persona non sequitur

a review of media by a slightly jaded baby boomer.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

IN THE POSTAL ZONE: GOING POSTAL. Working with wonder workers.

Some months back I got a daylight job. Bad news was it started at 6 AM, which meant I'd need to wake up about 4:30 to get to work (there's a commute involved). I dealt with dispatches, recording and retailing incoming and outgoing mail. Working on a computer for the Post Office.

I was still dealing with the time shift: 30 years of going to be at 3 AM and getting up when I felt like it to going to be at 8 PM and getting up at 4 AM. I drank beer. It helped, but for many weeks, I still couldn't get to sleep before 10 PM.

So I'd wake up fuzzy brained, drink lots of coffee and drive to work and clock in and fumble around on the computer, faking it for a few weeks. My small office measured about nine feet by four feet. In it was a desk, a computer, a TV monitor, a heater, an air cooler, a tiny set of lockers, a water fountain and two chairs. One which I sat on.

And in the other chair was Al. Al McGrant. For a couple of weeks I couldn't figure out why he sat in my office, reading a newspaper and drinking coffee and pressing the button.

The button opened a gate, which he could see on a monitor. Normally it focused on the trucks going in and out, but also some employees. They'd press a button Al would look up and press his end. This is all he did. He did it for five days a week, and had weekends off. He pressed a button, the trucks and employees were let in and out.

He did not talk much and he also didn't bathe. He also had a different kind of body tolerance for heat and cold. Insisted on turning the heat on in mid May. He reeked of stale tobacco at all hours.

Details came out. He was a driver, but was disabled after a door fell on him. A loading dock door fell on him and injured his shoulder. These are industrial strength items that weigh a great deal. His missed breaking his neck by a few inches. He could still drive. But Not constantly. So they gave him the job of button pusher. It was a job I often had to fill in, when he was loading up with another cup of coffee, visiting someone at the other end of the building, or trying to find a newspaper. I didn't get the same pay scale and I wasn't given training, either.

With the details over the tempeture control in place, he moved the monitor out of the office, close to the door pulled the spare chair out and continued his efforts to work hard. He was still on the job after I bid off the Dispatches, and got an in house driving job.

Al lost his job several months later, arguing with another driver and threatening to break arms, shoot someone and kill them repeatedly. Before his ultimate termination he wandered around with his union file that detailed all problems he had with management. It was about eight inches thick.

Al McGrant is one of many wonder workers I have encountered.