Saturday, December 09, 2023

Remember the mail crews this holiday season

| November 24, 2022 1:00 AM

There’s a certain romance we embrace about the white blanket that comes down the mountains and tucks our community to bed for the winter.

Comments about the slower pace and looking forward to cozy dinners with friends prevail in general conversation. Hunting season, canned preserves, community craft markets, concerts, and festive traditions of all sorts make this season so blessed and worthwhile. But that’s not quite the sentiment currently hovering above my husband the mailman, and the other exhausted public servants in cramped post offices and right-hand drive Jeeps, who barely have a moment for anything else.

Winter customarily brings an increase in mail, but somewhere around 2020, the increase arrived and never tapered off again. The growing backlog at warehouses across the country is something rarely spoken about. The amount of packages heaped into GPC carts each morning that my husband has to “Tetris” into the Jeep and bring out to Moyie Springs truly boggles the mind.

They’re not just delivering letters anymore. No, not hardly. Nary a true hand-written letter. Now it’s who-knows-what. A queen size memory foam mattress. A desk. Dog food. Paper towels. I’m not kidding … because now there’s Amazon.

There are shortages in the stores, but somehow we can all still order it on Amazon. “No worries! Your local mailman can get it to you. We’ll just add it to the gazillion packages that mostly ship for free because we wheel and deal so low that Fed Ex even dropped us. USPS picked us up, and it’s working out! They have the personnel; they’re already on the road. Oh wait, we forgot that they don’t drive big trucks. Oh well.”

Do the people making these decisions have a moral compass? No. It’s all about the almighty dollar.

Well, the number of personnel is not increasing, and those remaining aren’t going to stay safely on the road if their blindspot is impeded by huge packages that push the limit on weight, size, and human logic. In fact, seasoned mail personnel have been breaking down and even walking off the job when they see the mountain of mail they are expected to sort and deliver. They rush all day to make their deadlines. They are analyzed by tracking devices that inform their superiors if they backed up too fast, stopped for too long, or forgot to “bleep” a package somewhere.

Please forgive my rant, but you need to know. So what does that mean for us?

The situation here in our neck of the woods is that the rural mail routes are contractual.

Usually granted to the lowest bidder. Up for re-bid every five years, sooner if they can’t make up their end of the bargain. That means that when the conditions change mid-contract (they will, and they did), the contracts basically stay the same (besides the price of gas). Contractors are not USPS employees, and they don’t get benefits or overtime. That bears repeating; there is no extra compensation or flexibility for having to stay out until 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. or 9 p.m. to get the mail delivered. And technically, the outgoing mail has to be back at the dock to meet the semi going to the big station in Spokane by a certain time every day. Or try to catch up with it. There’s really nothing technical about it anymore. It just doesn’t line up or add up.

The situation will only get worse when they start playing Santa.

So please, I ask you! Everyone: remember your mailman or mail-lady this year! A simple note of thanks and some extra patience and understanding will go a long way. They go over and above every day. They’re stressed because there’s no time to say hello, and they are too tired to smile — even though they try.

And if possible, buy local — not only will it boost our economy, but it will keep fewer packages blocking the rear view mirror of the mail Jeeps - so the hard-workers like my husband can see while they drive and make it home to their families safely at night. And just maybe, they will be able to find room for that customary jar of preserves or plate of holiday goodies some of you wonderful people leave them in your mailbox.

Thanks in advance.


Bonners Ferry

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