Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.
Name Your Poison
The expression "poison pill" is a term that has had troubling, ominous overtones throughout the course of history. Although the words "name your poison" can have pleasant implications when issuing forth from the mouth of the bartender preparing umbrella festooned cocktails on the deck of a cruise ship, in other venues the same combination of verbiage can be downright despairing, as observed in the case of the great Greek philosopher Socrates, who was given the choice of being exiled from Athens forever or drinking a not-so-refreshing cup of hemlock. The hemlock turned out to literally be a deadly poison, unlike the tasty Pina Colada that the barkeep has just handed you on your Caribbean vacation.
Therefore, unless of course you are a convicted prisoner languishing on death row, or a spy on a secret mission who has been given a cyanide capsule to carry under your tongue in the event of torture, most of the time the term "poison pill" is not to be interpreted literally. In the unique English dialect known as Postalspeak, for instance, when some deceptively cheerful human resources minion of the slave-driving, whip cracking tyrants upstairs asks you to "name your poison," he or she might just want to know which of the two no rest for the weary, no light at the end of the tunnel, no hope for Sundays off, entry-level letter carrier jobs you might be interested in applying for; Rural Carrier Associate (RCA), or City Carrier Assistant (CCA).
Being a postal city carrier myself, in the past I have written extensively on the subject of CCAs, but because a friend of mine recently applied for an RCA position and was full of questions about it, I thought I would do some research and compose a few words of compare and contrast between the two postal poison pills. In conducting this side by side toxicity analysis I am not going to elaborate much on the nature of the poison itself. If you wish to discover the grim reality of the postal hell you are going to immerse yourself into simply consult my CCA writings and you can rest assured that there is not much difference in the degree or nature of the abuse you will take as an RCA or a CCA. The purpose of this particular article, however, is to describe the areas in which the two jobs differ so that you, Mr. or Ms. potential postal applicant, can make a more informed decision about which particular flavor of postal poison suits your discerning palate.
Defining Terms: Rural vs. City Carrier
A Mailman is a Mailman, right? It's all one big happy Postal Service, so what's the deal with this confusing Rural Carrier vs. City Carrier hair-splitting? RCAs and CCAs drive the same trucks, use the same scanners, stuff the same letters into mailboxes that all look alike, and many times work out of the same building, even gathering together in the swing room on occasions for pot lucks and socializing off the clock like any big happy family would. If it's all the same job, with the golden eggs coming out of the same goose, then how can the arbitrary application of a particular acronym be enough to effect your decision about swallowing Toxic tablet A or Toxic Tablet B?
As you will discover if you choose to hitch a ride on this enormous Postal Pig, the Postal Service is separated into multiple modules of bureaucracy, each of which fiercely endeavors to aggrandize itself at the expense of the others, even though they appear to be doing the exact same thing. One of these distinct entities is the Rural Carrier craft, which consists of those employees designated to deliver mail in rural and suburban areas. The distinction between city and rural is a fuzzy one at best, however, and there is a great deal of overlap, with many rural carriers delivering in places that have a decidedly urban feel, while city carriers such as myself often work in remote locales where the smell of horse manure baking in the sun is an everyday reality.
The Rural Carrier craft came into being when Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was enacted in 1896 under President Grover Cleveland, 33 years after free city delivery began. In 1962 Rural Carriers selected the National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) as their agent. The NRLCA and its counterpart in the City Carrier craft, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), while both being composed of mail delivery employees, are completely different organizations that bargain separately in contract negotiations that define wages and working conditions. Strict boundary lines have been drawn between Rural Carrier and City Carrier territories, but these boundaries are sometimes blurry and regularly ignored by the Postal Service. Because rural delivery costs $7.83 per delivery less than its City counterpart, in recent history the USPS has shown a preference toward it in new suburban construction. Despite their separate status and these sometimes conflicting interests, there are offices where Rural and City Carriers work side by side, but even in these cases neither encroaches on the others' territory. For this reason, in an emergency a vacant Rural route could possibly be delivered by a supervisor, but never by a City Carrier. Of course, I should never say never, except to say that there was never a contract that Postal management didn't do its best to violate.
Another significant difference between the two is in the range of duties. On the NRLCA website, the Rural Carrier is described as a "...Post Office on Wheels. They perform all the services performed over the counter at a post office. They sell stamps, money orders, and priority flat rate boxes; accept express and priority mail; offer signature and delivery confirmation; and collect mail and parcels." Other than collecting mail and parcels, this rolling retail operation does not exist on the city carrier side. Nonetheless, city carriers are often approached by customers who insist on buying a stamp from them, probably because at some time, somewhere, a rural carrier has done them the favor.
