Working as a CCA at the Post Office
The Hiring Process
I sent an application in around June. I actually applied for two positions. A CCA which stands for a City Carrier Assistant. Which is basically a substitute carrier. If a regular is on vacation or sick, you fill in and do their route. Also if there is too much mail, one day or a whole bunch of packages you might be assigned to do a few hours of different routes, throughout the city. And I applied for an RCA which is basically the same thing as a City Carrier Assistant, you are just working for the rural areas.
The next day, I received an e-mail letting me know I had one week to take the postal exam. The postal testing facility was three hours away. So I scheduled a day and drove the three hours there. The test was fairly easy for me, and I passed with flying colors.
A month goes by, and I hear nothing . . .
Then out of the blue, I get an email stating that I had an interview scheduled for the very next day.
I had to ask off, find a babysitter, and get a nice outfit, all in one night. I thought this was going to be a good career move, so I did everything in my power to be there. I thought the interview went well. I left there with the feeling that I nailed it.
Another month goes by, and I hear nothing . . . By now I'm guessing I didn't get the job.
Unexpectedly, I get an e-mail to come in and sign some paperwork. I signed the paperwork and I assumed I got the job. But never was officially told. So I was still unsure.
Two weeks go by, and nothing . . . then I get an e-mail inviting me to have an interview the next day for the RCA position. I emailed them back, telling them I have been filling out paperwork and had an interview for the CCA position, and wondered if I should come in for the RCA position. They replied, they thought my name looked familiar. If I wanted the RCA position I would have to go through the process all over again, but I was already hired for the CCA position. So it was up to me, what I wanted to do. That was how I found out that I was officially hired.
Orientation, Driving School, and Postal Academy
When working for the post office, everything is done on their time. A few weeks after finding out that I indeed got the job, I was called in to be fingerprinted. That is when they handed me a piece of paper, that officially said I was hired. On the paper it told me to quit my current job, without giving them any notice. (it literally said, do not give notice)
Two weeks later, on a Thursday I received an e-mail stating my orientation would be the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I didn't have a sitter, and it was summer. So my husband took three days off of work.
Orientation was boring. It was a classroom setting, with videos and power points. The only plus side was the instructor. He was a hilarious, old hippy, who was in a band. He also gave us his number, and said if we had any issues with our supervisors, he would happily stick up for us and go toe to toe with any postmaster. That should've been a red flag. If sometime in our future, we might need him to stick up for us.
At the end of orientation we received a bunch of paperwork, one paper let us know if we didn't pass the drivers test, it would be the end-all and we would not proceed. They told us this, after we quit our previous jobs, without notice. On the last day of orientation, I received an e-mail stating I needed to be at driving school for the next two days. (Thursday and Friday.)
I walked into driving school, scared. I'm a good driver, but I never drove on the right side in an LLV before, and I knew if I didn't pass, I wouldn't get the job. The instructor looked like Ben Stein's son, with a dry sense of humor. He wore an oversized Bright Blue Under Armor sweatshirt and drank large bottles of blue Gatorade. We watched this cartoon video, which was stupidly funny. It seemed as though it was made for children. Afterward, we took the written exam. Which was just as comical as the video and we were allowed to work on it together. The next day we took out the LLV. Honestly, driving on the right wasn't as hard as you think.
On the last day of driving school, I get an email letting me know that I had to go to the postal academy the very next Tuesday. Yes, there is a thing called the postal academy. My postal academy was about a two-hour drive, in another state. It was two days long, so I was allowed to stay in a hotel, and they would "reimburse" me for the cost.
The postal academy was just like orientation, an instructor, videos, power points, and paperwork. I learned nothing new. It was totally pointless.
My First Week as a CCA
As soon as I came back from the postal academy, I started working the next day. The first day, I walked and watched my trainer "John" for a few hours, and then I tried it on my own. (Delivering mail, is definitely harder then it looks.) The second day I was on my own for the morning, with "John" supervising me and then we split up and split the rest of the mail in the afternoon. "John" seemed nice and really talkative. He was obsessed with selling on eBay and Amazon, and he spent hours talking about it.
On the third day, I had a different trainer, "Bob" that showed me how to do mounted routes. (Routes where you drive to each mailbox) He was a VERY nice regular. Not only with training me, but also later. He was one of those regulars that was always willing to help out.
The fourth day I was on my own. "John" was assigned as my mentor. I was told if I had any questions or concerns, or if I ever needed anything, to contact him. On the Forth day, I only did a few hours of a route. At first, I was completely terrified, but as the day went on I got more and more confident. The Fifth day I was on the same route and began feeling even more confident. On the sixth day, it was one of the worst walking routes. I had no idea where I was going, there was construction everywhere. It was raining, and I dropped my mail. Every confidence in me, crumbled.
