City Carrier Assistant Vs. Regular City Carrier - Is It Worth The Wait?
You Can Check In, But Can You Check Out?
So you're a City Carrier Assistant (CCA) who has been patiently awaiting your turn to make regular, - your satchel getting more mileage than a long haul trucker carrying Arctic ice to the Equator as you bounce from office to office, delivering a new route every day and then reporting devotedly to CCA church on Sunday to haul Amazon packages. Now, at last, you get the word that you are going to be promoted to Regular. You tremble in anticipation as you prepare to bridge that vast chasm that has heretofore separated you from real people - meaning regular postal employees who are treated humanely, as opposed to the second class citizen, postal peonage, indentured servitude approach you have been subjected to. You ask yourself if it has been worth it. You wonder if this is really what you want to do for a living.
There are no easy answers to these questions! A cushy, guaranteed Postal income can either be a life saver, or a death sentence for destinies and dreams. Sometimes when the money increases, the motivation to pursue one's lifelong goals decreases. For this reason, there are practical and spiritual aspects of your promotion that need to be discussed. The dollars and cents are easy to grasp, the potential pratfalls to your health should be obvious to you after your grueling service as a CCA, but what about your happiness? When all is said and done, will this be a satisfying career choice, or should you drop your satchel and run away screaming while there is still time?
Postal Math for Dummies
The letter carrier pay chart above is small, fuzzy, and difficult to read, but with your sharply focused young CCA eyes you should be able to discern its numbers, although battle-hardened Postal Vets with sun blasted pupils like me have to scrounge for our glasses. If you click on "Source" below the chart it will take you to a much more readable version.
I'm not going to dwell much on the practical aspects of postal employment. I'm not a practical person. I find that practicality makes me fall asleep and drool on my computer, and there are dozens of practical postal people out there who can cover this topic much more accurately, efficiently, and enthusiastically than me.
Suffice it to say that you will be getting an approximate $2.50 hourly bump in pay as a newly hatched Regular. After this, you will receive step increases every 46 weeks, which hike your rate about 80 cents an hour each time, until you max out at 12.4 years. Additionally, the contract with the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is renegotiated every 3 to 5 years, and generally results in a slight pay increase.
Now for the bad news. As a newly fledged Regular, you will also be eligible for Health Insurance. If you are a working Mother or Father supporting a family, of course you need a health plan, but this is going to come at a cost. Payroll deductions for health insurance are going to be taking a significant bite out of that extra $2.50, and your early checks as a Regular City Carrier might not be as satisfying as you dreamed about while you were groaning beneath the whip of your slave-master supervisors.
Ready for Relocation?
A young CCA in my office was recently promoted to Regular, but instead of doing happy back-flips like a squirrel on a trampoline, he was downright despondent. Turns out they were going to relocate him to an office about twelve miles farther up the road. Perhaps twelve miles does not sound like a lot where you live, but here in Southern California morning traffic, twelve miles can add an extra hour to your commute. Who really wants to wake up at 5 AM to beat the traffic for work at 9 - in the meantime being forced to wait in the swing room, enduring the shifty, suspicious gazes and uncomfortable questions of letter carriers who don't know you yet?
Unless you serve as CCA for a single facility City or County Post Office, chances are you are going to be relocated. Of course, as a Regular Carrier you now have the right to bid on your own route, so perhaps you will be lucky enough to be able to bid back where you came from, but maybe not. In my delivery unit, for instance, the minimum seniority required to have a route or T-6 string is around 15 years. We are a station that leans toward the geriatric. We're so old we have postal nurses emptying our bedpans and checking our pulse on a daily basis, just to see if there is one. If your current CCA situation is like this, you are in for a long wait.
On a happier note, the post office they are sending you to might turn out to be better than the one you started at. Just because you are used to something doesn't mean it is good. For example, I carried a kidney stone for several weeks, and even though I got used to the pain, I certainly was glad when the damn thing passed. In a similar vein (or ureter if you will, not really a vein), another newly ordained Regular in our office was somewhat anxious about her impending transfer. Once she got there, however, she discovered they only had driving routes! Now she never has to walk, and has put her satchel in permanent storage. Of course she'll probably get fat, but she gets an annual uniform allowance to accommodate her growing waistline, so what's the problem?
Your Feet WIll Find The Way
As I mentioned in the above segment, as a newly minted Regular you can bid to become the permanent carrier on routes or T-6 strings posted on the bid sheet. Right now you might not feel overcome with joy at this prospect. In fact - you might be saying to yourself, I've carried dozens of routes in the last couple of years, and they pretty much all sucked. There were varying degrees of suckiness, but for the most part I've never carried a route that I really liked.
I can certainly understand this sentiment, but let me assure you that being the permanent Regular on any route is better than no route at all. Even the worst route at your station, the overburdened beast that the old timers at your station dodge like a Zika-laden mosquito swarm, is better than being a homeless pup, wandering like an unwanted refugee from route to route, never settling down and eventually withering on the vine because you didn't put down roots. Here's why:
The reason lies in your feet. This information has yet to be verified by biological science, but I have confirmed through years of assiduous research that our Postal feet have little brains of their own that allow us to zip between delivery points like a three year old on a sugar rush. Here's my proof:
I used to have a route in an older section of town where the sidewalks were significantly cracked and buckled with age and seismic activity. Walking along them could be a dicey and dangerous proposition for pedestrians out for a casual stroll. For a letter carrier burdened down with a full satchel and distracted by an armful of letters, they were potential knee and ankle killers. My right knee still has not recovered from the beating it took during this brief period of my postal history.
