Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

No Christmas rush at the post office

When I got out of the military in August 1982, I was faced with the need, actually for the first time in my life, to find a job.

The Marine Corps mostly insulated me from the brutal recession that hit in the early 1980s, but unemployment was still high when I left and jobs were hard to come by. I would have to work to find work.

I worked in the basement of a hardware store for one day, and a tip led me to the big United Parcel Service center in Maspeth, N.Y., where I joined a gigantic line for holiday jobs at the company. I actually landed and kept a position during the Christmas rush in 1982, and had hoped to stay, but the economy was still slow and the boss informed me that he had to let me go. It was a good work experience.

I had met a former squadron-mate from VMA-513 before getting the UPS job, and he had told me that former military types could just walk in and take the post office test. I did that, took the clerk and mailhandler tests, and awaited the news.

There were few hopes, because the U.S. was in a bad recession. Some of the guys from my squadron had gotten out of the Marines, then came back in when finding a job proved difficult. I was determined to make it, though, and decided going back was a last resort.

It never came to that.

I was hired and started in the Postal Service in January 1983, and then transferred to West Palm Beach from Long Island in January 1986.

In those days, there was the famed “Christmas rush” in the Postal Service, in which you could work enormous amounts of overtime and make a lot of money. There was a huge amount of mail in terms of both Christmas cards and packages, and it was not uncommon for people to work the maximum overtime, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve. And the echo of the rush would linger beyond New Year’s Day.

The night before the final delivery day before Christmas Day would be the most hectic of all in the postal facility, with the goal of not only getting all the mail canceled but also getting all the packages out. It was almost a relief when we were finished with canceling the mail and would move to another part of the building to work on the parcels.

Being single with no children, I would usually volunteer to come in on Christmas Day to really grab some overtime and holiday pay. One Christmas Day, I ended up working 12 hours because of a crush of work that came in. It was a memorable paycheck that year.

I left the Postal Service in June 1994, and Christmas rushes became a thing of the past for me. Former postal co-workers told me that the rush was greatly attenuated because people were sending fewer cards; I’m sure the current economic situation is also cutting down the rush.

Newspapers would have a bit of a rush, since some employees would pick the holiday season for their vacations, and I was always one to work all the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s) to grab the holiday pay and overtime available. Having been laid off from my previous newspaper in September, I really miss that extra pay as well as my regular paycheck. This year, you might say, I’m watching what little rush there is from the sidelines, but am eager to get back into the game.

Maybe after the economy bounces back, there will be more Christmas rushes. Let’s hope so.

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December 7, 2008 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , ,

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