Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Leaking Weasels: Part Two

When you work for the post office, you learn that there are a number of things parcels can do that are not optimal. They can tinkle. They can tick. And then they can exude. Long before we were required to receive instruction on suspicious packaging (by which we were helpfully informed that "protruding wires" are something of a red flag), we had our own instincts about exuding parcels. You get a package addressed to the biology lab at the University, and it's damp and squishy, you're going to quarantine it in the back of your Jeep like it's a snoozing wolverine. You just are.

I was not especially concerned the day I took custody of a small box that appeared to be leaking sand from a rip in the bottom corner, until I noticed that the return address was a crematorium. Some PR issues are best left to Management, I rarely say, but did in this case. Protocol requires the box to be taped up and mummified in plastic with a form apology:

"The US Postal Service cares about your mail. Unfortunately, the use of mechanized equipment as well as the hiring of Stevie "Stone Hands" Whipmeier in the parcel section sometimes results in damage to a mail item. Please accept our sincere apology for the mishandling of [NAME OF DECEDENT], some of whom can be picked up at our facility during regular business hours, because our janitorial staff Larry is still in the parking lot doing a doobie. Please bring this notice, a Ziploc bag, and a Dustbuster. We care."

I never personally delivered a limp weasel, but there were things. It used to be fairly common to see coconuts coming through the mail stream, all decked out with stamps and a Hawaii postmark. People are tickled by the notion that they can mail an unswathed coconut, and they inflict them on their friends when they go on vacation. I'd knock on the door and hand it to the recipient, who'd holler over his shoulder "Jesus Johnson, Edith, your brother Harold went and sent us a giant nut," and shake his head. It's not the sort of thing you throw away, so on the mantle it would go, stamps facing attractively forward, where eventually the grandchildren, who have grown up with it and watched Grandma dust it, have to keep it because no one wants to throw out Grandpa's big nut.

Also common were boxes of crickets, destined for the house of a pet owner. LIVE CRICKETS, it would proclaim hopefully on the side of the box, and we'd cross our fingers and tip it a little, whereupon it would emit a dry, cascading sound like wood chips. You have to deliver it anyway. Maybe, you hope, the recipient owns a crippled snake.

Or chicks. Chicks would come through the mail, always, luckily, chirping, and at eight in the morning it seemed like the jolliest thing ever, and we'd stow the box in our Jeeps and drive off humming. Ha ha! we'd think, as they chirped in the back. What a fun day this will be! But the chicks never went to anyone at the front end of the route. By the time five hours of chirping has gone by, we are one frying pan and a bottle of sweet-n-sour sauce away from committing a grave postal infraction.

But in my 31 years of service, nothing exuding from the mail ever seemed as significant a hazard as what exuded from the mail carriers. Mail carriers are given a uniform allowance every year with which they can acquire everything they might reasonably be expected to need, but there is a certain subset of carriers who simply refuse to pick up a new shirt. The uniforms aren't even bad-looking. They're a decent color, they're permanent-press, and with a minimum of care, they are quite presentable. They won't wrinkle unless you sleep in them, crunched up on the sewer grate in front of the liquor store. If you wear the same shirt every day for three or four years, the friction of the newsprint and magazines against the tension provided by the beer belly turns the midsection of the shirt a sort of sickly, kitchen-compost green. Have you ever seen a mailman wearing a greenish, wrinkled uniform shirt? Yes, you have. We still do not know why this subset of mailmen does not avail itself of the generous uniform allowance every year, but it is probably hard-wired in their DNA, on the same chromosome that makes it so difficult to take up a collection for a retirement present or funeral bouquet.

But no discussion of exudation is complete without Gary. Gary would periodically say "oh, pardon me" for no discernible reason, and when we asked him why he said that, just before the reason wafted down the aisle, he'd say "because I'm a polite guy." Which was true. In a sense.

I'm not sure we would even notice an over-expired weasel.

54 comments:

  1. I hope that isn't Gary in Dave's kitchen...

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    1. Naw. I couldn't get my scanner working, so this is a substitute picture. Although, exudation-wise, our kitchen isn't any different from any other room.

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  2. There's always a Gary, wherever you go.

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    1. True. And sometimes We Have Met The Gary, And He Is Us.

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  3. And just look at all those wonderful stamps carrying a loved one home. Or is that a Thanksgiving turkey?

    To maggot-free ferrets and non-exuding weasels, of all species, everywhere! Long live the P.O.

    Great two-parter.

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  4. I'm not sure about the relative sizes, but is it possible to fit a weasel inside a coconut? If so, that might solve your problem right there. Of course it would have to be re-closed very carefully.

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    1. If it's dead enough, durn near any weasel can be compressed into a coconut.

