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Promotion to Postal 204b - A CCA Guide to The Dark Side

Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.

Will this Death Star be your final destination?  Beware the seductive powers of the Postal Dark Side.

Will this Death Star be your final destination? Beware the seductive powers of the Postal Dark Side.

Postal Penny-Pinching Powerfully Persists

Since the 2007 recession and the disastrous decline in first-class mail that followed, the United Postal Service has been in cost-cutting mode. Route cuts, plant closures, service standard reductions, and a determined crusade to eliminate Saturday delivery have been a few of the methods used to bandage the bleeding bottom line. The creation of the reduced pay, increased work position of City Carrier Assistant (CCA), has been part and parcel of this trend. Then again, if you are reading this as a CCA, you probably don't want to hear any more about parcels after wearing yourself out delivering Amazon packages on Sunday.

Alas, even as the parcel business increases and the enfeebled mail flow shows signs of creeping up to its pre-recession high water mark, postal management continues to flop away like a grounded fish in a misguided attempt to nickel and dime its way back to profitability. The latest attempt at penny pitching seems to be a widespread trend to promote CCAs to 204b, a temporary supervisor position. Since you, the overworked, underappreciated City Carrier Assistant may be seduced by the hypnotizing allure of resting your tired posterior in a padded postal position of authority, you need to learn the dangers before you dive into those shark-infested waters. In particular, you should completely understand why the powers that be want you there, and what their real intentions are.

In weighing whether to cross over to the dark side, keep in mind that management is probably not asking you because they think you're special. Yes, you might be incredibly hard-working, good looking, and overflowing with charm, wit, and intelligence, but don't kid yourself. I realize you're new, but how many postal supervisors have you seen with those alluring qualities? At this point you can count the good ones on one hand, maybe one finger (no please don't use that nasty middle one). I've been working in the Postal Service for 22 years, and I still don't need two hands to count the good supervisors I've come across.

22 years in the Post Office, and the number of happy fingers used to count good supervisors still doesn't fill up one hand.

22 years in the Post Office, and the number of happy fingers used to count good supervisors still doesn't fill up one hand.

So Why Me?

So you wonder- why are they asking me, of all people, to move up to 204b? Why have I been blessed with this opportunity?

The truth is they have seen certain qualities in you, but those qualities might not be the ones you are most proud of. What they are counting on is a certain degree of naivete on your part; the potential to be molded and manipulated. They want to change you from a bright-eyed, eager young CCA Jedi who still believes in truth and justice, into a soulless Postal Sith Lord automaton who follows orders without question and is willing to punish people on the slightest pretext, no matter how arbitrary.

"You're just jealous Mel," you say. They've never asked you to supervise, so you're intoxicated on the bitter brew of sour grapes.

Shaking my head slowly and shamefully, I stagger drunkenly a few steps back to my computer to reply to your comeback. It is not envy that has me in this inebriated state, but relief! A few years ago I accepted the offer to give management a try. Yes, I was tempted over to the dark side of the force and sat in the 204b chair for a horrible year and a half - the worst job I've ever had, by far. In the process, I almost had my own soul sucked out by the relentless tractor beam of the Management Death Star but rescued myself before it was too late. Since then I have been asked to go back several times, but have always refused. Even today the nightmare lingers; the nightmare of being expected to do the impossible and to work ridiculously long, often unpaid hours to try and accomplish that which cannot be done.

Lately, however, those requests have stopped. A recent Postal trend, at least in my neck of the woods, seems to be that City Carrier Assistants alone are being asked to check their self-esteem and standards of decency at the door and jump into the dog eat dog, backstabbing world of Postal Management; a place where only gloomy, gray, humorless sharks survive by devouring all of the colorful, happy, frolicking fish on the reef.