Love is in the Air? What About Working Conditions?
In 1977 disco singer Paul Young put out a song called "Love is in the Air," which had a groovy beat and uplifting, positive lyrics. Although the expansive workroom floors of some Post Offices could certainly serve as discos or roller rinks with the simple installation of a strobe light, whether you are an RCA or a CCA you are not going to pick this one as your postal theme song, simply because you will not feel the love pulsing through your veins with the beat. In either position, your supervisor is going to work you to the limits of your endurance, make you jump through impossible hoops, then scold you at the end of the day like a pup that has peed on the rug because you haven't measured up.
Never think for a moment that your RCA or CCA counterparts at the other end of the building are getting treated any better, because they are not. Somebody poisoned the Postal well, and you're both drinking the same tainted water out of it. All the same, there are significant differences in the overall ambiance of the job that could most certainly affect your decision about whose ladle you use to scoop the water out of the bucket.
Some of these differences are cosmetic, others can significantly affect your quality of life within the stark gray walls of the Postal penitentiary. On the less serious side of things, as an RCA you are not required to wear a uniform, and as long as your apparel falls within the very loose definition of "presenting a positive image," you can probably come into work wearing tennis shoes and sweat pants and get away with it nine times out of ten. CCAs, on the other hand, are expected to adhere to certain grooming standards, and after passing probation are given approximately 400 dollars a year as a uniform allowance in order to conform to these standards. Many RCAs understandably feel better about themselves in a Postal uniform, and while these can be expensive to purchase out of pocket, if your office also houses City Carriers there are always a few of these folks who will be willing to bequeath you their torn, faded and stained hand me downs.
A slightly more serious difference is the matter of route bidding. As an RCA you will be assigned to relieve a regular rural carrier once a week on that route's day off if it is a 'K' route, or once every two weeks if it is designated as a 'J' route. Other than that, although you can also bid on routes that are posted for vacation, your schedule will be completely arbitrary, unpredictable, and subject to the whim and discretion of the Postal Service. As a CCA you don't have any permanent assignment any day of the week, but you do have the right to opt on routes that are posted for vacation or for other long term absences of regular carriers.
One distinct advantage of being an RCA over a CCA, for some, is that you won't be doing any walking whatsoever. Rural routes service curbside deliveries, mounted deliveries on country roads; and increasingly, in new residential communities, cluster boxes that are now mandated there. Unlike the poor CCA, who has to toil through the drudgery of hundreds of Park and Loop deliveries on foot, your tender skull will go home less baked by the harsh sun than his will, and your shoulders, knees, and ankles will not be as severely damaged by the constant stumbles, slips, trips and banging of the head against low hanging tree limbs that take a physical toll through the years on the City Carrier.
The big negative that might make the RCA poison pill harder to force down is that you may be required to provide your own vehicle. The NRLCA website states that 51,000 Rural routes use their own cars and trucks, being paid a "mechanical allowance" to do so. Chances are if you work in a large metropolitan area you won't be required to do this, but if you are stationed out in the sticks it's probably a gimme. I once tagged along with a Rural carrier who drove 100 miles a day on her route, in her own vehicle. She was a delightful person, full of information about the farms and ranches, but I confess I nearly fell asleep over the mind-numbing distances that passed between mailboxes.
Because Benjamin Franklin was our first Postmaster General, some folks think that the eagle on the side of the postal vehicle is actually a Turkey, the feathered critter Ben proposed for the national bird, and I can see how it might be confused for one. So let's talk turkey and get down to brass tacks while we're at it. You're thinking about going into this job to make money, after all, so let's discuss the differences between the RCA and CCA jobs that will effect your earning potential; not just right now but for many years down the road.
Although some sites you stumble across on search engines will try to entice you by announcing wages of $20 dollars an hour for RCAs, this only applies to those who were hired before August, 2012. The actual starting wage for RCA as of November 15, 2014 is $16.65. CCAs, on the other hand, start at either $15.30 or $15.63 whether hired as Grade 1 or Grade 2, a cryptic designation that I couldn't find an easily understandable explanation for.
It would appear, therefore, that the RCA is really raking it in compared to the CCAs loading up on the other side of the dock, but this is not actually the case. Generally speaking, CCAs make a lot more money than their RCA counterparts, simply because they work a lot more hours.
