5 Bizarre Things Only Mailmen Know About Your Neighborhood
If there's one thing we've found, it's that any job can be a parade of horrors (even garbage collector). But aside from the occasional dog attack, you'd think mail carrier would have to be about as dull as jobs get. You'd be wrong.
We tracked down a startlingly honest mailman and learned some dirty truths about life as a member of the thin, blue, shorts-wearing line ...
Don't Piss Off Your Postal Worker
If your checks are routinely stepped on and misdelivered, it may not be due to simple human error. If you give your mail-person a reason to hate you, well ... your stuff might just take longer to arrive. For example, some letters naturally just "fall onto the floor" of our truck. And maybe that delays things by a couple of days. I'm not defending it, but it happens, because holding up your check or Amazon delivery by a day or two is the only vengeance we can wreak in return for all those dog attacks and verbal abuse. (Note: Some of our clients are crazy, but more on that in a moment.)
Just so we're clear, holding back mail for the purpose of vengeance isn't something we do all that often. It's an extreme response, because the consequences can be pretty dire. One Kentucky postal worker got six months in straight-up prison for "destroying, hiding, and delaying" mail so he could pick his kids up from school on time. Of course, he held back something like 45,000 letters and packages before anyone noticed. So, yeah, you can get away with it for a while.
"Your grandma's ashes? I think those were in one of the orange bags."
If you've got some sort of powerful hankering to be a dick to your mail carrier, make sure you pay extra to get a tracking number on your mail. No matter how angry we are, we can't hold those back. And certifying your mail also helps for those circumstances when mail legitimately gets mixed up and lost.
Oh, and if you want to keep your mail carrier happy, leave a tip. Not every day, obviously, but at least throw us a few bones (or a bottle of nice booze) around the holidays. And if you're saying, "But nobody does that!" you're wrong -- tips/gifts are a significant chunk of my annual income. Around the end of the year I can make around $2,000 in a two- to three-week period.
Plus a happier New Year's Eve than you could ever imagine.
We Know All About You
You can't deliver bills, packages, junk mail, and holiday gifts to someone for years on end without learning a few things about them. I know who has DUIs, who is going to court, and who pays child support just by the letters I deliver. I know the broad details of your life without ever seeing you. The FedEx guy just knows if you have an Etsy problem. I know all your sins.
You and your wife are really wasting money paying for separate subscriptions to Junk Fancy.
Now, it's not our job to determine if the contents of a package are legal or illegal. The biggest thing we look for is leaking packages, powder crusted on things (we regularly get people mailing talcum powder and have to make sure it's not anthrax). But, for example, once upon a time I delivered a shitload of Blu-ray players to the same house. Day in, day out, player after player -- far more Blu-ray players than any human could possibly use. The destination was a big, seemingly vacant house, too. There was never anyone there, and eventually I decided to see just what the hell was going on.
I opened the package. Yeah, that's kinda sketchy too. But at this point, I was pretty sure whatever was going down in this house was even sketchier. Inside the box was a regular Blu-ray/DVD combo. But then I popped it open and -- surprise surprise -- there was a brick of something wrapped in black plastic inside. I never found out what, because prying into that sort of secret is a shortcut to getting shot in the back of the head and dumped in a field.
And I refuse to die in pleated shorts.
On a lighter note, did you know people mail live animals? We get a lot of live chickens. And hearing those cluck around in the truck all day is an awful thing. They've been in that box for three days, and they stink exactly as bad as you'd expect a chicken sitting in its own poop for three days to stink. There have been carriers who have gotten the package and the chickens were already dead. And they deliver them anyway, so when the complaint comes in the post office can say, "The carrier successfully completed his duty in delivering the package, whether the contents were usable is not our problem. Next time insure it."
If you're surprised I was able to get away with opening a package, well ...
I Can Read Your Mail (and Might Use Your Bathroom, if I Get Desperate)
If I want to read a piece of mail badly enough, I can do it. It's easy enough to hide: we just stick it all in a plastic bag and mark it as "received in condition." So if I really want to read something, I can open it up, then rip off a corner like it got torn in a machine and no one will be the wiser.