In front of one mailbox on this route lay a portion of sidewalk that buckled at least six inches above the rest of the concrete. Being distracted getting the mail ready, the first few times I encountered this obstacle I stumbled on it. Then one day, without having really made a conscious decision to avoid the pratfall, I realized I wasn't tripping over it anymore. That was when I understood that independent autopilots in my feet had calculated the course correction, and were automatically leading me around the obstruction.
The brains in your feet are not only handy for avoiding obstacles, but for guiding you in general. As a regular, you will find yourself unconsciously following the computers in your feet as they calculate and recalculate the shortest route between mailboxes. Before long that nine hour route the old timers laughed at you for bidding on will be down to eight, then seven and a half, and finally seven! Every day your feet will be shaving off seconds, which will accumulate into minutes, then hours!
Now, instead of wondering if you are going to have time to eat lunch, your constant dilemma as a CCA, your new problem will be - where can I hide so I can take a nap?
Feeling the Love
As a CCA, customers regularly greeted you with ugly, sour, unappreciative looks, because in their minds you were intruding upon the regular carrier's territory. Postal customers are very possessive about their regular, and anytime he or she is absent they assume the new guy is an impostor, holding their favorite letter carrier hostage in a wooden box buried six feet beneath a livestock pen. It is next to impossible to shake them of this belief. Not only that, but even if their beloved regular made a mistake the day before, as the diabolical CCA usurper you were going to get blamed for it, even if you were working at a Post Office 20 miles away, on a research vessel drilling holes in the Arctic Ice, or locked up in the local drunk tank when it happened.
When you finally have your own route, the attitude of the customers you serve on a daily basis will change immeasurably. Where they previously shooed you off the grass like a stray dog, they will now treat you like a family member, since you now belong to them. You will be invited into their homes. They will sit you down and feed you. You will be introduced to their daughters or sons as a potential candidate for marriage. Sometimes they will even give you the keys to their houses, to avail yourself of the comfort facilities as nature demands.
As the evil, interloping "sub" you were blamed for everything from the national debt to the holes in the ozone layer, but as the lovable and hugable regular the customers will make deliberate, calculated, often conspiratorial efforts to cover up your mistakes. I know a carrier who is not the most accurate of mail deliverers, often mixing up streets and criss-crossing numbers with unbounded, unrestrained dyslexia. Yet, because of his quick wit and charming personality, his customers adore him. Even when he owns up to a mistake, he is reassured by his idolizing customers that it couldn't be him, because he was off that day. In the mother of all customer cover-up paradoxes, "that day" might even be today. They will walk six blocks with a smile in 100 degree weather to drop off a misdelivered letter or package, so as not to traumatize their adopted child.
This is the kind of love you can receive as a newborn regular who has finally finished passing through the painful CCA birth canal. With one caveat - you have to give that love back.
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Highway to Happiness, Or Boulevard of Broken Dreams?
Maybe you never intended to make carrying mail a career when you signed up. Fair enough. Perhaps, as a freshly baked regular you are looking at Postal Employment as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Word of warning - that stone is slippery and the surrounding stream bed is full of quicksand that can suck you under forever.
Maybe you are a young man or woman in pursuit of a college degree, a magic paper talisman that will allow you to leave your Postal vehicle stranded in a highway ditch and become an air-conditioned cubicle jockey instead. Certainly, you tell yourself, the Postal Service appreciates these ambitions and will do what they can to push you along the path.
My sad response is that the Postal Service isn't overly enthusiastic about your academic aspirations. They most likely won't let you leave early for class, and might not even give you the day off to attend your own graduation. I have seen that happen.
Of course,with the recent proliferation of adult-oriented after-hour colleges, getting a degree is not impossible. With a little moxie it is a highly achievable feat. Just realize that you are going to be reporting to class dog tired, and sometimes a little sweaty.
But will a college degree further your advancement up the Postal ranks? Sadly to say, at the lower levels of management a college degree is not necessary, and might even be a liability. Jealous managers could see your brains as a threat. You will soon come to realize that a lot of your so-called superiors don't have any higher education, but got where they were by using the corpses of their fellow supervisors as stepping stones.
That's not to say that enlightened managers who will be impressed by your dedication, persistence, and discipline in achieving a college degree don't exist. I know for a fact there are Postmasters and Supervisors who read my articles, and these few are obviously paragons of intellect, virtue and wisdom. They are out there, just not as plentiful as we would like to see.
So now you've earned your stripes, you are part of the Postal Family, and we're happy to have you. Will the satchel weigh you down into the murky depths, or will you use it as a sail to soar into the Stratosphere? Your own attitude will dictate your job satisfaction. Embrace the independence this job gives you, embrace the loving attitude of the American Public, and you will still go home tired, but fall asleep satisfied.
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