In its current cost cutting mode, the Postal Service is on a mission to try to avoid paying overtime to costly regular city carriers, who earn about $40 an hour after eight hours in a day or over 40 in a week. To put a band-aid on its bleeding bottom line, the Post Office has hired hordes of CCAs to pick up the slack on vacant and overburdened routes; routes that in the glorious pre-CCA days would have been split for overtime among regular carriers. Although they are not guaranteed a set minimum of hours as RCAs are, I have heard of City Carrier Assistants working as many as 39 days in a row, the result being that these exhausted newbies probably get more hours than they want, particularly because most Postal districts are now delivering Amazon parcels on Sundays as well.
RCAs are also called in to deliver Amazon parcels on Sundays, and will probably will work Mondays too when it's usually all hands on deck; but because they are only guaranteed one day per week for 'K' routes and one day every other week for 'J' routes, hours for RCAs are a lot more scarce than for those exhausted CCAs falling asleep in their postal vehicles at stop lights. Most of the RCAs I have spoken to only work between 15-20 hours a week on average, so if you do decide to swallow this particular postal poison pill, it is best to look at it as a pretty good part time job. The only problem is that it's an unpredictable part time job. You could potentially be called in any day of the week, and it doesn't bode well for your postal career if you don't answer the phone.
While on the subject of postal careers, just what are the respective long term prospects for RCAs and CCAs? I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but if you choose RCA, don't hold your breath waiting for a stable, full time job. Promotion to full fledged Rural Carrier takes a long time, seven years being the minimum number I keep hearing. I suppose this time period varies on where you work and how much turnover there is in your office, but regular rural carriers don't give up their routes very often. I've crossed paths with many a crusty, crotchety rural carrier who should have retired decades ago but was hanging on for dear life. In other words, it can take years for a route to open up and for you to move into a steady gig.
Promotion is typically quicker for CCAs. Much to my surprise, mere months after the craft was created in 2013 CCAs were already getting promoted to regular. The promotion process has since slowed down a bit but the NALC; which I encourage you to join immediately if you choose to accept a CCA position, is diligent about making management comply with the promotion stipulations of the contract which they affixed their signature to. So if you really want a chance at making a career out of this job, CCA is the way to go.
I hope I have given you enough information to help you prepare the ingredients for your toxic postal cocktail. Whether the drops you stir into your fatal postal elixir come from the skull and crossbones bottle labeled RCA or CCA is all a matter of personal preference. Either way you are in for a long, grueling, convulsive ride ahead, so buckle down and don't say I didn't warn ya'! Good luck on your upcoming Postal thrill ride, and if you have any questions please feel free to comment down below.
Pick Your Poison!
A Sneak Peek at Rural Carrier Life
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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can the Rural Carrier Associate ask for a transfer at some point, say to another state?
Answer: I am not a rural carrier, but I believe you can use E-transfer to move to a new place, if positions are available. I would ask another rural or whoever your rural coordinator is.
Question: You forgot to mention rural carrier sub's get NO BENEFITS until they are full time! But city side sub's do. Is this FAIR?
Answer: If you're talking about CCAs, the only benefits they get is a uniform allowance after 90 days. I am not exactly sure what you mean by fair, but that is something negotiated by the respective Unions.
Question: Can a Contract Rural Mail Carrier use their Mail Delivery Vehicle for personal use such as when off duty or on weekends?
Answer: Not if it's a postal vehicle but if it is your personal vehicle of course you can.
Question: Most of our vehicles for the RCA position have left-sided steering, will they show us how to drive safely with such steering? I’ve heard of crazy stories of people literally sitting on their consoles while their left side is driving and the right side is putting mail in boxes. Is that true?
Answer: All driving methods should have been reviewed during driving instruction. What you have described is an unsafe practice, and is not officially sanctioned by the Postal Service. You are not required to do anything unsafe.
© 2015 Mel Carriere
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 06, 2020:
So good to hear from you Mona after such a long while. I guess you have seen I try to put my own unique spin on these subjects. Sometimes the Google gods smile upon me, sometimes not. Your words are always welcome here. I hope you are staying safe in your lovely part of the world. Thanks for dropping in.
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on July 05, 2020:
You have made these two jobs sound so interesting. I love how you compared it to poison, Socrates, and his hemlock. It was also interesting to learn that Benjamin Franklin was the first Postmaster General. I guess you just can't help yourself, you are so well-read that you could never write about these two jobs any other way than to help us see that these two posts have their own positives and negatives and make one feel that being a postal worker is a very detailed, yet fulfilling and interesting job indeed. Love the turkey on the truck and the video at the end. It really put together all the pieces of what you wrote here.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 04, 2020:
Thank you Auntfaert. You make a very amusing observation about the shriveled skin add. That very well good be Google guessing what you need as you bake your head in the hot sun. I hope your choice works out for you. I have known RCAs who changed to CCAs later. I appreciate your comment.
Auntfaert on June 30, 2020:
Just a coincidence the shriveled skin add appeared after article and question/answer sequence? At first thought as a rural route candidate and author's info that as such could avoid having your head boiled by sun - could not avoid arm shriveling as drove to boxes....Do have a serious comment perhaps does not merit too much concern - but after submitting first application for a rural route carrier with much time passing w no response at all - went on and submitted quite a few other applications. When did get a provisional
job offer to that first application looking to advance process immediately answered in affirmative , submitted fingerprints and completed security filing. Next day and following days rec'd many more prov. offers from different sections. Appears way system is set up - cannot proceed on many employment tracks at once at end deciding which job to take. The offer does advise -do not quit your current job -but - it also does not allow one to respond affirm. to any
further offers - with out relinquishing your earlier acceptance. And -the links of any further offers - expire in three days. Your articleabove - Mr.. Carriere - was best down to earth comparison of two most prevalent choices. Responses to queries re. pluses and minus's varies depending how nicely you ask - and willingness to spend a few minutes with prospective new hire. Guess most would let those links expire - unless info they able to get as to best choice pursuasive.
Thank you for your article. My arm already semi shriveled so will stay w rural route choice. Thnx.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 24, 2020:
You're in a pickle Retired Army. CCAs are in somewhat of a freeze right now, but I'm betting it will unthaw. In the meantime go to the Post Office that wants to hire you and check to see if the RCAs really use their own vehicles. In some areas, like where I work, they use postal vehicles. It might just be a required addendum to all rural postings.
If you do find that RCA is agreeable to you, you can transfer to CCA down the road. It is known to happen. In the meantime keep your ears peeled for other government jobs in your area. I am betting a retired army could find something better.
Thanks for venting here. Good luck. Keep us posted.
ReTIREDArmy on January 24, 2020:
I think I solved my own problem. I reread the job announcement and it said you had to use your own vehicle. I am NOT doing that.
ReTIREDArmy on January 24, 2020:
I tried to post this in the question section, but it was too long. I don't know if you respond to these anymore but here goes. After reading your informative article, and I've read a few of them so far, I am now faced with a dilemma. I am retired military and in my late 40s. I recently had the idea to check for local postal jobs and apply. As luck would have it, there were three positions fairly close to my residence. One was actually in the city I live in, another was in a nearby city, and the other was also a nearby city but about 30 mins away and much larger. I didn't realize until after I applied that two of them were CCA's and one of them was RCA. The larger city and the one I live in are both CCA positions.
After reading your story I felt pretty confident that CCA was what I would prefer, simply because I'm not prepared to do 7+ years at my age to become a regular. Lo and behold though, today I got my first response and it was an offer for the RCA position. Now I am perplexed. All three jobs closed within days of each other, but this is the only one I've heard from so far. They give you 5 days to accept or reject the offer and stipulate the date you accept also affects seniority and possible future promotions. I don't want to miss an opportunity for one of the CCA positions, even though only one of them is in the city I reside in.
If I reject this position will it affect the other CCA jobs if they are still considering? Should I just wait a few days to give them a chance to still respond? Only problem is today is Friday. Meaning I won't hear from the others until Monday, which makes it day 4 of my 5 to respond. Most importantly, because If I do decide to wait I will still take this offer NLT Monday If I haven't heard anything yet from the other two, If I accept and start this process, could I still possibly get an offer from the CCA positions? Will it affect me If I drop out of the RCA position once getting an offer for the CCA position. I don't want to burn bridges, but I also don't want to start something I feel will take forever to lead to a meaningful career.
I hate committing to something that I feel I may want to back out of later, but at the same time, I may not get an offer for either of the other two, and I don't want to pass up a chance at getting into the system. I guess I'm still a little confused about the two positions and their internal workings. They are both with the USPS so I assumed there would be some regional person looking at all applications for the area, but after reading some of your story I'm not so sure.
P.S. Both of the CCA positions are listed as Pre-Hire list on USPS.com. The RCA position which did say Pre-Hire list is now blank.
Eric on April 30, 2018:
I've been a RCA for 1 year and a half, how do I become full time? How do I apply? I keep hoping some will retire, and one guy says he is, but never does? Help?!
