landscape is much better appreciated from my picture window than it would be if I was out in it today.
Days like this are a nightmare for postal workers (and really any service industry that requires you to be out in the weather, no matter what it is.) Let me give you a sneak peek into what a postal day can be like when weather like this fouls up everything.
Our mail truck is scheduled to arrive from the processing plant 110 miles away at 4:20am every day. A staff of 3 clerks arrives soon after to unload and sort the mail to the carriers before they arrive. On a day like this - at least one of the clerks from the outlying area won't make it in for work and I receive a phone call VERY EARLY to try and get a replacement.
The truck arrives 2 hours late due to the horrendous weather conditions on Interstate 70 and puts us behind on the mail sorting to start the day. At least one, but probably 2 of the carriers won't make it in either. Substitutes have to be called in and extra duty assigned to the remaining carriers who made it in. And of course, the week before Christmas, the package load to be sorted and delivered is off the scale.
Getting ready to finish the office portion and head out on the routes, we find all the locks of the vehicles are iced over and windshields have to be defrosted. At least one LLV (a postal acronym for our fleet of almost 30-year-old Long Life Vehicles) won't start. We aren't given spare or extra vehicles so I can either try to get a local mechanic to come and start it (and yes, we do have a local contractor who will attempt to do this!) or we have to split the routes up between the available vehicles.
Out on the routes at least one vehicle will get stuck in a snowdrift trying to deliver to a curbside mailbox. If you've noticed how the snowplows run, they pile the snow against the curbs - right where the mail truck needs to be to allow the carrier to reach the mailbox. But the real danger is to the carriers on the foot routes - it's so dangerous walking on top of snow that is covering ice, which is what we have out there right now. We issue ice grips for their shoes but there are still steps to walk up and porches to cross. I pray that no one has an accident!
Everyone is running late and I have to send someone out on the routes to bring in the mail each carrier has collected for outgoing delivery. They won't make it back in before our last scheduled dispatch truck leaves to take the mail to the processing plant.
Meanwhile, at the post office, we have to keep watch on the front steps and sidewalks for the customers' safety. After all, it's close to Christmas, and droves of people are sending out last-minute packages in spite of the weather.
So I want to say I'm mindful and grateful for surviving my postal career and making it to my retirement. Where I can look peacefully out the window and not have to worry about everything the day will bring.
I also want to take a moment to say a prayer for all the people who are out working in inclement weather and less than desirable circumstances to provide a necessary service!
I'm going to leave you with a postal archives picture of what a sorting facility looked like at this time of year back in the 1930s: