Saturday, August 10, 2019

Crashing Soon Into A House Near You

I hear tell the Postal Service is experimenting with driverless trucks. This is in line with everything else they've tried in the last twenty years. Basically, the Postal Service thinks everything will go a lot smoother if they could just get rid of those pesky employees. A lot of them are unkempt and disheveled and whiney, and virtually all of them want pay, medical insurance and some sort of retirement plan. They're a pretty solid minus for the outfit in all respects except customer service, but the plan is to thin out the customer base too, so it should pencil out.

When I started as a letter carrier in 1977, human beings had their smeary hands pretty much all over the mail distribution process. Every letter got fingered many times by many people; mail got banded out, stuffed into canvas sacks and tossed around; it was efficient, it was accurate, it was extraordinary, really; it turns out the cleverest machine isn't really a match for a postal brain, even one of your lower-quality ones. Kids didn't have asthma or allergies back then either, no doubt on account of the protective influence of mailman germs delivered directly to their doors.

Not now, boy howdy. Your letters get picked up from the mailbox and immediately sluiced into an automated system like pigs in a slaughterhouse, barcoded, scanned, sliced into salami, and shot into the ether, ultimately landing, a bunch of the time, in the correct town and in the care of the correct carrier, a carrier with his pride and joy removed, who is also barcoded, scanned, and remotely monitored for malingering--a recipe for trudging if ever I heard one.

It's a postal manager's dream.

So. Driverless vehicles. This one really is a good idea. This is going to make America a ton safer. Let's start with me. I hadn't been in the force for a month before I hit something with my truck. (It was a house.) Thirty-one experienced years later, with a month to go, I backed into the side door of a parked car. During the intervening years I started out with a half-ton truck with an immovable seat from which I could reach the mailboxes or the brake, but not both at the same time; the good news was this was when I got in the habit of using my seat belt so as to keep from falling out of the window going for a low box. The Jeeps were more compact but you're still basically motoring down the road to the south with your head cranked to the east, reading envelopes off a tray. Once I slid my door open while I was still moving and it flew right off its track and cartwheeled down the street for a half a block. Nobody got clocked that time and I got it hooked back on by myself. Jeep 988 ("The Death Can") died if you let off the gas for one second, so you had to drive it floored with your other foot on the brake. All day.

They tried to get a few more years out of the fleet by painting the trucks white, but they were old and creaky and eventually they replaced them. With exploding Ford Pintos. You could hear the gasoline sloshing ominously below your butt when you came to a stop. Several other iffy brands were trotted out and retired and finally they designed a new truck just for the Postal Service. It had a driver's window and a windshield and a bedazzlement of tiny mirrors. You could see behind the rear bumper by squinting at the top left mirror in the front aimed at the back left mirror, or was it the second-from-the-top? It was safest just to take it really slow in reverse and keep your ears peeled for thumps and screams.

By all means, bring on the driverless truck. Set it at a solid mosey calculated to stop at every house for whatever time Management thinks it should take, and if someone has a question or outgoing mail or something--too bad!

That's all part of the Customer Reduction Plan.

29 comments:

  1. When did all this micromanaging of employees start happening? I fear that I may be partly responsible for it.

    Back in the early 80s, when my uncle died we had a little lunchtime get-together for the mourners. (Okay. Let's face it -- these things are basically parties with the guest of honor in absentia.) When the mailman came by, we invited him to join us, and he made himself a sandwich, had some wine, stayed for a while, then left to resume his route. On really cold days, he'd sometimes be invited in for a cup of tea. He'd chat for a while. The mail still got delivered, and the carrier seemed to be in a better mood for being treated in a civilized manner.

    These days, if I initiate a conversation with my postman, he keeps moving while talking, as if he might miss a train. Each successive mailman seems more angsty than the last. It's a shame, because with any job, it's the little things like a random chat or some little courtesy that make it bearable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were days there was no extra time, days there wasn't enough time, and days that were a complete stroll. I loved interacting with my people. Some of the grumpier mailmen thought folks like us were sucking up for tips, but what we were really doing was making the job (nearly) delightful. It's not like the grumpy ones were having any fun!

      Delete
    2. When I was a young housewife, my husband’s mailed paycheck was delayed somehow and funds were running low. When he heard this, our amazing mailman offered to give me $20 to help us out. No driverless truck would do that.

      Delete
    3. This makes me so proud. (On the cheap.)

      Delete
  2. I would guess postal carriers are going the way of the milkman.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Postal carriers are pretty much into package delivery now. I'm sure glad I got out before they made me drive a big truck. I can't even park my own car which is the size of a ladybug without scraping the curb.

