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HUMOR / General
Oct 09, 2009
Books by Phil Terrana
After thirty years in the Postal Service, Henry Johnson was nearing the end of his career and the end of his rope.
He worked for two vindictive, uncompromising snakes that slithered through the workplace wreaking havoc at every turn. These bottom feeders were less qualified to be leaders and managers than two sacks of potatoes.
Inspite of possessing minimal skills, they were able to bully their workers and smother productivity because they had one thing going for them. They were bosses, and as bosses they were invested with the absolute power to do anything they could get away with.
Hank's problem was this: How does he stand up to a manager who won't stand down?
Hank had an idea. He had a plan. And he had the determination to see the plan through.
Hank was pretty sure that they didn’t run on their record. The only way these so-so workers could weasel their way into management would be to convince a gullible postmaster that they could control the workers because controlling the workers is the number one way to control the numbers.
That’s how they got in. But once someone became a member of the “boss’s club,” controlling the numbers took a back seat to just controlling the workers for its own sake, which was where the real fun was at. Even the supervisors knew that the numbers were out of their control.
What they could do though was learn to live with the numbers, manipulate the numbers whenever possible, if need be lie about the numbers, and most importantly become comfortable blaming the workers for the numbers when they didn’t come out quite right. If they could do all of this then they were management material.
Before Jan became a supervisor the first time, her postmaster put the question to her as straight up as he could.
“Sometimes, Miss Ackiss, as a supervisor you’re going to have to do things you don’t want to do,” he told her. He was talking about the need to lie on occasion, ignore the truth when it was staring her in the eye, and embarrass, frustrate and intimidate workers into respecting her or at least pretending to respect her. “Can you do these things?” he asked.
“I can do those things,” she responded confidently and then added, “I WANT TO DO THOSE THINGS.”
…There was that time when the guy came down from Baltimore with his team and his cowboy hat—which was kind of unusual for a guy from Baltimore. He told the carriers straight up that they were the worst station in the whole mid-Atlantic Region, and he was going to find out why and clean the mess up.
The first day he was there he locked horns with Hank and when they started arguing about something he stuck his finger in Hank’s face like the cops do in those old Charlie Chaplin movies. Hank had no choice but to warn him that if he didn’t remove that finger he was going to have to break it.
Hank was obviously overlooking a very basic premise that while it is impolite and probably unnecessary for someone in management to stick his finger in a carrier’s face it was, nevertheless, management’s prerogative to do so and a carrier should never, under any circumstances, threaten to break that finger.
The cowboy told him to go back to his case while he went into the office to talk to Hank’s supervisor to find out about him, which is to say, to find out if Hank was some kind of troublemaker. He returned a few minutes later to tell him that from what he could surmise, Hank was a pretty good employee and he, the cowboy from Baltimore, didn’t have problems with good employees. So as far as he was concerned, it was over and done with.
Except, as Hank was quick to remind him, they did have a problem between them and if Hank was a good employee, than he, in fact, was someone who had problems with good employees. So maybe he wasn’t the good cowboy that he thought he was.
The cowboy said he had to return to the office and he would be right back. When he returned they debated again whether or not they had just had a problem and whether or not he had problems with good employees, which he insisted he did not.
He returned to the office one more time to talk to Hank’s supervisor who soon showed up, himself, at Hank’s case.
“What seems to be the problem, here?” he asked.
“So you admit there’s a problem,” Hank said.
“Look, the guy is trying to apologize,” he explained, “so why don’t you just let it go?”
“He’s not trying to apologize. He’s trying to tell me something never happened that did, in fact, happen, and if I’m the good employee that he says I am, then he is someone who has problems with good employees. If that’s the case what is he doing here trying to shape us up?”
Hank got one of those disgusted looks from his supervisor who returned to his office. A few minutes later the cowboy was back.
“I’m sorry we had a little problem back there,” he said. “I don’t think we should let it overshadow the work we’re trying to do here, so do you think we can move on?”
“Okay,” Hank said and when the cowboy from Baltimore left, he went back to casing his mail.
