Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Big changes coming at the VA, but not the ones we need

There’s an air of excitement at Veterans Affairs hospitals all over America right now.

Top brass who ordered the making up of secret lists of patients to keep from having the real waiting lists on a computer are eagerly preparing for their promotions and government-paid transfers.

They will get to keep their bonuses and/or retire with big payouts of sick and annual leave. Best of all, with their experience destroying the VA hospital system, they can get a job with a private nonprofit, where you can destroy a hospital and get paid up to seven figures for doing so.

I almost envy them.

Members of Congress are bleating about the need for reform, and Gen. Eric Shinseki is vowing to make changes, but everyone in the know knows it’s all a lot of blather and hot air. They’ll move people around, promote most of them, transfer some of them, maybe tap one or two on the wrist and say, “Naughty, naughty,” but no heads will roll at the VA in this latest scandal.

It’s funny that when people take charge of a huge government bureaucracy like the VA or the Postal Service, they actually think they will be running that bureaucracy. But the reality is that the bureaucracy runs you, and there are plenty of people in that bureaucracy who are ready, willing and able to make sure that nothing changes.

The postal example
After the Edmond, Okla., shootings and other violent incidents in postal facilities, the media was shocked that many postal workers wanted to murder their bosses. I worked in a facility where there were several managers who were just psychopaths but the bureaucracy and the top brass backed them up 100 percent.

One of the first I encountered (I’m using real names here) was a real bitchy woman named Barbara Hultgren. She was a supervisor who had a habit of being abusive and loved to intimidate employees, especially new hires. She was universally despised, and it wasn’t uncommon to see the middle fingers go up behind her back as she walked past.

One of the great things that happened to her was that she got pregnant and was on maternity leave, and it was a day of great joy when she didn’t come back to work at the West Palm Beach General Mail Facility. I was hoping she’d die in childbirth, but I guess she decided that she’d rather be a lousy parent than an inept postal manager.

Shirley Cordle was the bitch goddess of West Palm Beach in the 1980s and 1990s. This woman knew how to abuse people and get away with it. I remember one time she got on my case, and I told her to chill out. She got really pissed at me, and gave me this sidelong glance. I honestly didn’t care what she said to me. I had dealt with Marine drill instructors, so a pissant postal boss wasn’t about to intimidate me.

The fun part was that her husband was a mailhandler, and he and I would pal around and go drinking together. He died before I left the post office in 1994, but in the whole family he was the only nice guy. Her daughter worked at the PO, and her son was a lazy druggie who she had gotten a job for, but he barely had the brains to tape ripped mail together. What a fubarred family the Cordles were.

One of the funniest things that happened was that she was in the hospital for a few weeks and in real danger, and she realized that no one – none of the other bosses and of course none of the workers – even sent her a card. For a time, she acted like the workers were human beings, but eventually reverted to form.

Cordle knew how to pick the trailer-trash and make them managers, so it was hardly a surprise that she pulled low-lifes like Gary Miller out of the gutter and made them supervisors.

In a postal facility that had people who could have been diagnosed as mentally ill, Gary Miller was the real deal. He was a serial sex-harasser – loved those new-hired women, and loved denying them bathroom breaks and then writing them up for discipline. A few women who went out with him said he was more screwed up than anyone could even imagine, and he’d get even with them at work when they wouldn’t go out with them again.

Miller loved to walk around with a Bible, and pretended to be a born-again Christian mainly to advance his useless career as a postal supervisor. He was so dumb that one time when a worker asked him how to do a job, he said he had no idea, but he’d better get to work. Employees would flip him off behind his back, and share stories about how messed-up he was.

Gary’s greatest coup was that he nearly caused a wildcat strike on an LSM machine, and the workers even went to the local newspaper. He was driving them crazy with his mental games, and Cordle, who normally didn’t give a rat’s butt, actually busted him off the LSM for a while. The plant manager, a dried-up old waste named Paul Pickard, told the newspaper that he talked to us all the time and didn’t know why anyone hadn’t complained to him before.

Pickard was the kind of government bureaucrat you see in a lot of offices. I wrote a letter to the local newspaper and pointed out that no one was allowed to even talk to Pickard, and he called me in and had a chat with me about the West Palm Beach GMF. I told him the place was a fucked-up mess and that he and his kind didn’t care if Gary Miller ran wild.

“What’s the answer,” he kept asking me.

“You’re the boss,” I said. “Fire Gary Miller.”