"Yes, all that candy was eaten when we got it. Anyway, happy Valentine's Day."
For example, I was dating a girl on my route, and I noticed she kept getting letters from a man in a penitentiary in Texas. I looked into it, found out she was sending the dude money and, uh, other things. I marked the letters as "received in condition" and blocked her number. No, it wasn't my proudest moment. But let he who hasn't been cuckolded by literal jailbait cast the first stone.
There are carriers that'll use bathrooms and even swimming pools when you're not home. We get to know your schedule, and it's not hard to figure out who does and doesn't lock their doors or windows. If so, I might just use your bathroom, if it's an emergency. Not as a matter of routine, obviously (I'd get fired if I was caught), but there have been two occasions where I was desperate enough to take the risk.
Word of advice: never use the bathroom after a man willing to risk his livelihood for the chance to poop.
And speaking of ridiculous risks ...
All Creatures Great and Small Try to Kill Us
Of course dogs hate mail carriers -- that's a trope as old as milkmen having sex with lonely housewives. But here's a shocking secret about life delivering mail: every type of animal hates our asses. In fact, dogs aren't even the most dangerous critter I face on a daily basis. That award goes to the turkey.
See, we all carry dog spray, mace specifically designed for dogs. We're trained to get down on one knee, throw the bag in front of us and spray for the nose and eyes -- it hits them like it'd hit a human, and they will automatically start rolling on the ground. So yeah, dogs are scary (around 6,000 mail carriers per year get attacked by them), but we do have a way to fight back. Turkeys are another story.
Aerosol cranberry sauce works, but you have to supply your own.
I worked in a suburb with wild turkeys, which are more common than you'd think in New Jersey. And for whatever reason, turkeys hate anything in a uniform. I was warned going onto this route: "There are giant birds out there." But I didn't take it seriously at first. Turkeys are delicious, but they sure as hell aren't dangerous, right? If so, wouldn't there be at least one legit horror movie about them? That's what I thought right up until I was mauled by one.
"Humans can have their day. The rest of the year, your ass is mine."
It just rushed me and cut up my legs pretty badly with its clawed feet. My dog mace was fucking useless. I found out not long after that our pepper spray is made out of capsicum, which is food for birds. Spraying them with mace is about as threatening as splashing them with gravy -- in fact, gravy might even be more menacing to a turkey, come to think of it. But like the avian T-1000, they're immune to all of our conventional weaponry.
Yes, There's Drinking on the Job
A lot of the old carriers are really bad alcoholics. The mail is the closest thing we've got to an old Soviet-style institution, and it's hard to work that kind of job without a few shots of vodka in your morning coffee and maybe a handle of whiskey or so to ease the afternoon rush. I don't drink on the job, but I'm pretty new to it. The vets who've been doing this for 25 years have a couple of decades of muscle memory behind them. That means they can go on autopilot most days and no one will notice they're too hammered to safely manage a go-kart, let alone a mail truck.
Those huge windows have nothing to do with delivering mail; those are for vomit convenience.
Every now and then though, one of them will trip and fall or pass out behind the wheel of his truck. When that happens, someone like me has to pick up the slack. I'll get a call like, "A guy fell down the stairs and you need to finish his route," or some similar bit of code for, "Bill is piss-drunk and can't tell a mailbox from a storm drain right now."
It's not hard to find evidence of the problem. A few seconds of Googling should be enough:
Related searches: cocktail pairing with stamp glue and Valentine's candy.
So yes, the American postal system is an incredible achievement that helps keep us all connected for a ludicrously low cost. Just make sure to lock up your dogs and turkeys and tip your carrier, or he might end up drunk and pooping in your bathroom while you're at work.
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For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Terrifying Things I Learned as a Drug-Addicted Nurse and 6 Awful Realities Behind the Scenes at SeaWorld.
Be nice to your mail carrier guys- the consequences are dire. Click the Facebook 'share' button below if you'd like to spread what you've learned.