      Delete
  3. Sigh. And what doesn't seem to occur to them is that customer reduction and income reduction go hand in hand. So as the customers decline they jack up the prices. Which works as well as you would expect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's just a shame. Here the mail service is not allowed to set their own rates, and doesn't get government assistance either. The main problem is no one uses the mail anymore. They pay their bills online and advertisers have more or less forsaken the mails also, except at election time. So there'a real problem, but I think this should be a subsidized service and maintained for the good of everyone in the country. WITH REAL LETTER CARRIERS.

      Delete
  4. Somehow the price of a regular stamp doubled between the last time I checked and a week ago. And it's still a bargain at $1!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mean it went up a week ago, just that that was the first time I checked in awhile

      Delete
    2. Hey now. It went up five cents. It's 55 cents. You must've last checked thirty years ago!

      Delete
    3. Our cheaper concession stamps for pensioners are 60 cents each, everyone else pays more and they're about to raise the price to $1, so the concession price will probably rise too. Yet they continue to cut services and close smaller post offices, usually right where they are needed, so people have to drive for miles to find one.

      Delete
    4. I regret that we are unwilling to invest in the public commons. Most places. Doing everything to maximize profit (for somebody) sucks.

      Delete
    5. It WAS 55 cents a year or two ago - now it's 90 cents for a single stamp, but with tax we pay $1.05. Still a bargain, IMO :) (and you can get a volume discount on a booklet of ten or a roll of fifty)

      Delete
  5. A walking route sounds lovely. What frustrates me is that no longer is postage for first class merely by weight. It has to fit through a little slot, and if it can't be bent it costs more. You just HAVE to visit the post office just to put on a few stamps. The line can be awfully long, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...I can't remember size not being a factor, and I started in 1977! If this comes up often, you can get weird-denomination stamps to keep around, and check the rates on usps.com. But it's a frustrating website.

      Delete
  6. Boy howdy, how are they going to get driverless mail trucks up sidewalks and onto porches? In Canader we haven't had mail delivery at the door in years. Neighbourhoods or condo buildings in larger towns and cities have centralized banks of 200-300 postboxes on a neighbour's land that the government annexed "for the public good" (and without financial compensation). In small towns you have to go to the post office and pick up your mail. In one place we lived this was a 15 mile trip. You pay rent on the postal boxes. It cost $1.05 to mail a letter within Canada, $1.27 to mail one to the US and $2.65 to mail one to my European family and friends. Go go digital.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some places in Canada still have door delivery - we do!

      Delete
  7. Yeah, we have all that here too, for new developments, but the old slots and door mailboxes are grandfathered in so you can still get in-the-house delivery if you live in an older house. I think that's nice. It's sure as hell not efficient from a business sense but it's a lot nicer and it's nicer for the mailman too. I hear now from my rural friends who have post office boxes that there's a free service so they can go online and see pictures of everything that got delivered to their box that day, to see if it's worth their while to go fetch it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. We aren't rural and we get mail in our mailboxes at the end of the driveway, but I admit to laziness if it's rainy. We get the email with images of our mail, so if it's raining and there's nothing of interest in the mail, I leave it for the next day. My favorite email from the PO is: You have mail of which we have no images. Something like that. huh?

      Delete
  8. Our mail gets delivered by people on motorbikes or electric pushbikes (bicycles).Panniers on the back end, a big bag on the front, everything pre-sorted by block and away they go. We don't have the outgoing mail system, if we want to send mail we have to take it to the post office or find a mailbox somewhere along the way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We don't have as many mailboxes as we used to. And just before I retired, I talked to a young woman who asked me what she could do with this letter she wanted to mail! She didn't know she could hand it to me, and she didn't know about mailboxes. This should give you an idea why the postal service is struggling. People really don't use it anymore.

      Delete
  9. Posties! They're the best. Who else would be up for visiting our property six days a week, in all weathers, on the merest whim of a bit of paper with a stamp on it? When we shop online, we know which firms use the Royal Mail to deliver, which firms want to charge a fortune for a courier service, or which firms refuse point blank to enter into a transaction with someone who lives where? Not all properties on these islands have a letter box in their front doors (see 'all weathers'), the postie wanders in and places the mail in a convenient spot. It's impossible to put a price on a service like that, but I think it speaks of a world that hasn't yet gone to hell in a handcart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm proud to have served while that world still existed. It was fun, too. Knowing that this particular house you put the mail under the rock on the front porch...

      Delete
  10. I do wonder as we get rid of all the employees and replace them with robots, who the heck is going to buy all the stuff the robots make and deliver?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Push me up against the wall and do dirty things to me. Hey, i am looking for an online sexual partner ;) Click on my boobs if you are interested (. )( .)

    ReplyDelete