      You know, I never thought I would write that sentence. That's why we get up every morning.

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    2. If I were a betting person, I'd bet that nobody else in the history of language has ever written that sentence or even a similar sentence. Now doesn't that make you feel special?

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  5. My brother once sent me, for Christmas, a talking clock that announced the time every half hour. It was turned on and speaking when he shipped it. The mail carrier handed it to me saying, "I sure hope this is it." It must have been disconcerting to have someone saying, "The time - is 9:30." or ten o'clock or ten thirty, etc., etc. all day long from somewhere amidst the plethora of parcels. It was certainly disconcerting to have a stranger's voice under the Christmas tree telling me the time for the next three days. My brother is the kind of guy who would find that hilarious.

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    1. Auugggh. I could take dogs and postal supervisors and rain and sleet, but one of those speaking cards going off all day made me insane. Your clock just ups the insane ante by adding the Chinese water torture aspect to it.

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  6. I want a coconut delivered. Yep. I do.

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  7. Wonderfully entertaining post - but the best part has to be about the chicks :) Thank you for the snorty chuckles.

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    1. Damned annoying little fuzzballs.

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    2. Awww, come on, they ARE cute. I was in the habit of reaching in and petting a small feathered head on occasion, until someone spoiled my fun by saying the cute little critters almost all carried salmonella. Hmmm, could think of more pleasant ways of spending my sick time! So much for the warm fuzzy moments.

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    3. Yeah. I was actually good for a few hours of them, but then it was nugget city.

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  8. Well, who knew it was possible to ship a naked coconut? How about basketballs? Not that I've sent anybody a basketball lately, but now I feel motivated.

    Back in the days when people actually wrote letters using primitive instruments like pens and paper, my sister once sent me a letter written on a roll of toilet paper. I'm still not sure whether it was an editorial comment on the content of the letter or the the content of my brain.

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    1. It was just to let you know she gave a shit.

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    2. But technically, she couldn't have. Or if she did, I don't want to know what she used for toilet paper afterward...

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    3. I think I'll just let you two play amongst yourselves. Can't you just hear her later in the day? "Dang, me and my #%$& postscripts!"

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  9. We're one of those people who got our baby chicks through the mail... we lived on a rural route and Kevin got to our place around 1pm each day. BUT... he had my work phone number and would call me before he headed out on his route and I'd drive over to the PO, pick up chicks (this should be Bill's line, not mine...) and take them home and dip their little beaks into water and put them in the brooder. I don't think Kevin wanted to carry them around all day. But the most, shall we say outlandish?, PO story is when Bill sent a box of genealogy records from Ohio to NM... he got a letter from an "official" office in Denver... enclosed was the return address from his box of stuff, and a letter telling him that if this was something he'd mailed, it was lost in somewhere along the way... might be in a giant warehouse or something in Minnesota. Needless to say... he never saw the contents again. (He's smart though... he'd copied everything before he mailed it)... Now... about the maggoty coconut stuffed in a weasel....

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    1. I actually love that about the post office. That they have to own up. That would be the dead letter office in Minnesota, or in this case, the dead relative office.

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  10. Ahh yes, baby chicks. We used to raise chickens, so I know about them. As soon as the package arrived at our local post office we received a phone call demanding, not asking, that we come IMMEDIATELY to pick them up. In the 15 or so minutes it took to put on our shoes, pile into the car and drive the 4 miles to the post office, our otherwise sweet and charming resident postmaster would be meeting us at the front door, box of peeping chicks in hand with a sour look on his face. Inevitably my daughter would grab the box and dance back to the car exclaiming things like "oooh they are so cute", "oooh they are so soft" with a smile from ear to ear. Approximately 2 miles and a few minutes later I had to physically keep her from dumping the box out the window of the car while she now had a horrible glare on her pretty little face while exclaiming things like "get these things away from me", "make it stop". So yes, I know all about chicks and cannot imagine having them in my car any longer than necessary. I'd have reversed my route on that day, Post Office Regulations be damned! (Where's Big Mary when you need her!) Always love your blog!

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    1. "Make it stop! Make it stop!" I can hear it. How much can the chicks have to say, really, at such a young age?

      Thank you!

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  11. I laughed....and laughed....and chuckled.....and giggled. Funny funny stuff from a (former) post office employee. I think you should take a weasel, a coconut and a box of cremains and do a presentation to the stressed out PO employees. Gotta keep them laughing instead of....well, you know!
    As another person working in a job where the truth is stranger than fiction, I salute you for finding the humor! It keeps us sane.

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    1. Oh heck, they'd be just fine with a box of donuts. You know, I haven't been back. I thought I would, but I got way too busy on Day One of retirement.