In pointing out the reality of what you are going up against, I'm not going to advise you to accept or not. Lord knows the Postal Service needs good people in management, and maybe you will turn out to be one of the few. Perchance you will be able to withstand the ferocious Stockholm Syndrome cognitive dissonance you will be subjected to, and become a positive force for change in this organization. I thought the same about myself and gave it an honest effort, but it wasn't meant to be. Every day in the 204b job was as futile as trying to bail out the Titanic with a shot glass, so I gave it up.

Therefore, to help you make the right decision, here is your CCA Guide to The Dark Side. I've broken it down into categories that detail the insidious reasons they have fingered you for this role. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Will you be seduced by the pinball powers of the Dark Side of the Force?

Will you be seduced by the pinball powers of the Dark Side of the Force?

Reason One: You're Cheap

As a young Postal Jedi who just graduated from Postal Padawan academy, you need someone to dry off the moist remains of the placental sac still clinging tenaciously to the area behind your ears. Kindly allow me to do the honors. Toward this undertaking, the first reason I will reveal to you is the embarrassingly small price tag hanging Minnie Pearl style from your Postal Pith helmet. Maybe not a buck ninety-eight like Minnie's, but pretty darn close.

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USPS 204b Supervisor Pay

In other words - you're cheap. The 16 dollars an hour you will be paid is significantly more cost-effective than the near $27 they will have to compensate a regular craft employee with; to which they will also tack on an extra bump to Level 17 supervisor pay. Not only do you not get the bump, but you'll still be making your piddling sixteen clams for every revolution of the big hand on the clock.

But Mel - you exclaim when an outburst of outraged disbelief, certainly my supervisor pay as a CCA has to be equitable with what regular craft employees doing the same job are making, right? Anything else just wouldn't be fair!

In response, I say welcome to the Post Office, a place where - along with your self-esteem and standards of decency I mentioned earlier, you're also going to have to check your expectations of fairness with the maitre d.

Your miserable $16 dollars an hour is going to persist like the dull ache you had in your shoulder when you were lugging the mail around. Furthermore, your former affectionate examination of your paycheck will turn into gasps of horror when you realize you're not getting overtime anymore, either.

In all probability, local management will expect you to do your job in eight hours and be paid accordingly, despite all of your legitimate protests that this is just not possible. So there you'll be at 6:30 PM, the last lonely soul in a tomb-like building, running over to the time recorder to clock yourself out. After this you'll plod heavily back to the desk for another two or three unpaid hours, to continue processing the pile of mostly meaningless reports you're expected to complete before you go home.

The price tag hanging from your Postal CCA hat has upper management salivating at the prospect of moving you up to 204b.

The price tag hanging from your Postal CCA hat has upper management salivating at the prospect of moving you up to 204b.

Reason Two: You're Gullible (Not to Mention Scared)

As a fledgling City Carrier Assistant that still hasn't grown the wings the Postal Service expects to clip off, you continue to be somewhat overwhelmed by your surroundings. A Postal workroom floor is already a noisy place - orange hampers crashing noisily against metal APCs, lobster cages full of parcels slamming about in a raucous, dissonant chorus on the back dock, and 775 tubs full of letters and flats loudly smashing against the floor.

Now add to this the incessant ringing of the telephone, the ear-piercing wail of delivery employees bedeviling you for the guidance you don't have the experience to provide, and heartless, whip-cracking managers demanding explanations for why you didn't finish doing their job 20 minutes ago, and you'll have an idea of the insane environment you will be immersing yourself into as a 204b.

As a newly hatched Postal baby who just popped out from the relatively peaceful place of the pre-Postal womb, sliding down the birth canal straight into the blinding reality of Postal existence, all of this noise is a shock to your system. It is designed to be. The deafening mayhem taking place all around you is deliberately tailored to confuse, disorient, not to mention scare the hell out of you. In this unhinged mental state, somewhat akin to being kidnapped or held hostage, you will do anything to cooperate with your captors. In order to ease the severe mental imbalance that you are going through, you might even convince yourself that you like them. This is called The Stockholm Syndrome. Look it up, it's real, and you don't have to be held prisoner at gunpoint to experience it.