Going Postal: Day 24

big-worm.jpgDay 24: Where’s My Money? I Want My Money!

Last night was significant for two distinctly different reasons. First of all, this last shift marked my one-month anniversary as a member of the United States Postal Service—although it seems more like a year. The other significant thing was that last night was payday, and our checks weren’t there. Apparently, all that sanctimonious bullshit about neither rain nor sleet nor gloom of night applies to the mail, but not the paychecks of the poor saps who see to it the mail gets delivered. Needless to say, I am pissed off. To quote Big Worm in Friday, “You see, it’s the principal. There’s principalities in the whole thing.” I’ve been busting my ass, and even though I complain like a whiny little bitch on my website, I keep this shit to myself while I’m on the battlefield.

The passage of an entire month and the absence of my paycheck served as back-to-back wake-up calls. As some of you may recall, back on Day 9, I said “I can’t do this.” Clearly I was wrong, because I’ve continued to do this, which is to say I’ve managed to keep working this miserable job. And so the first wake-up call was that if I can hang for a month, when I didn’t think I could last ten days, then I need to be careful because a year can pass by in no time flat. The second wake-up call was how little regard the post office has for me and all the other people who did not get their checks. It comes as no surprise, just a bitter reminder, and it has really gotten under my skin—perhaps more than it should have. But the fact of the matter is that most of the time I have no feeling in my right hand, the result of what is most likely a pinched nerve in my neck or back, caused by hauling huge fuckin’ sacks of mail. The least the post office can do is give me the money I’ve earned, so I can seek either medical help, or score some dope that makes me forget the pain. Is that unreasonable?

There was a haz-mat spill on the belt next to mine—some sort of weird, sticky fluid that could have been fruit preserves or perhaps some sort of gelatinous explosives. It was probably jelly, improperly packed in a box not capable of withstanding the clumsy hands of brutish workers such as myself, who have negative, Pavlovian reactions to things like “fragile” and “handle with care” on packages. Do you know “fragile” is? I am fragile!!! I am easily broken. But does anyone handle me with care? Does anyone handle anyone else with care?

I spent more time than I should have thinking about the jelly—or whatever the fuck it was—and the lamebrain piece of shit who did not pack it properly. In all likelihood, it was someone like the imbecile who put raw crab meat in a plastic bag, placed the plastic back in a small cardboard box—without any sort of ice—and dropped it in the mail. Who sends raw crab through the mail in a cardboard box? Probably someone related to the asshole who shipped all those 9 mm shell casings in a priority envelope (not even a box), only to have the package rip open on the belt and scare the crap out of all of us.

Last night wasn’t all bullshit—just mostly bullshit. The highlight of the shift was lucking into a container of beautifully stacked boxes. This container was stacked from bottom to top with a variety of sizes and shapes, and let me tell you, it was a work of art. It seemed almost blasphemous to take these lovingly arranged parcels out of the container and place them on the belt. But since that is what had to be done, it is what I did, stopping every once in a while to appreciate the work of art I was destroying. I wondered if any of the other mailerhandlers/surrogate gorillas would have seen the beauty I saw. Then I wondered if I was simply going crazy.

I found myself in a Zen place as a loaded the contents of the container on to the belt while listening to New Edition Hits. This brought me back to my youth, when I dreamed of replacing Bobby Brown in New Edition after he left the group to pursue a solo career. And for a little while, I was in a happy place. But then I finished unloading the container, and it was on to some poorly packed mess filled with heavy parcels, and I snapped back to reality. Meanwhile, my MP3 player switched from New Edition to Donny Hathaway, an incredible singer, who sadly took his own life. So, I’m busting my hump hauling mail, listening to Donny Hathaway sing a live version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?,” and I’m wondering what could drive someone of such incredible talent to kill themselves. How bad could his life have been that he would commit suicide? It’s not like he was working at the post office. Oops. I can’t believe I just thought that. And that’s when the depression hit me really hard, and I almost started to cry.

Now, I can admit to all of you that I was on the verge of tears while Donny was singing “To Be Young, Black and Gifted”—thinking to myself, “clearly he ain’t singing about me”—but there was no way I was about to have a nervous breakdown at the fucking post office. That is the cliché to end all clichés. So, I told myself to suck it up, switched the music on the player, and soldiered on. Listening to the Standing in the Shadows of Motown soundtrack helped to lift my spirits a bit.

Like clockwork, I go through a depression this time of year. I know when it is coming, and I fight it, but it still overtakes me. I don’t know enough about depression to know if it is some sort of chemical reaction, perhaps to the weather, my body clock turning a year older, and prolonged exposure to insipid Christmas music. Maybe these factors all work in conjunction to create a chemical shift in my brain that makes me really depressed this time of year, because it happens every damn year. I can’t say that it is worse this time around, because every year it seems like it is the worst ever. But I do know working at the post office isn’t helping.

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