Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Tiny Hat Club

I happen to know, because of once having been fitted for a graduation cap, that my head size is 6-3/4. That's small. In fact, if you put a normal size adult hat on my head, I go blind. Pay attention to this, because it comes in later.

An odd thing happened when I retired from the post office on--let's see--October 1, 2008, at 3PM. The thirty-one years I had spent there began to slide out of my brain like a luge team with diarrhea. I'd assumed I'd drop by the station to say "hi" at some point, and smirk a little, but then I became afraid I wouldn't remember anyone's names. In a matter of just a few weeks, I didn't think about the post office at all.

And I liked my job. And my coworkers. You know--mostly. The early memories are the fondest, before Management decided the best way to get us to work hard was to barcode our asses and monitor us with drones and satellites, which resulted in a demoralized, trudging crew. No, the best were days we'd converge on some hapless new hire when the sun was going down on a Jeep that was still half full of mail. We'd pop open the back of the truck and do triage, passing out sections and parcels to all available hands, and we'd roar through the remainder of the route with elegance and efficiency and sometimes a little heroism, and it was a beautiful thing. Because the sooner we got all the mail delivered, the sooner we could go drink beer in the park. Often, off the clock.

Or the days we hunted down the proper destination of a lilac-scented letter with old-lady handwriting and no discernible address to speak of. It would get handed back and forth through the offices of capable carriers with freakish memories, even for quirks of handwriting, until it finally rattled into the right location because someone knew somebody on his route had a Great-Aunt Violet.

But it's all going away now, because it appears that my brain is a Postal Palimpsest. (Incidentally, any time a blogger can work in the word "palimpsest," all casual-like, you know you're getting a quality product.)

A palimpsest, as you all know, is a parchment or papyrus or other writing medium that has had the original writing scratched off and been written on again. Most of the time the antique folks would scratch their letters onto a waxed board or something and it was easy to smear it back into original condition, like one of those Magic Eraser Boards where you pull up the plastic sheet and everything goes away. But those haven't held up as well over time, so the ones people find now are often made of parchment. It might seem like a lot of work to scratch out the original document just to write over it, but you'd do it too if every time you needed to pop up in the middle of the night to jot down a thought you had to go out and kill a buffalo and tan its hide or something first. You totally would.

Anyway, apparently, because in my retirement I have become on fire to write creatively, I have had to scratch the postal parchment clean. There's no room in the brain for all of it.

Tiny, tiny hat.

40 comments:

  1. I remember decades ago, when our mail carriers looked as if they were actually enjoying their jobs, they seemed to have more input in allocating their time. When we had one of those post-funeral parties after my uncle's burial (and let's face it: when there are scads of people, food, and alcohol -- it's a party.) in the middle of the afternoon, we invited the mail carrier in to join us. And he did, partaking of food, wine and conversation, before resuming his route. Sometimes, on an especially cold day, I would invite him in for a hot beverage. But now, they all seem a great deal more stressed and in a hurry. It's a pity when some grand poobah takes a perfectly nice way to make a living and turns it into drudgery. The job will still get done if the workers have more control. It might take a little longer, but so what?

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    1. We'd have more extra time to putter around some days than others, but we could really move sometimes too. All kinds of control has been sliced out of the job now. We used to sort every piece of mail in the morning and "pull it down" exactly how we wanted it. Then they made big machines that barcoded the letters and we'd get trays of stuff that was (supposedly) all in delivery order, and we had to go out with that and re-sort as needed while we were walking. It took all the pride out of it. I think now they're presorting the magazines and flats, too.

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    2. Sounds like what is happening to the teaching profession. Used to be they just told us what to teach, which is great. But then they started telling us how to teach it. As if we were idiots instead of masters of the art of connecting with the kids.

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  2. It's always like that when you leave a job, isn't it? I find I can barely remember which people and incidents go with which job, or which order the jobs came in. Oddly enough, I can always remember how many years I spent at each one.

    But I think that's just because jobs are basically dull. Your brain retains interesting things perfectly well, even after years. Just look at all the blog posts you've gotten out of them.