Of course, he didn’t. By the way, Gary Miller still is a supervisor in West Palm Beach, and makes $75K a year. I bet he’s still the terror of the workroom floor.

One thing Gary Miller loved to do was mess with new hires, as I mentioned, and like a mentally deficient child he’d repeat phrases over and over. If an employee ever said, “Well, I assumed,” Miller would reply “cleverly,” “When you assume, you make an ass of you and me.”

I always wished that Miller would get his ass kicked, but he never did. One of his favorite things to do was to tell other newly promoted postal supervisors that he knew how to advance his career. One woman told me that one time he walked into the supervisors’ break room with a giant pile of disciplines and grievances, and said, “This is how you move up. Write up everyone for everything.”

I was briefly an acting supervisor, and he made a big show of taking me into his confidence: “Now, you’ll see what fucking low-lifes and trash these workers really are,” he said to me.

Pickard retired soon after the incident with the LSM, and other plant managers came in. They all pretended that they were the agents of change, but they were the agents of stasis. I finally began going to college and decided that there was no future for me in the Postal Service, but began to write my own underground employee newsletter.

I even sent copies to Postmaster General Marvin — the moron — Runyon, but I kept getting nasty letters from postal HQ telling me the PMG wasn’t interested. Tough stuff, Marvin, I thought. Read ‘em and weep.

It was kind of funny, I thought, that the biggest assholes in the West Palm Beach facility were the female supervisors.

One of the dumbest was a woman named Nancy Dimas. We called her Nancy Dumbass because she was epically stupid, as well as being almost frighteningly ugly. She told me one time that she thought training new workers was a waste of time because they always quit so soon after being hired. I explained that one reason people quit so quickly was because supervisors like her refused to show people how to do the job and would instead write them up for discipline if they asked how to do a job.

Dimas was so brain-dead, when she was an acting supervisor and applied for a regular supervisor’s job, the word went out that she was rated the lowest and actually ended up back in craft for a while. Eventually, she B.S.’d her way back into management and actually got a regular supervisors’ position. It didn’t make her smarter, though, or any less ugly.

There were a couple of legendary bitches, and one I remember well was Terry Cahill. She was one of those short, misshapen abortions without a neck who waddled around the workplace and would write you up at the drop of a hat. One time, she was giving a tour of the facility to some new-hires, and I remarked that everything she said was bullshit.

She stomped up to me and said, “We’re going to talk!” and walked over to my boss. I was in community college at the time, and didn’t really want to lose my job, but I wasn’t that scared of her.

The little bitch wrote me up for leaving my work area and wanted to fire me. I filed a grievance and got my job back after apologizing. It was so funny, though, because she had all the employees write their version of what I said.

Oddly enough, a few of them said to me later that I was right about Cahill and the job. It did suck and she was a total mental case.

Cahill loved to terrorize people and was one of the few people who really had to fear being caught by employees outside the facility and getting her ass kicked. I noticed one day that there was a pair of hands on the steering wheel of a car next to me, and realized that it was her, wearing a disguise and hunched down.

I wondered if she saw me and thought I was going to attack her. I was on my way to a college class that day, and would never have lowered myself to physical violence. To me, the pen is way, way mightier than the sword.

She was a vicious and brutal waste of postal revenue, though, and many of us had hoped that she would succumb to some terrible disease. I think she’s still there in West Palm Beach. Glad my mail doesn’t go through there.

You know, the horror of getting old is that there were two other women who were in the Terry Cahill mode of management, but their names escape me. They were despised beyond all measure for their abusive behavior. One even used the “N” word not only around black employees but also at them, and even when it was reported up the line nothing happened.

The other one basically screwed her way into management, and became a little Terry Cahill terror herself. I wished someone would have punched all the makeup off her face; seriously, she looked like a clown, but the evil kind of clown. We used to call her Cyndi Lauper behind her back.

So you see, if you think the VA is bad, try the West Palm Beach General Mail Facility. The best part is that all those who were rotten are still there, and that’s how it’ll be at the VA.

As for me, I left the West Palm Beach GMF in June 1994, and if I had one regret, it was that I never reported that the facility was flipping outgoing mail to cheat on the Pricewaterhouse mail tests. They’d hired a whole bunch of people to just sit there at tables and go through the mail by hand.

I found out because one of them was in some college classes with me. Pity I didn’t realize what was happening at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20. They’re probably still doing it today. I’ve heard it’s done at a lot of other postal facilities, if they can find out who does the reporting.

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May 26, 2014 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age | , , , , , , ,

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