Kev on April 29, 2018:
I got hired as an RCA but I'm being called in to do CCA work...Is the pay suppose to change?
Michelle on January 29, 2018:
I have a question about rcas being called into to carry maybe 1 hour worth of work on a Monday because the regular can never carry all of his mail on time, am I supposed to be paid a 2 hour minimum even if it only is an hour of work?
SM on December 24, 2017:
Interesting article. I was an RCA for 4 yrs and recently became a full time carrier. I worked on average 30 hrs a week. I started before Amazon started their contract but on Sunday’s it was easy hrs. As far as management, I’d say it depends on who you have. I’ve like all the management I’ve had. If anyone is serious about this as a career, come to work, work hard (it’s definitely not easy work no matter which side you pick) and do the best you can. Having a positive attitude is always a plus!
SingleMom on August 05, 2017:
RCA's should get compensated for on-call hours since they are on call five days a week or like any other full time employee. The practice of requiring an on-call employee to work based on the needs of an employer is abusive as the employee is not free to seek out other work activities during the time that they are on call. I wish the union would seek better working conditions for anyone who is employed by the USPS.
Pedro Jovelino on June 28, 2017:
Hi! My name is Pedro, and I'm very interested in this kind conversation at all. My first position as a Post Office employee was CCA and that was in Denver, CO, but after almost two Months of working, I was told of forced from my manager to resign if no then he should laid me off, and I could not be able to apply again or be hired for another position in the future, so I did that just to protect my record on the system. The reason was that I brought back to the station where I was working a couple boxes, and that happened for two times because I did not yet understand very well the city and its streets that why. So now I'm working as PSE in Phoenix, AZ, but I'd like to move back to CCA because PSE takes a little bit long to become a regular than CCA does, so why I need to do that. I've tried to apply for than twice, but I'm still getting the same answer that I'm not qualified for that position, and I think my last manager did left a bad information about me, so my problem is the following; how I can do to be qualified again as CCA? That is all I have, and I need you help about it.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on March 28, 2017:
At least your manager has a sense of humor, Ross. He or she probably feels the same way as you do - they are being micromanaged and having their every move scrutinized as well. This is why good people turn evil in the postal service. Thanks for reading and for your amusing comment.
Abbie Normal on February 21, 2017:
Mel, thanks for the prompt reply. Yes, for those that want to consider an RCA or CCA position, due your research and find out about your local office.
The USPS is a quasi government agency that promotes diversity and inclusion, until it's time to offer someone benefits. Is it reasonable to wait 7-9 years before you get a incentive and thrift plan (403b/401k) ? Ugh, the answer is no. However, the person that is working the job has to make that decision. It's ironic, that a government agency that values inclusion only does so when it fits its business model. Why not hire all RCA/CCA type employees as "regulars"? The bottom line is operating cost.
They would have to approach Congress for approval to change a 13 ounce first class envelope from .49 cents to say .71 cents. Congress or the customers wouldn't stand for that, so don't look to any change in the labor system at the USPS. If you can work in the environment, survive on the pay and determine how long it will take to realistically become a "regular", consider it. However, compare other opportunities to see what works best long term and in the vast majority of the situations, you will probably find that if you had gotten in 20 plus years ago, you're in good shape. However, in today's USPS, the turnover rate reflects the working and outlook for the foreseeable future.
If you are a current USPS employee, consider buying Amazon stock and maybe you can retire early.... and have a reason to want to see those parcels coming in by the pallet load.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 17, 2017:
Abbie, you are not normal, because you are way too astute for your own safety. You have identified everything that is wrong with corporate America, but I don't think the current administration is working on fixing it. Thanks for reading!
Abbie Normal on February 17, 2017:
Well written. cost cutting measures to use cheap labor to do the bulk of the work, with not benefits that requires you be available 7 days a week. The union did fine protecting the full time regulars, but the new people get the 15-20 hours a week, can't have another part time job, due to being on call. So, the turnover rate is very high. Government talks about providing good paying jobs, but this does not pay well for the amount you work and the conditions.
Eventually, they will run out of new RCA's as new people (young) people will refuse to work this hard the the then even higher turnover rate, will require positive changes to be made.