My Career as a CCA
As time went on, I had a love-hate relationship with my job.
I liked the pay, I liked the good routes, I loved walking (when the weather was nice) and I loved (some of) my co-workers. All my friends and family kept telling me what a great job I had. (little did they know)
But there was so much I hated.
- The vehicles are safety hazards that break down left and right. They didn't keep up on the maintenance. They were fixed only good enough to keep them on the road. I couldn't count, how many times I had to call in with vehicle trouble.
- You are overworked. I can not say this enough! You never know, what time you will be done for the day. (which was not explained to me in my interview, I actually was told I would be done by 4:30 p.m. at the latest) You could spend six hours on a route, to come back and have them send you out with more mail. Then you think, now I have to be done . . . right? Wrong. As soon as you get back, they send you out, to help someone finish their route. Some nights, we were out with headlights on, delivering at 9 p.m. at night. Also, they purposely write your schedule in pencil. So they can fill it in as they please. You might have tomorrow off, but by the time you are finished for the day, you see they wrote for you to come in. If you're lucky to get a day off, they call you over and over to come in. They can only guarantee, one day off in 15 days. And if you think, at least there are always Sundays off. Think again.
- Lazy regulars! Some regulars, are amazing, They will thank you for helping them, by taking an hour off their route. When there is too much work for them. They will organize the mail in a way that makes sense. And they will work overtime to help you! Other regulars, will act like they are better than you. They will give you the worst part of their route. If the supervisor tells them to give you an hour of their route, they will give you two hours. So you are always behind and rushing. They won't thank you, they won't help you, and they won't even explain their route to you. They will just hand it over, and say good luck!
- The supervisors don't care about you. All they care about is that the mail is delivered. If you take to long, they yell at you. I've seen supervisor yell at people to hurry up and get on the street, after the CCA came back from already delivering eight hours of mail. I've seen supervisors make CCA's cry. They don't care that it's late, that you haven't seen your kids in a week because you leave for work before they get up, and you come home when they're in bed. They don't care that you have worked 13 days in a row or that it's freezing out. They don't care that you have a van (which is only set up to be used for walking routes) and they want you to figure out a way to do a mounted route. (which is a driving route) You are not a person to them, you are a machine.
- It's so unorganized. You have to remind your supervisors of things, over and over. When you ask for time off, they constantly lose the slip and when they do find it, your time off is always denied. My very first check was short, by $300 dollars. It took them two months to correct it. Also my reimbursement for my hotel and miles, from when I was at the postal academy, that I was supposed to receive within 30 days. I didn't get until 4 months later, and that was with constant reminders.
- Breaks, what are those? Seriously, I worked 14 hour days, booked with so much mail, with so little time limits that I never had time to take a break. No ten-minute breaks, no lunches. I was lucky if I had time to eat a granola bar while I drove. If you took longer than your supervisor scheduled you, you would get yelled at. I had a supervisor who would give you the silent treatment, if you were five minutes over. Do they not realize while you're on the street, anything could make you go five minutes over . . . You may need gas, or someone stops you on the street to ask a question. I never had time for bathroom breaks, that I ended up getting a UTI.
- Customers. Some customers are great, they will wave and thank you for their mail. Children who are waiting for their school bus will get excited as you drive by. Other customers are so rude. They act like it's your job to wait on them. Some people never check their mail. So when you are out delivering in the freezing rain, to full mailboxes, you think what is the point. I once delivered to a clothing store, (it was not high end) and I was told by the cashier, that "the help, comes through the back door." I didn't realize by being a mail carrier I was considered the help. One of my co-workers is pregnant, and she had a customer call her fat, and told her she should do more walking routes, because she could use the exercise!
My mentor "John" ended up being a terrible mentor. I asked him for dog spray. He told me he would get it for me, but then never did. Any time I asked him questions, he didn't know the answer. One day I am delivering mail on a driving route. I see a note in a mailbox that says, "Leave packages on porch by front door!" So I think, well I don't have any packages for this particular address, so I delivered the mail and continued on my way. About two hours later, "John" pulls up next to me, honking and tells me to pull over. So I do! He pulls over in front of me. He gets out tells me it's his day off and starts yelling at me, because I didn't pick up his eBay packages. He said I delivered mail to his house, where he left a note, to pick up packages by the front door. I told him, the note said, "Leave packages on porch by front door." Which made me believe if I had packages (which I didn't) to leave them by the front door. He gave me this lecture about how to make customer's happy, and right now he is the customer. I should've known what the note meant. Or I should get out, at every house, even when I am delivering at the road. To see if there are outgoing packages. (right, because he knows darn well, I don't have time for that) He popped open his trunk and handed me the packages. He never admitted he was wrong. Needless to say, I never went back to him to ask him for advice or questions.