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  12. Recently we ("we" being our family lizard, Puff the Bearded Dragon) were running seriously low on crickets. When the deliverer of crickets showed up with a box looking like one of Puff's more formidable ancestors had stepped on it, he apologized and scurried off muttering something about "hoping they are all there." We did locate three crickets of questionable intelligence who couldn't find their way out. In a mail facility somewhere there were 497 more. We wondered if mail facilities kept a few lizards around for events like these, but of course if they did, it might not have been an accident that they "escaped."

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    1. I had forgotten, but yes, we did have a few crickets cricketing away in the building. Speaking of the other, I once had two lizards of my own, and one of them (Scheister) disappeared one day. He showed up fully a year later, strolling out of the pantry. Kind of skinny, but alive. I credit my brand of housekeeping.

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  13. I love the stamps on the coconut! I have collected stamps for years and inherited a collection from a grandparent.
    At least Gary did not announce his "air." My dad would do different things, like sniff the air and say-It smells like mom is cooking something.
    Or he would tell my younger siblings to PULL HIS FINGER, which would lead to his caustic gas. Or he would blame someone else.
    An apology would be a breath of fresh air--sort of.

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    1. How many times did you fall for that pull my finger ruse? It's a classic. One that my father, let's call him George, because that was his name, would never ever ever have done.

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  14. Ah, such a difficult decision on which stamps to use for one's deceased relatives. Do you go with the "Forever" stamps, or would that relegate them to purgatory into infinity?

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    1. Good idea! But they'll do fine as long as they don't get into the dead letter office for infinity. Purgatory is more like the eternal barcode loop.

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  15. Can I just say that waft is a great word. As are the conjugations.

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  16. You bring new meaning to "having a blast at work."

    A truly "bang up" post, Murr.

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    1. Only thing we were lacking was an Emission Statement.

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  17. I like to ask my local P.O. if they received any weird stuff lately. It seems a baby doll that emitted real-life cries caused quite a stir when it bleated in the pile of parcels.

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    1. Oh lordy lordy. I probably would've thought it was Gary.

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  18. Hey, Murr. Have you had any complaints from Wordpress people about being able to post on your blog? When I hit the publish button, I get a message "You do not own that identity." I went to Wordpress and signed in and out, but Blogger still wouldn't let me comment here unless I did it with open ID. I ran into this one other time this week on another blog.

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    1. I haven't heard that specifically, but I wouldn't put it past any of these outfits to throw a snit, just because. Sometimes when I'm commenting here, it suddenly tells me I'm not on Google, when I just was a minute earlier. I just spank it and do it again. I see you have succeeded in arriving. Yay!

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  19. I admire you Post Office peoples, especially those of old who gallantly hand sorted mail. That is where I ended up when I exited the Navy, mind-numbingly sticking letters in little boxes for hours at a time. I lasted three weeks and wished I had opted for the more flashy coconut carrying position.

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    1. I think it is a virtue of the simple mind, but I found sticking letters in little boxes sort of meditative. I actually liked it. I've never been all that ambitious.

      I would think you would make a fine nut carrier.

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  21. All of this hilarious cricket and P.O. talk reminds me of one of my stories with the same ingredients (and at least partly true) called something like "How Venomous Snakes Came to Chicago." (With that hint, y'all could write it, too.) I'll put it on my blog after it gets published. I understand that involves a regimen of submitting it--the whole round tuit prerequisite.

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    1. You, my dear, need a whole chirping box of round tuits.

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  22. I am kind of a scary stalker lady--in the best way--when it comes to your posts, and this line right here

    "But in my 31 years of service, nothing exuding from the mail ever seemed as significant a hazard as what exuded from the mail carriers."

    has done nothing to calm my feelings.

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    1. You do frighten me a little. In the best way.

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  23. Thanks for stopping by and I certainly enjoyed this post...on to read the one before it!

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  24. You are seriously funny, M! I hope that the Post Office continues to exist because it is the agency officially charged with keeping track of addresses and the people who inhabit them. GPS still can't measure up! You also reminded me of when we were in High School and the boys all had to register with the local draft board. Since the board was charged to keep anything relevant in the guys' files, at least one of our friends delivered a (beautifully and thoughtfully)handwritten letter wrapped around a brick, while another kept bringing them pieces of his beloved VW Bug, starting with the steering wheel! While not exactly on a par with your exuding weasels or live chicks, it's what your posts put me in mind of. Elaine

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    1. I am glad I was not the letter carrier for the draft board. And "seriously funny." Do I smell a new tag line?

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  25. I'm sure I"m not the first to declare this, but screw it: I so want to send an oily, misspelled, lopsided package with protruding wires through the mail. Just to see what would happen. I probably shouldn't admit this to a postal worker...

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    1. I'm a retired postal worker. There isn't a more laid-back population on the planet.

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