The fact is, they should double what they pay an RCA, due to the fact that there are NO benefits, no time off, no sick time and the hourly rate is 1/3 of the regular full time employee and they are on call seven days a week. Also, it's not reasonable to expect a temporary/part time worker (RCA) to hang around for crumbs for seven years when the government is saying how we all should be saving for our own retirement. This was done by design to keep labor costs low and Amazon possible. UPS and FedEx both passed on the deal, due to labors costs for Sunday.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on February 10, 2017:
You paint a pretty gloomy picture, dude. I'm not ready to go that far. Another advantage we on the City side may have over the Rurals is that our Union may work for us better. Then again, that may just depend on where you live. Some locals are stronger than others. Some cities have a more health climate for Unions.
You've done it for thirty years, so how could I possibly tell you to cheer up, everything is going to be okay. Thanks for commenting.
RAF on February 09, 2017:
Just don't do it, run as fast as you can , Working for the Post Office use to be ok 30 years ago when I started as a Rca now it sucks. Management is insane I think they're actually trying to kill me, the union of course is their right hand. Conditions are so bad that no one will believe you unless they've worked there ,everyone else thinks your making millions sitting on your ass, and treat you like it. If you have the unfortunate luck of having to work there , give the keys to your gun safe to your wife
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on January 07, 2017:
RCA is rarely a full time job, Mr. McNutsack sir. It is usually 15-20 hours a week, though there are rare cases where they get close to full time.
Who would do it? I don't know, but in the poll above CCA only beats RCA 48 to 34 percent.
Thanks for reading and chiming in, Señor Scrotum.
chaz mcnutsack on January 06, 2017:
so is a RCA a full time job or not?
who would take a job that only gives you 4 hours a week?
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on December 14, 2016:
A while turns into forever, burnt. Great comment.
BurntMoney on December 14, 2016:
I spent 9 yrs as RCA before going regular. True things are a little better in some regards once you go full time but you also get to be the guy (or girl) who disperses 5000 pieces of mail, 100 pkgs , 5 certified letters 2 registered and 1 restricted pretty much every day amongst 700 boxes. All while driving so you must be or get very good at multitasking. When you make a mistake , and you will, Its a sheer volume factor you will be hearing it not only from the postmasters and or supervisor but from customers who will ask you questions such as how hard can it be? or Cant you read? Truth is they like most have no clue what it takes to do this job.
Another food for thought is no matter how good you are at the job its never enough. The P.O. system rewards being average to below instead of excelling as a carrier. Also if you ever get hurt they will do their best to throw you under the bus. Ive seen it more than once.
While you are spending all this time as a RCA you are not learning any new, marketable skills in life, suddenly you are 30- 40 yrs old and delivering mail is all you know so you are kind of stuck. Dont skimp on the insurance because your shoulder, wrists and or back will prob need some repair along the way. The Rural carrier union has sold us out to management more times than I can count (AMAZON PKGS) and RCA's are always a bargaining chip. But hey your only gonna do it for a while right?
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on November 02, 2016:
Thanks Michael. I think RCAs in my office take a pretty good thumping from management but I guess it depends on your locale. I appreciate you dropping in.
michael madden on November 01, 2016:
Thanks for the article. I'm an rca of over 5 years and had the choice of rca/CCA. Some friends, what are CCAs, hate their working conditions but stick it out because regular on the CCA side is only a 1 year wait around here. We RCA's, however look at a 5-8 year wait. Rca is much more laid back management wise which is why I never switched.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 24, 2016:
Sorry it didn't work out for you Hanna. Thanks a lot for your comment. Why don't you apply for CCA? Lots of hours over there.
Hanna Strauss on October 24, 2016:
Well it ended up that this position being offered is not a true associate rural carrier position. It is a new temporary position to assist Amazon.com with delivering packages by 'filling in' on Sundays and holidays. I was referred for the position for hire but decided to decline it after trying to provide my background check history information 3X and having the company's website logoff on me. They won't give me enough time to fill in all my info, so to work one day a week with no future prospects with USPS doesn't make the hassle worth it. Fortunately, I have other prospects…BTW, I do also enjoy viewing ll types of wildlife.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 14, 2016:
A true naturalist embraces all creatures, though might show a bias toward a particular group. I look at lizards, plants, birds, and I am fascinated by the tiny skipper butterflies, that never get any attention. That is the joy of being a mailman. One doesn't have to be in a National Park to see wildlife. There is wildlife everywhere, we just have to notice it.
Hanna Strauss on October 14, 2016:
Who is looking up at the sky? I have to look on the road ahead of me for reptiles; I am a "herper" not a birder so this works out perfectly.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on October 13, 2016:
Let me know if you still feel that way a few weeks after you start, Hanna. I'm a birdwatcher, but I don't have much time while delivering the mail to look up in the skies. I have to look with my ears. I can hear the Cooper's Hawk who dines on captured birds on the same light pole on my route several times a week. I can hear the song of the White-crowned Sparrow when they arrive, marking the beginning of fall. That is the good part of this job, but not a lot of time for contemplation. Postal supervisors push us relentlessly these days.