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    1. I've only had two jobs (post-college). So I didn't do a lot of leaving. And if my brain hasn't retained interesting things all that reliably, there's still the imagination!

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    2. I've only had one real job post-college, and I'm about to leave it. I think I will be quite happy if most of what happened there in the last 39 1/2 years fades like disappearing ink. There were some good times, but I intend to overwrite them forcefully with lots more better times now. (I confess to looking up "palimpsest" in the dictionary approximately 14 times before its meaning finally wedged itself into one of my cranial crevices. I was thrilled no end that I didn't have to do it this time.)

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  3. I did go back to my old job a few times, but really, the ones I liked moved on and just the crazies were left and they were way too happy to see me, so I don't do that anymore.

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  4. And conversely, with my unnaturally large head, what few thoughts I do have ricochet about, landing on nothing, and thus I'm unable to lasso them.

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    1. Oh that sounds dreadful. I like everything where I can reach it.

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  5. Like you, 31 years at a job I truly liked. I actually did pop in to say "hi" a time or two, but soon the whole thing was firmly ensconced in my past. Now I sit around contemplating such things as scratching my markings off my parchment.

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  6. You lie like a pig in mud.
    Your brain and your scope of thought fill me with awe. And wonder. And giggles. And sometimes with rage.
    Good things obviously DO come in small packages.

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    1. Mom used to tell me that. She had a lot of nice ways of saying things. She pointed out, for instance, that my legs reached all the way to the floor, and nobody else's did any better.

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    2. My mum used to say that very thing!

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    3. My mum said that too! But she was speaking of herself, because she was a Murr-sized person. Also, I remember when postal workers were allowed to deliver a letter that had one number wrong in the address, because they knew where it was meant to go - but now they never even see it I guess. Some machine just spits it out and stamps it "undeliverable as addressed." And finally - I need a new hat because mine disappeared at the beach this summer somehow. I've found several that are sized S/M or M/L. Neither fits me. I need a M/M, apparently. I can't ever remember the proper number size. Finally finally - I didn't know what 'palimpsest' was, so thank you for explaining and saving me the trouble of googling it. I probably knew once - given my extremely fancy education - but I expect that my brain has erased it. Clearly something I would never have been called upon to remember if I weren't reading such a quality blog.

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  7. You may remember that as an unsettled young adult, I had more jobs than a French whore on V-Day. And yes, thank goodness our brains conveniently over-write all of the apparently useless data that we might otherwise want to hold on to..... That said, I have a vivid memory from one of my first jobs.....You see, at some point, Connie Clark and I both had part-time jobs at the erstwhile "Farnsworth-Reed Men's Clothiers" in the 7-Corners Shopping Center in Falls Church, Virginia. We sold sets of large, clunky, men's cufflinks. Some of them were so large that beneath their plastic-coated surfaces, there were snippets of scenes from Fine Art of the past. I remember straightening up the array of cufflinks with Connie, and we were both terribly proud of ourselves that we recognized that one set displayed a glimpse of a Monet canvas, and the other set showcased a little piece of Manet's work. Alas, before the famous cufflinks were sold, the business went bankrupt and the store closed. So much for the fate of Men's Better Haberdashery and appreciation of Fine Art. Connie went on to the University of Virginia, and I went on to my two-schools, three-majors, 7-years B.S. degree in Poli.Sci.....

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    1. I so enjoy your comments. I wouldn't have recognized the Manet...but I do remember Seven Corners as the home of Brentano's Books and the S&W Cafeteria, where Dad took the family almost every Saturday night because he thought Mom shouldn't have to cook every day.

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  8. I've been to the scene of my former employment a couple times, and life looks very different on the other side of the table. Much better to be the proder than the prodee.
    Since retiring I've become a tabla rasa kind of fellow.

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  9. I haven't retained clear memories of my previous jobs (except memories of the jerks), perhaps because they were boring, draining, and hateful. I love my current job, so I wonder if I'll remember it in more detail when I retire decades from now.