Oh, the Joy of Christmas and online shoppers! During Christmas season, the CCAs deliver millions of packages each year. Beginning as early as October. While people reward their regular mailman with treats, they usually don't leave goodies or gifts for the CCA's that worked their tail off to deliver all their Christmas packages.
We started every morning with a sharpie and a list of addresses. We would each get about 200 packages, and we would have to go through them one by one and label each one with a number, in the order that we were going to deliver them. Then we would play Tetris and try to fit all 200 packages in a truck. Which was almost nearly impossible. At first, we were told to put packages one through twenty upfront with us. Until people started calling and complaining that they saw a mailman driving with packages so high, they could barely see out of the windshield. Then we were told to try and only put 10 packages upfront. We would deliver them until all hours of the night. I honestly feared as soon as it got dark out. By then you couldn't see the street names, the address on the house, nor the address on the package. I literally was using the GPS on my phone to find the street, hoping it was giving me the right turn by turn. Then I would take a flashlight to each box, to check the address, and then I would walk up to each house, with a flashlight (like a cop) to make sure the address was correct. When you finally delivered the 200 packages, you would come back, just to get sent back out, to go deliver more packages. We also delivered every Sunday.
Oh the Joy of Sunday Deliveries!
The one day a week you thought you'd be guaranteed off was Sunday. You could make plans, and spend time with family. When Christmas season hit, there was such an overflow of packages that we would have to come in on Sunday to do a trip or two. With 200 plus packages. Just to keep up, during the busy holiday season. After the Christmas season, you were allowed to have your Sundays off again. That was until they made deals with companies like Amazon. Where their packages would be delivered on Sundays. So back to working seven days a week again. My favorite thing was when you showed up to people's homes and they looked at you confused, because the mailman shouldn't be out on Sunday. Then they would tell you, they didn't need you to deliver today, they could've waited until Monday. Like you had a choice.
My last Straw
One day of delivering a whole route, I was sent back out with five packages. My supervisor said, deliver these and you can go home after. It put me immediately in a good mood. It was still light out, and I could go home after. I put the packages in the truck, and away I went.
I was at a red light, on a highway. My light turned green and I proceeded through the intersection. When out of nowhere, a woman ran a red light, going 50 MPH and hit me. The mail truck spun. I hit my head on the window and completely blacked out. When I came too, this guy was asking me if I was okay, and he was on the phone with 911. I said yes, and then said my light was green. He said, I know it was, I was right behind you. I asked if the lady was okay, he said she was, but both vehicles were totaled. My head throbbed in pain. I found my phone and called my supervisor. It seemed like forever before she got to the scene of the accident, even though the annex was a few blocks away. The cops asked if I was okay, my supervisor answered for me and told them that I was fine, without even asking me. Then she called another CCA to come and get the packages (to deliver them). She never asked me how I was, she basically told me to get checked out at the hospital, and to call if I couldn't come in tomorrow. The rest is kind of a blur. I called my husband to come and get me, and we went to the ER. I suffered from a head injury, a concussion, and my whole right side was bruised. I was told if the woman would've hit me a few seconds later, she would of hit right where the door was, and since the mail truck is nothing but a tin box, with no airbags, she would've killed me.
I was taken off of work for a week, then I was put on light duty for a week. As soon as I was done with light-duty, I was put back to hard work. It made me question if any of it was worth it. I could've died that day. I hadn't seen my kids in over a week. My supervisor didn't even ask if I was okay! All she worried about were those stupid packages, because God forbid they arrive a day late.
About a week into working with no restrictions, I finished the route I was on and came back to the office. A new supervisor was screaming at a CCA to hurry up and get back out on the street. (I couldn't help but think, the way he was yelling at her, made her sound like a prostitute.) But then I remembered, oh yeah, we are nothing to them. We are machines. The next morning, without a backup plan, I put in my two weeks. The supervisor that didn't even ask if I was okay, asked me to please reconsider. The postmaster brought me into her office and said I was a great worker and she wished I wouldn't leave. She said she would welcome me back anytime with open arms. (I love that you don't know your appreciated, until you leave)
My last day was bittersweet. I made a lot of friends. There are so many hard-working people there that I adore. My one friend always begs me to come back and suffer with her. But I don't think I would ever go back. I had such high hopes for a place that doesn't appreciate their employees. Its been a year and since. My friend still works there and she is the only one left out of our group of CCAs that is still working there.
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.