At any rate, I wish you the best of luck, and I hope your prognosis turns out correct.
Hanna Strauss on October 13, 2016:
Hey Mel: I just became unemployed after serving as a temporary seasonal Park Guide for the National Park Service. Just moved to Tucson and found the open vacancy listing for an RCA. I spent hundreds of hours standing and walking for over three months working 9 hours per day interfacing with thousands of all types of people from all over the world visiting the park. Between directing traffic and informing irate drivers of park rules and dealing with obstreperous visitors (some days were absolutely horrific) this position sounds like a reprieve: more time working alone. A chance to peruse the desert wildlife whilst delivering mail. Between you me and the gila monsters, I will do just fine on this job. I have loads of customer service experience and endurance. I applied and they are skipping the exam part because I all ready have the experience as a veteran Federal civil servant. They are conducting my background check right now. Ofcourse, I wish there more hours, but for now, it will do nicely until something else comes along. This would be more of a tonic rather than a poison pill. There are worse things I could be doing...
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 15, 2016:
Who can live on one day a week Think Twice? Some RCAs get good hours but it's rare. You should have thought twice and gone CCA. Thanks for reading.
Mr. Think Twice on August 15, 2016:
Mister Think Twice,
The real problem with NEW hire RCA's is lack of training and the new hire WORKS the Hardest days of the week.
You are a fill in for the Full Timer. So during a 45hr work week. The part timer on his one day of work, supposed to work 8hrs but ends up working 11hrs and the full timers on his 5 days of work works 34hrs. That comes to less than 7hrs a day.
Nice to be fulltime. Work 34hrs and get paid for 40. And with experience and volume of mail you will be able to do your route under 34hrs and you still get paid for 40.
All the stress is put on the new hires. You work one day a week. On call rest of week. And after 5-7 yrs you might become full time. Now that's a recipe for high turnover.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 09, 2016:
That is a big advantage Matchew. In some stations RCAs can work a lot of hours, but in others the pickings are slim. Good luck on your decision, thanks for reading.
Matchew024 on August 08, 2016:
Hey Mel! First time reader here. Wanted to say thanks for the info. I've been an RCA since September. I've been battling with the change to CCA (hence why I'm reading this article)
Its currently taking about 6 years to make regular but I heard there was a freeze there for a while. The main reason why I was considering changing is because I heard CCA'S make regular much faster. Up to 6 months I heard! It's so tough making a decision because the RCA life is is a breeze (except the unwelcome 6 am call in to come to work!)
I wanted to step in on the Joe question. It all depends on the route they make as your primary route. It could be a POV route, otherwise you canget lucky like me and get a route that has an LLV.
Each route has an evaluated time. If you finish under yhe evaluation you still get the pay! So on paper it says I finish at 5, but I really finished at 3:30 I still get that time. It's beautiful!
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 02, 2016:
Hey Joe the new postman. I'm not sure which babemobile you are talking about. I think you mean birth-control mobile. City Carriers use postal vehicles, but rurals sometimes have to use their own. Many offices do provide vehicles for rural routes, but it depends on the area. You need to check with your local postmaster. Thanks for reading, good luck.
joe the new postman on July 02, 2016:
Is it a guarantee that you have to use your own car? I am applying for a RRA in a couple of days and don't have a reliable car. I thought everyone at the post office gets one of those "babemobiles" postal carts?
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 27, 2016:
Oh come on Tara, I know you guys get a lot of exercise sticking your arms out the window. You RCAs have right forearms bigger than Popeye's.
Thank you for your wonderful comment.
Tara O'Sullivan on June 26, 2016:
Oh man....This had me rolling on the floor, laughing.
Which is about as much physical activity as I can stand for one week. *pats my RCA badge*
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 08, 2015:
Well fed up clerk we all know postal supervisors will violate the contract at every opportunity they get, and your Union rep is there to get you paid when that happens. Didn't the clerks union just win a massive 56 million dollar payout? Thanks for reading!
Fed up clerk on September 08, 2015:
Just last Friday my supervisor had a PSE doing city carrier work (supervisor got busted by the union rep); and he thinks he can have the PSE do rural carrier work too "in an emergency".
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on September 04, 2015:
You are welcome Ashley. People don't know what they are getting into, which is why I wrote it. Thanks for reading!