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    1. Congratulations on loving your job! How unusual. I think most people remember more stuff than I do. You probably will too. I seem to shake that Etch-A-Sketch every single night.

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  10. This column sent me running to The Oregonian archive for August 16, 2008, and this is what I found:

    Murr Brewster -- mail carrier, artist, gardener, pianist, scrimshander -- always thought of herself as a writer, even if no one else did.

    "I'm pretty sure," she says, "it's because I've never actually written anything down."

    With retirement approaching ("Oct. 1st. 3:30 p.m. Wednesday") Brewster started writing down plenty. And evidently, the words are golden. The first three essays she submitted for publication all have won prizes.

    I loved my 20 years at The Big O, mostly because of getting to meet the most interesting folks in creation -- or at least the part of creation that was within our circulation area.

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    1. And those are your words, Mr. Woodward. I was so honored to be interviewed by you and I'm really glad we're friends.

      PS I can't believe I told you I was a scrimshander. I ain't too proud of that.

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  11. You almost had me most impressed. I had to immediately look up palimpsest, only to find out I used to know that meaning, then continued to read to find you were helping out the poor dunces by providing the definition.

    And I think all your writings are winners. Pleas don't stop.

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  12. Of course I had to look it up. But I used it in an appropriate sentence on the Facebook post.

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    1. Well shoot. From what I can tell, Facebook is where you don't really have to use things right.

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  13. At least your small head probably was a relief for your poor mother. There is a local guy referred to as "punkin' head" because of the size of his noggin. His wife was known as one of the bravest women in the county.
    I don't think I can retire, but maybe I'll just fade slowly into the sunset.

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    1. That actually sounds quite lovely. Yeah, I weighed under six pounds. I guess my mom showed up at church with me when I was a week old and a lot of people didn't even realize she was pregnant.

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  14. For a person with a small head, you still have an incredible amount of stuff in there, and it works just fine. Your brain must be one of those compact jobs, with all the features and leg room of a full-size but easier on gas and easier to park.

    I sense my metaphor leaves something to be desired, but, hey, I'm not the writer person in the room.

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    1. Yeah, well, Dave says "it's little, but it's dense."

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  15. I remember saying I'd pop in and see people when I left my job and I have a couple of times, but only because I was in the area seeing the dentist and decided to buy a bottle of water or something for the bus ride home.
    I have a small head too, child size hats fit, but the brims are never wide enough to keep the sun off my whole face. So I have a washable cotton sunhat with a drawstring in the crown that can be tightened to fit.

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    1. I think I need that hat. Not the bottled water though! Horrors!

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  16. In my old neighborhood our mail was often mis-delivered and at the end of the day many of the neighbors would be re-delivering the mail to each other. One of the neighbors remarked that it was a good way to get to know our neighbors! It went on like that for 11 years!

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    1. Do you remember the classic Cheers episode when Cliff the mailman delivered mail to all these apartments down a hallway and then congratulated himself on a job well done? He disappears and then doors begin opening all down the hall as people exchanged their mail.

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  17. Have I mentioned this before? I have been amazed at the memory and dedication of postal workers, especially since I got a letter from my grandson, addressed to "Grama Soo", and with the wrong house number and postal code. He did get the street name right, but it was a long street, and I was not the tenant of record. The letter was still delivered, and quickly, to boot.

    So if your memory fades later, well, you're like those mathematical prodigies that bloom early and fade quickly.

    Genius has its limits!

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  18. I miss our mailman Carl. He used to pull in the drive and honk if there was a parcel, so I didn't have to drive into town for it. If I wasn't home, he'd prop it up against the front door. Now we have the official truck with the person who bends my magazines but makes me drive into town for a parcel which would have fit.

    Went back to visit work a couple of times after I retired but everyone was so harried and tired looking that I felt I was just in the way. Like you, it has all slithered away although I did dream of budget code #s for a year after. Eventually my brain became amenable to being a palimpsest and I haven't looked back.

    A large head here. The whole hat thing is difficult.

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