Four days left on the post office job. I’m glad to have a job, and I’ll be glad when the job is done. Counting gets old after a while. And getting up at five in the fucking morning gets even older.
AND… this morning I got up at four in the fucking morning, because Mondays are absolutely brutal and the supervisor asked us if we could come in an hour early. What I said was, “Okay,” but what I thought was, There’s earlier than this?
Seriously, at that hour of the morning the only other people on the road are the police, the drunks, and the big rigs. And I passed some of each on my way to work.
Mondays are rough because, although the post office is closed on Sundays, the mail keeps coming anyway. So Monday morning there’s almost twice as much mail as usual. One of the carriers speculated on what this would look like if the post office closes on Saturdays as well, which is once more being considered.
It’s a more tiring job than you’d think. We don’t sit in a quiet office counting; we stand at makeshift stations around the sorting room, dragging over bins loaded with magazines and flyers and catalogs. We have to get there before the carriers do, because the carriers can’t start sorting the mail until we’ve counted it. After the first couple of days I had learned which of my carriers has the most mail on her route—and she arrives an hour before anyone else to start sorting it—and I make sure to get the bulk of hers done by seven so she’ll have something to work on.
There are big machines sorting mail on one side of the room (it’s more like a big open hangar than a room), and it provides a noisy backdrop for most of the morning: the roaring of the engines, the clatter of the trays, the strident beeping when one gets jammed up and wants attention. There are regular crashes and thuds as heavy bins full of paper get dropped on the floor. There’s the clang and rattle of the metal carts on concrete. There’s the radio in back playing the local pop station.
Around 10:30 or so (later on Mondays, when there’s more mail), the machines go quiet. After that the counting is pretty much over; we gather up a few stragglers that got kicked out of the machine sort, or were thrown to the wrong route (that’s the term they use, “Who threw this?” as in, “Who put this piece of mail in my box?”). We count up the parcels, which is another kind of exercise because they get counted differently if they have special treatment like delivery confirmation, insurance, and whatnot.
Finally the carriers report the mail they had to “mark up,” for whatever reason (no such address, no mailbox, whatever). Often the supervisor sends me home before all my carriers have done so, because after the bulk of the carriers have left the supervisors can easily handle the remainder.
In the afternoons, one of us will remain to count the mail the carriers picked up while they were out. We take turns with that one. It’s considerably easier, as the carriers tend to come back one or two at a time, and there’s not nearly as much coming back as there was going out.
So that’s what it’s like to count mail for the post office. It’s not that hard, and the carriers can usually answer any questions about what category something should be counted as. This is one of those jobs that’s tailor-made for a temp—it’s great to do for the short term, but I wouldn’t want to make a career of it.