Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Memories of postal orientation

After leaving the Marines in August 1982, I flailed about trying to find a job.

I wanted to work on airplanes, but the airlines were deep in the recession and few were hiring. Those they were hiring were experienced mechanics. I even applied to go to a trade school near LaGuardia Airport (I think it was called Academy of Aeronautics) to get the Airframes & Powerplants license, but dropped out after one day.

I worked for a day at a hardware store “off the books” and one relative advised that I go and “shape up,” but I wanted something more lasting, not labor outside of the regular economy. For the holiday season that year, I managed to land a job at United Parcel Service, but also managed to get into the testing for the Postal Service.

The Postal Service was going through its own crisis but if you were a veteran with a DD-214, you could just walk in and take the test. I took the clerk’s test and the mailhandler’s test, and finally was assigned a score and a place on the waiting list. I agreed to be considered for a postal facility that was being built in Garden City, on Long Island, and it seemed that I might be on the verge of something new.

In late December 1982, while I was working part time for UPS from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. and sometimes from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., I got notice that I was hired by the Postal Service.

So one day, I drove out to Long Island to a place where new hires were doing the paperwork preliminary to being hired. I remember sitting next to one fellow who I could tell was not very bright, and he was upset that when he greeted one of the administrative employees, she didn’t greet him back right away.

We were sent home, and advised that we’d get a call soon about where and when to report to orientation for our jobs.

I had been advised that because of the economy, UPS was not going to hire me for full time, though the boss said he liked me and wanted to keep me. The crew had bet that I’d be the first to quit, but I had stuck it out and even got out of the cold trailers and had been put to work pre-loading the famous brown delivery trucks.

Finally, I got my call and made the decision that I’d go with the Postal Service. I still remember the pay: $10.01 an hour to start. It seemed like a fortune. Maybe I could move out of my parents’ house and get my own car.

I reported to orientation and heard all about how mail volume was dropping (this was 1983, remember) and how then Postmaster General William Bulger said in a film that the Postal Service would have to shed about 100,000 workers in the coming year to deal with the current crisis. So we might be in and then out very quickly.

Finally, in late January, I reported for my first night of work at the Postal Service. The new facility wasn’t finished yet, so we were working at the Hicksville facility right across from Grumman in Bethpage. I bought a car, then rented an apartment. Actually, the apartment was a bigger pain than I thought since few people wanted a single man in his early 20s renting a place. I was a good tenant and always paid the rent on time, but I guess others were not so responsible.

I actually liked the job. I was making money, spending it (on my unreliable 1978 Dodge Aspen) and feeling productive.

Looking back, it was a good time in my life.

When I left the Postal Service in June 1994, it was amid yet another giant financial crisis. I had a college degree and a desire to do something different with my life. There were many adventures to follow, and I landed in an industry that eventually let me go. Oh well, that’s life.

Reading about the Postal Service’s current crisis just brings me back to those old days when things seemed so much simpler.

Honestly, I’d rather have five-day delivery than lose service altogether. Despite e-mail and the Web, I get a lot of important stuff in the mail. Let’s hope people realize that things have changed and that some cutbacks are better than losing the service altogether.

I know I made the right choice by going to work for the Postal Service and leaving it, though.

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March 25, 2009 - Posted by | Living in the modern age | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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