CCA Survival: How to Make it Through Your Postal Trial by Fire
Dog of the Day: Beware the Floppy Eared Fleabag!
I am as guilty as anyone else of not exactly receiving the newly created CCAs (City Carrier Associates) with open arms. As an ODL (overtime desired list) carrier, I was basically dreading nothing less than complete financial apocalypse with the arrival of these newbies, as I watched them rolling in wide eyed and fresh from CCA academy full of hope of a prosperous postal future, just like I was twenty years ago. The Postal Service's pipe dream plan was to completely eliminate overtime for pricey folks like me and to instead give all the excess workload to these more cost-effective newcomers. It was a nice dream, I suppose, but like most everything else concocted in the mahogany lined halls of the Postal brain trust it hasn't quite worked out. Overtime has been reduced, but at least in my office the reduction has not been significant. Therefore, with complete financial collapse and poverty having at least been deferred for the near future I am willing to embrace these new folks into the Postal family. After all, they are just people trying to make a living, the same as you and I.
If you are a CCA reading this who has been employed by the Postal Service for over a month and you still have your enthusiasm intact then you are probably doing something wrong. If your supervisors have not beaten you to death yet with impossible expectations and an unforgiving workload than maybe you are just not cutting the mustard. With this in mind, it is my hope in this hub to impart unto you a few time accumulated insights to help you survive the rocky road to Postal nirvana. The list is not exhaustive by any means, but I have tried to hit the major topics. I can't promise that this advice will make the job much easier but you might be able to get through the tough job of carrying a different route every day without killing yourself and who knows; you might even be able to keep your sense of self-worth intact.
Wear a Belt
This is not meant to be a commentary about your sense of fashion. I know that the style today is to let one's pants hang down to the knees so that every dark, disturbing inch of sweaty butt crack will be exposed, but I've given up trying to worry about that. I'm advising you to wear a belt for purely practical reasons. You will need something to attach your arrow key to, because if you lose that arrow key your postal career is over.
Believe it or not, nobody gets this. I advised all four CCAs I trained to come back on day two with a belt, because none of them was wearing one the first day. On day two all four of them were still beltless, which says something about my ability to inspire obedience in others, I suppose. I guess it takes a calamity like having an arrow key fall out of a pants pocket and then disappear into the inaccessible depths of some dingy, yellowing postal toilet for this warning to be taken seriously. But because I know you will try to blame me later for not telling you I am going to set it down here for the record. Wear a belt, and slip the arrow key's hoop between the first and second belt loops. Don't attach it before the first loop because it will still slide off and you're going to be the one braving the hungry sewer rats to go fetch it, not me!
Moderate Your Expectations
Now let's come to grips with reality, all of you understandably naïve CCAs out there, floating around adrift and orbitless in this cruel Postal Service Universe. In spite of what they might have told you when you hitched your wagon to this horse, it is going to be a long, hard road before you ever make regular and are able to enjoy a stable, predictable work environment in which you are not loaned around from office to office like a sweaty copy of 50 Shades of Gray in an all-girls dorm. In my office, we have a PTF (Part-time flexible) carrier who has been waiting to make regular for about 8 years now. He is not alone; there are a lot of these folks out there.
So if you think that the Blue Fairy is going to come along tomorrow, wave her wand and turn you, Pinocchio, into a real boy or real girl overnight, then you need to moderate your expectations. It is going to be a long, lonesome, tiring road, and you might want to consider other career options in the meantime. First-class mail is not coming back as a means of communication and the Postal Service is going to continue downsizing. I hate to be the one to break the bad news, but The Post Office is not as stable a career choice as it used to be.
Feed the Animals
Postal employees are an irascible, cantankerous, surly bunch for the most part, but their attitude is mellowed considerably by food. I have never seen such a shamelessly hungry bunch of people. The quickest way for an emergency responder to clear out a letter carrier's convention hall is not to yell "fire!" but to yell out "doughnuts!" A Letter Carrier would sell his/her soul for a doughnut, or maybe even just a doughnut hole. Letter Carriers will stampede like buffalo over a cliff at the slightest whiff of baked goods. I have no doubt that a group of postal employees stranded on a desert island would resort to cannibalism within minutes.
Therefore, as a CCA your path to postal success will be eased considerably if you feed these animals, and bringing doughnuts your first day would be a good start. You might be thinking that kissing your supervisor's butt is a better idea, but it is much more important to kiss your co-worker's butts at this stage in your postal career. While supervisors are often expert butt kissers and boot-lickers themselves, it is only a one-way elevator going up. In other words, you could park an entire bakery truck at your supervisor's desk and it won't do any good if you are not fulfilling the impossible work performance expectations they have for you.
On the other hand, if the Letter Carrier animals in the Postal Zoo are fond of you because you feed them on a regular basis it will make your life as a CCA easier. Grouchy old Roy on Route 11 might give you 45 minutes instead of an hour if his stomach isn't rumbling, but if it is that hour has now turned into 1:15. That thirty-minute time swing might be what saves you from getting called into the manager's office to explain why you clocked in off the street after 6 PM, so don't take this advice lightly! Feed the animals!
Check the "Why Me?" Mentality
Remember that your postal supervisors are not singling you out for punishment, because you are not as much of a special case as you think. Postal management has a very short collective memory and even if you shined all last month if you suck today then you are going to hear about it. Furthermore, your CCA comrades in arms are all getting a beat down too, and are probably clocking out pouting and feeling abandoned and dejected, just like you are.
Go home and lay your woes down upon your family, that's what they are there for, but keep the whining out of the office. Store up your sniveling for when you make regular a couple centuries from now. In the meantime, save the crying for the professionals and just do your job as inconspicuously as possible. Your supervisors have heard every sob story in the book and they don't care. Your co-workers have all gone through what you are going through now, and they will just tell you to suck it up. Instead, have a smile and a kind word for everyone and the abuse won't seem so bad.
Avoid "Piling On"
There is a time tested supervisor practice in the United States Postal Service that is known as "Piling it on." In the past you may have worked for other companies that have shown appreciation for your hard work and dedication in rational, sensible ways, such as giving you an award or a gift card. Keep in mind that the Postal Service is neither rational or sensible. In the Post Office your hard work will be rewarded with more work. If you get back too early from the street they will just spin your slick, spiffy little butt around and have you go help out somewhere else. Furthermore, understanding that you are the type that loves to exceed expectations, tomorrow they will give you a half-hour extra. If you succeed in getting back early again after that, the next day it will be an additional hour. Then, if you cannot make the nearly impossible extra hour, even though you skipped your lunch and breaks, you will be tagged as a problem carrier, which you don't want to be. This is how Postal Supervisors are conditioned to show their love and appreciation for your hard work.
Don't get me wrong; I am not saying to slack off and be lazy. What I am advising you is to complete your work in the time that is expected of you, but no earlier. You don't want to be the one being piled on to, because it can be awfully painful at the bottom of the pile.
The Road Ahead
What can I tell you that brings everything together in a neatly packed nutshell that will give you hope for the future? I definitely do not want to fill you with false optimism that I do not feel, so perhaps my best advice is GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN! In the meantime, you have a relatively stable job that can help you pay the bills while you look for something a little better. Problem is, you might not get a day off anytime soon so that you can look for better employment. Oh well, I guess I'm just talking in circles; you're really kind of stuck. But I hope these words can make your life in the Postal Penitentiary a little more bearable.
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2013 Mel Carriere