Going Postal, XI

Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” “Going Postal, III,” “Going Postal, IV,” “Going Postal, V,” “Going Postal, VI,” “Going Postal, VII,” “Going Postal, VIII,” and “Going Postal, IX,” and “Going Postal, X.”

“I don’t know, Marty.” Ron said. He felt tired and breathing wasn’t easy.

“I’m tellin’ ya.” Marty sat up as he spoke. “They’s -they’re rippin’ you off! Everyone’s been usin’ dah mail -I seen it!- while they’re holed up in their houses. You said dah city said they’d fire you? Who’re they gonna get? They can’ get anyone right now!”

Ron tried to think. He knew Marty wasn’t the most trustworthy guy, but he’d been really responsible the last few weeks. Without Marty, he and Carol -his thoughts broke off and tears started in his eyes.

Marty’s eyes looked bright but dry as he studied Ron. Young people like him hadn’t been affected as badly, after all. “Unca Ron, ya gotta believe me. You saw dem sh- those guys at dah post office! They pushed you around, didn’ they? I got ’em to do their jobs and stop dah dis-respect!”

That was true. Ron’s mother had always said, You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. But those guys at the post office hadn’t ever been nice, no matter how nice he’d been first. Whatever Carol’s neice’s son had said to them, they’d shaped right up. Ron fumbled at his seatbelt. He saw and heard Marty drum his fingers on the dash in impatience.

Ron finally got out of the seatbelt, then out of the truck. He leaned in for a last look at Marty. “You can do this, Unca Ron,” Marty said, smiled, and gave him a thumbs-up with those tattooed fingers of his.

After nodding and closing the truck door, Ron made his way up the double-wide steps of the Westside City office building. He walked through the double-glass doors, through the line separators, past the empty front desk, and down the hall to where the city planners met. He opened the doors into a room that looked just like the last time he’d been there, except a black woman sat where Ida Jenkins had been.

“Can we help you?” she asked, through another of those paper masks.

Ron tried to stand straight. He smiled in a friendly way as he walked to the blue tape on the floor. “I -” *Hmm-hmm* “I’m Ron Richardson. I’m a contractual mail carrier for the-”

“He’s the temporary mail carrier for The Farmlands Area,” Joe Schlepp interrupted, without looking at anyone.

“Yes, I-” Ron tried again.

“Didn’t we talk to him about poor job service a couple’a months ago?” Bob Spineless asked.

“Yes, I-”

“Well, I wasn’t there, then,” the new woman sounded cross.

Ron tilted his head so the flourescent lights didn’t glare so much and read Miranda Owen on her nameplate. “Yes, Ida Jenkins was-”

“Do you have an appointment?” Joe asked, looking near Ron’s head.

“No, I-”

“I’m sorry,” Bob began, “But you can’t get in without an appointment, so-”

“WELL I’M NOT SORRY,” Ron yelled. He paused, his whole body shaking with silent, strong coughing.

Miranda, Bob, and Joe sat in their paper masks and blue plastic gloves, finally silent.

Ron stood straighter than he had in weeks. He walked forward off that stupid tape. “I’ve been delivering the mail for ten years without complaining. I’ve used my truck and carried boxes and done my job.”

Joe leaned back as Ron approached his desk, hugging a bottle of hand sanitizer.

“I’m not temporary.” Ron turned to the next one.

Bob nearly clambered out of his chair as Ron walked up to him.

“I’m not responsible for the post office’s bad sorting, but I try anyway,” Ron told Bob.

Miranda was the most composed as he moved to stand in front of her.

“I’ve done a good decade’s worth of work. I’ve never had a sick day till -” he stopped and swallowed. “…Till my wife got sick and I had to take care of her -but I still had my nephew fill in so I didn’t have to bother anybody!”

They still sat without talking. Waiting.

“Now that my wife’s -now that I’m back to delivering everyone’s toilet paper while they’re too scared to open their blinds, I’m here to ask…” Ron thought of Marty. “No, I’m here to tell you: you can either get me the same benefits as the other mailmen -with the health coverage goin’ back to the start of the term- or you can try to find someone else to do this job.”

Continue to “Going Postal, XII.”

©2020 Chelsea Owens

Going Postal, IV

Continued from “Going Postal, I,” “Going Postal, II,” and “Going Postal, III.”

The residents of Westside City were a mixed bunch, thanks to a dispute among the planners back when a large area of it went from unincorporated to residential. Sort-of. Supposedly, Fred Simons wanted multi-family housing while Martin Gonzales thought single-unit homes were better. Ida Jenkins said she’d abstain if pressed, while Mayor Cliffstone threatened to film the whole thing if the two gentlemen didn’t sit down and discuss things like humans instead of animals.

In the ensuing debates over taxonomy and zoning, no one thought to verify whether the United States Post Office planned to include the new area in its existing route maps. Ron Richardson didn’t mind; he’d been considering an easy employment since retirement and thought a contractual mail carrier fit the bill nicely.

It hadn’t been all butterflies and roses, of course. He was required to use his own vehicle; had to bend, stoop, and lift; and not many residents acknowledged his existence. Still, Ron had done it for ten years and figured he could handle all that for another ten. Then, the current city planning board called him in.

He and the three committee members, spaced at least six feet apart, were the room’s only occupants.

“We’ve been getting some complaints from residents,” Joe Schlepp said. He tried to look stern as he squirted his hands with sanitizer and rubbed them vigorously.

“Oh?” Ron rocked on his feet in an amiable fashion. His toes rested against a scuffed bit of blue tape on the carpet.

“Yes,” Ida Jenkins agreed, her voice muffled behind a paper face mask. She read over a printed page that waved slightly in her gloved hand. “One resident says her package was delivered to the wrong address. Another claimed hers never arrived…. Another says it went to the wrong house, and another, and another…”

In the awkward pause, Ron answered, “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Bob Spineless frowned. “Mr. -”

“Ron -”

“Mr. Ron, we cannot have this level of irresponsibility from our mail carrier. If we receive any more complaints, we will need to consider offering your position to another applicant.”

The happy rocking stopped. Ron’s affable smile did not, although it tightened.

“Do you understand, Mr. Ron?” Ida should have known his real name. She had hired him. She had his name printed at the top of her complaints sheet.

“Sure. Sure.” Ron turned and left. The committee didn’t seem to notice. Not only did no one talk to him on his route, no one had really talked to him here. Apparently, they all only noticed problems, problems that were the fault of incorrect address labels and lazy post office sorters.

Each downside of the job came to him with each step he took away from the city government meeting room and toward the city government parking lot.

For an entire decade, he’d delivered everyone’s packages faithfully. Lately, he delivered everyone’s panic-buying supplies. He drove from before sunup to after sundown. He carried everything from canned goods to ammunition.

Ron exited the double-glass doors and descended the double-wide front steps.

Since he was a contractual mail carrier, he had no official vehicle. The post office workers treated him like a civilian. He saw their sideways glances and sneers as he picked up his allotted bins and assigned bundles every day, multiple times a day.

He unlocked his pickup truck and got in.

Contract workers didn’t have health insurance, either.

Reaching for his Big Gulp, Ron realized his throat felt sore. He felt tired, but maybe that was because he felt warmer than usual in the cold, April sun.

Continued at “Going Postal, V.”

 

©2020 Chelsea Owens