By Larry Teren
The mail gets delivered in all types of weather as the saying goes, but maybe not always when there are vacations to negotiate. At least in my village.
The U. S. Postal Service recently announced that they were going broke within the next few months. No wonder. Recently, I walked past the lobby in my condo building toward the elevators and considered for a moment about checking to see if I had any mail that day. This was at 7:30pm. I had already checked at 4:30pm and the mail slot was empty. Before I turned the corner to the mail room entrance, I thought, “no way! If it wasn’t delivered by 4:30pm then I probably didn’t have any but others probably got theirs.” But then I remembered I had a conversation with a substitute mail carrier late one afternoon the previous week and he told me how he was exasperated because his local office was making him take care of the rounds for absent carriers after his own eight hour route. He was tired and it was unfair, although he was getting paid time-and-a-half overtime.
So, here I was at 7:30pm in the lobby and turned the corner to face the mail room and a different substitute carrier who was in the process of putting everyone’s mail into the various slots. I struck up a polite conversation with him as I didn’t want to antagonize the fellow, especially since he controlled the destiny of mine and fellow unit owners junk mail in his hands.
Don’t think that is anything to laugh about. Maybe it was five years ago. One could expect the exchanging of pieces of mail the next morning with neighbors and laughing it off. However, now our building as well as so many other condominiums have several vacant units due to the Economy and an aging population moving into assisted living facilities. In those situations, the mail of unoccupied apartments may not be checked for quite a while. Mail placed in those slots that actually belong to other unit owners may not see them until it is too late.
I asked the substitute where our regular carrier was as he was absent the entire previous week. He replied, “oh, he is on vacation again. He is taking four weeks.”
I said like any other brilliant journalist would, “huh? Come again? He can take off four weeks in a row? How many weeks vacation does he get anyway?”
The sub explained that there was no restriction on how many consecutive weeks a carrier to use with his or her vacation time. Nice union, huh? Not only that. But, unused vacation time can accrue to the following year. It is also possible to have over 400 hours of vacation for a long-time postal employee.
I can remember as a kid when postage stamps cost 3 cents and the mail was delivered twice a day. Now, the rate is 44 cents and rising along with great vacation time benefits. This is a great country, yes? Think about that the next time you consider giving your local mail carrier a gift during the December holiday season.