Ashley Graham on September 04, 2015:
I have been looking into RAC versus CCA and this was extremely helpful in letting me know which position would be better for me to go with, thank you!
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 08, 2015:
Postal families are common everywhere Deb, even on the city side. Even though nepotism is nominally prohibited, it is easy to sneak your relatives and even friends through with a couple phone calls, even if they have marginal test scores. Thanks for reading!
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 08, 2015:
I lived in the country growing up in Maine so my rural carrier had been the father of the present rural carrier. The jobs in that area seem to run through families.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 07, 2015:
Probably information you could have lived without Linda, but I am very grateful as usual for your visit.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 06, 2015:
This is another interesting and very informative hub, Mel. As I think I've said before, I'm getting a great education about the U.S. postal service by reading your articles!
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 05, 2015:
Thank you Gary, I guess you can work as a virtual RCA from down there in Chile. Sounds like you have the life. Thanks for reading!
Gary Malmberg from Concon, Chile on August 05, 2015:
After so many years in another uniform, I chose RCA. And your above response sealed the deal. Give me laid back. and/or work like crazy so I can go home early and play with my Tinker Toys. Anyway, I enjoyed the read, Mel. Two thumbs yup.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 04, 2015:
The whole rural thing is much more laid back, Larry, which I could have gotten into but I was already running long. Rural carriers have more leeway about what time they come in, and they don't get rushed out the door because they don't punch a clock. They get paid the same regardless, and they can go home early when they are done. But because this hub was about RCAs, who do get rushed, I thought that info was superfluous. Then again Socrates was superfluous, but if I can't have some fun with these stale employment articles I refuse to do it. Thanks for reading!
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on August 04, 2015:
I prefer the idea of the rural route, but having to put miles on your own car and possibly not being compensated as well, would mean I would probably go the city route.
It all sounds like paradise compared to door to door deliveries in a semi with a 53' trailer, which I had the pleasure of doing for a year:-)
I enjoy learning about the intricacies of the USPS versus the private sector. I used to dropoff pallets of mail at the OKC distribution facility. The way they did things compared to how we did, it was like we were from different planets.
Thought the USPS methods were more efficient btw, but everything is so rigid! Dropped off mail a few times at small town USPS facilities, too. They were much more laid back.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 04, 2015:
Machiavelli aint got nothing on me Dana. I don't think the man in the uniform fetish applies to us mailmen, because we are usually too dirty to be attractive. The guy you saw slam on the brakes probably missed a package or mailbox. Happens to me all the time. Heck, it might have been me. We can drive through rural territory, we just cant get out of the vehicle. Thanks for reading!
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 04, 2015:
They try to lay off the regular carriers on the bottom of the list Eric, but the Union always gets them their jobs back. That's the beauty of having a Union. If you ever want to give it a shot let me know.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 04, 2015:
Marvelous Machiavellian writing you servant to the king you. Aren't there more hot chicks that just dig a man in a uniform on the rural routes? I suspect that us folks who do not live in city limits but who live in a place that looks like a city instead of a farm are really bastard step children of this unholy marriage between rural and city. Now I know why I saw a city carrier slamming on his breaks at an imaginary line in the street.
Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on August 04, 2015:
I think I had told you this in one of your other hubs. One day I was on the bus and I happen to over-hear a disgruntled postal worker telling another passenger that the postal service was taking away overtime and trying to layoff the "seasoned and highly paid" postal workers and hiring new workers for $15-16 per hr. The reason this conversation piqued my interest was because I had a desire to work for the postal office at one time but I was discouraged when I heard they laid off a lot.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 04, 2015:
And Amazon, don't forget Amazon. They practically own us now, and we dance to their tune. Thanks for reading Poolman.
Old Poolman on August 04, 2015:
Mel - As usual you present great information that makes me feel good about getting old and not needing to apply for a job with the postal service.
I had some hard jobs during my life, but they all sound better than what you describe in your hubs. My hat is off to those who deliver our mail even though it is mostly bills and junk mail.
Mel Carriere (author) from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on August 03, 2015:
Mail delivery is hell on postal vehicles justthemessenger. I think you made a good choice, for many reasons. Thanks for reading!
James C Moore from Joliet, IL on August 03, 2015:
This article does a good example of making a comparison. I peeked into the rual carrier option in 2007. As you mentioned they made the request that I use my own little car and weigh it down with a ton of mail every day. I figured that it was best to stay where I was which did have the advantage of keeping my car off the