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Confessions of a Postie

6th August 2006

It's been over a week since I was let loose on the public with a few massive sacks of mail a day, and so far I have to say that I've really been enjoying it. My day goes something like this:

0355 - Alarm goes off - lie there groaning for a few minutes.

0405 - Alarm goes again - get up, wash, eat breakfast whilst watching News 24.

0440 - leave house (quietly) and drive into work.

0500 - Do "local sorting" - chuck the letters from the local area into pigeon-holes for each "walk". Most of the postman know which letters go where, but for newbies there is a list above the pigeon-holes of all the street names in the area, with the number of the walk (postman-speak for the individual rounds) alongside. I spend more time looking up at this list, with a gormless expression on my face, than anything else.

0700 - Sort out your walk - move to your own "frame", which has little sections for each and every house on your walk. Cock this bit up, and it all gets very messy once you get to the delivery stage. After the letters have been sorted, you have to collect and sort the "flats" - larger items such as magazines and the like - then the packets, and then see if you have any registered of recorded items to deliver, which need signing for. Then it's time to "pull the frame" - taking out the mail for each house in the order that you're going to deliver it, dividing it into manageable bundles, and sticking these in up to six pouches (bags) for delivery.

0800 - Leave the office - theoretically. I've been leaving nearer to nine o'clock than eight. For some of the postmen this means walking or cycling to the beginning of their round with their first bag; others are dropped off by vans. The remainder of their bags are dropped at strategic points along the route - small businesses, usually - for them to pick up along the way.

The walk I've been on involves driving a van to the start of the round (only the first few days I wasn't allowed to drive, so had to push a naff little trolley around. Fortunately I have now done my "changeover" (driving test - don't ask why it's called that - I don't have a clue!)), dropping mail off at a couple of places on the way. I park up, grab my first bag of mail, and deliver it in a circular route, returning to the van. I drive a little way, delivering to some remote houses and farms en route, then park again and deliver my next bag, and so on.

Before I joined the post office, I had visions of skipping around in the sunshine, listening to the tweeting of the birds and sniffing at the sweet smell of the flowers - and as my walk is in a semi-rural area, I have to say it's been just like that! Well, except for the skipping - the bags are a bit heavy to skip around with . . . although I have been known to run at times when I'm particularly behind schedule, sad bunny! I've only been rained on once, and that was showers rather than a downpour, and was actually quite refreshing.

So far we are liking:

  • large, long, loose letterboxes, than you can push mail through easily;
  • open plan gardens that you can walk across;
  • houses with numbers clearly visible from the road;
  • houses without gates, or at least with easy latches rather than time-consuming bolts;
  • neighbourly little gates between houses, to save you walking all the way down one drive and back up the next. I've started to think of these as "the postman's friends";
  • best of all are mail boxes placed at the end of a drive, so you don't have to deviate from the pavement.

We are not liking:

  • stiff or ridiculously small letterboxes;
  • landscaped gardens that you daren't take a shortcut across (although I let them off if they're sufficiently attractive and sweet-smelling);
  • houses with names instead of numbers, especially those that apparently wish to remain anonymous;
  • heavy five-bar gates with fixings that resemble guillotines;
  • long drives, particularly gravel drives - very hard going when you're carrying a heavy bag and in a hurry;
  • low-level letterboxes that have you on your knees - especially those with dogs lurking inside;
  • owners who tell you their dogs' barks are worse than their bites, whilst they snarl and snap and back you into a corner, instead of restraining them.

Not all dogs are like this; one of my favourite houses to deliver to has a dog the size of a bear, with the temperament of a kitten - fortunately! Another favourite is one with a wolf-whistling gnome at the end of the drive; it makes me chuckle every time. I think I may have killed a dog the other day. It was a lurker, and began growling and barking under the letterbox once I'd posted the first letter. Then I pushed a heavy catalogue through the letterbox, and the noise ceased - D'oh!

1100-1200 - Once I've got rid of my own stuff, I delve into the back of the van and see what parcels I've got to deliver that day. There are five seperate walks in the village, but it's my responsiblity to deliver the larger parcels and packets to the whole village - hence I get the van. Armed with a map, I try and figure out the most direct route to offload the parcels. If people are out, I put a card through their door, telling them how and where to collect the package, and chuck (er, I mean carefully place!) the parcel back into the van. By the end of the fortnight, I'd got to know the local area, and was getting rid of my parcels in a timely manner, but I was very slow to start off with.

1300-1400 - Return to sorting office with the parcels that were not able to be delivered, and go home.

It's nice to finish early and have the afternoon free, although I don't really have the energy to do anything constructive by then. I normally manage to shower, catch up on last night's Big Brother, check my email, cook some food for my mum and I (cooking relaxes me, so I insist on doing it), eat, and then I start yearning for my bed. I've never been a napper - once I get to sleep, I want to stay asleep.

2100 -    Go to bed, if I haven't already turned in.

I can't say I've been the best postie, this first couple of weeks (due largely to confusion between Acacia Avenue, Acacia Lane and the Avenue - and similar sounding house names . . . and early morning tiredness). What I lack in accuracy, I try to make up for in politeness. I know it's not quite as good as getting the correct mail, but sincere apologies are the next best things, I reckon.

On Friday I got my first paycheque. It's been three years since I had one, so I opened it excitedly . . . and promptly burst into tears! Less that 150 for a week of knackering work. Everything except my arms was aching, my eyes were tired and bloodshot, and I'd had no energy to anything worthwhile for the previous fortnight. Oh well. It's better than nothing; at least I enjoy the work, and my fellow posites are a fun bunch to work with. The boss has told me that they're only likely to need me for another few weeks, although there might be some permanent, part-time jobs coming up. An advantage being taken on permanently would be that I'd get a uniform, and also get paid time-and-a-half for doing overtime. As a casual employee I only get paid single time. I'll consider the jobs if they come up, although I'd really prefer something full-time and permanent, that pays better, where I don't have to get up in the middle of the night (although I've been surprisingly chipper . . . I'm sure anyone that's ever seen me on an early shift will have trouble believing that, but it's true!). In the meantime, a postie I shall be.

I'm doing a town walk next week, so it'll be interesting to see how the two compare. The walk should be more straight forward, and less time consuming, but on the downside there are many more houses, and heavier bags to carry. The maximum weight of a bag is (should be) 16kg. I should be fine with this, as it's lighter than either my backpack or divegear . . . then again I didn't walk miles with them on, did I?

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