The funny thing is this all happened the first day he was there and the next day Hank had to go home early because his youngest daughter had to be hospitalized with some weird stomach virus. He came in each day to case his mail for someone else to carry, and the cowboy would come over every day and ask about his daughter and Hank appreciated it.
At the end of the week there was another standup and the Baltimore cowboy told them that he had never seen so much mail come into one station, and go out of one station. He was going back up to region headquarters, he said, and tell them that their numbers must be seriously screwed up because he’d never seen better workers. He said he was proud to have met them all and wished them good luck—and they never heard from him again.
But he did stop at Hank’s case before he left to tell him he hoped his daughter would get well soon and that he really didn’t have problems with good employees. Hank told him he knew that and wished him “happy trails.”
…He was doing that little auxiliary route that Johnny Benson had trained him on and apparently had delivered a letter to the wrong house. The lady who was supposed to get the letter, and eventually did by way of her neighbor, wasted no time in calling the post office first thing the next morning. After talking to her for what he said was quite awhile Hank’s manager came over to warn him.
“She’ll be waiting for you so be ready,” he said smiling.
Hank told him he was sorry he miss-delivered it but his manager told him not to give it a second thought.
“Happens all the time,” he said. “You’ll get better and it won’t even be a problem. But she’s going to be a problem. I couldn’t get her off the phone and she said she wanted to talk to you. I told her I would talk to you but she wasn’t satisfied.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Apologize, say it won’t happen again, and then don’t take any crap from her. I’ll back you all the way.”
Hank went about his route that day and sure enough towards the end of the day he approached the lady’s house and true to her word she was standing on the porch waiting for him. As he got nearer, Hank sensed that she might have been drinking and might possibly even be drunk. Before he could say anything, she spoke.
“I’m LIVID!” she said, losing her balance for a moment before grabbing a porch rail. And then she said it again just in case Hank had missed it the first time, or maybe with losing her balance she wasn’t sure herself if she had said it or just thought it, because Hank was pretty sure she had been rehearsing it to herself all afternoon.
“I know ma’am,” he said. I’m sorry I delivered your mail to your neighbor—”
“I’m LIVID! Do you know what you did?”
“Yes ma’am. I just apologized for what I did.”
“You delivered my mail to my neighbor. Do you know that?”
“That’s the rumor going around, ma’am. I’m really sorry.”
“I’m going to talk to your boss.”
“You’ve already talked to him, ma’am, and he’s already talked to me—”
“What’s your name?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Why not? I want to know your name.”
“I probably can tell you my name, ma’am, but I’m not going to.”
“I want to talk to your boss. What’s your name?”
“You’ve already talked to him and he’s already talked to me and he already knows my name, ma’am.”
“I’ve got friends, you know.”
“I’m sure you do, ma’am,” Hank lied.
“I mean friends in big places. Do you know what I mean?”
“I’ve got a friend in Texas, ma’am.”
“I mean important friends. Is your friend in Texas important?”
“Not too important. But I like him anyway. He’s doing the best he can and Texas is a big place.”
“Well I have important friends in important places and I want to know your name.”
“Not going to happen, ma’am. Again, I’m sorry about your letter but I’ve got to be going now. You can talk to your friends if you want but I’m not telling you my name.”
Hank started to walk away and then stopped and turned to the lady and just so there can be no doubt that Lou was definitely, absolutely and beyond a doubt right when he says that Hank has to have the last word, he made one last comment.
“You know what’s weird, ma’am, besides you I mean? You don’t know my name but I know your name. Ain’t that a kicker?” he said, as he turned and walked away.
Hank never forgot that lady or that conversation. He also didn’t forget the words of his manager who told him he would back him all the way. That was the first and last time he ever heard that from a manager in the Postal Service.
About Phil Terrana
Phil Terrana lives in Virginia Beach. He earned an Industrial Management degree from Lowell Tech, and promptly got a job as a combat correspondent with the 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam. After his discharge, he became a letter carrier in the United States Postal Service.
During his thirty-year career he received numerous safe-driving awards, good attendance awards, many letters of appreciation, a “gym bag for doing a fine job,” and a lot of donuts.