Janice delivers mail. She has been doing it in Louisville, Kentucky for 28 years.
After a long day of sorting and delivering mail, Janice took the time to explain to me how USPS works and what it’s like being a mail carrier.
AJ: How did you become a mail carrier?
Janice: Well, it was one of the opportunities I had after I finished my service with the Army. For most positions with USPS, you have to take a test to qualify to be hired. The year I left the army, they weren’t testing for full-time carriers—they don’t test or hire every year—but they offered exceptions for veterans.
AJ: What was the training like after you were hired?
Janice: Before I started working as a mail carrier I had a few days of training in an office. It mostly consisted of personnel and driver’s training. I had to take a driving test. After that, I began training on the job. I actually got a call at 3 AM to come in for my first day of on the job training at 4:30 AM. I didn’t even have a car at that time and had to call my mom to borrow hers! For that first day, I was assigned to someone and I followed him all day while he worked. On the second, I sorted mail with him, and then carried and delivered half of his route. On the third day, I did the same thing. After that, I was assigned my own route.
AJ: What is your daily routine like?
Janice: I start at 7:30 AM. For 3-4 hours each morning I sort all the mail for my route. I collect magazines, letters, and parcels. I sort everything into trays and pack them up into my truck. Then I go out and make all my deliveries for the day. When I come back at the end of the day, I bring back anything that was undeliverable.
AJ: What changes have you noticed over time?
Janice: There have been a lot of changes, (laughing) and none of them have been to my advantage! I used to be able to come in at 4 AM and all the mail would be there for me to sort by 7 AM. I could leave early and be done for the day by 1-2 PM. Now, we get a lot more parcels and everything takes longer. I can’t come in until 7:30 AM and sometimes all the mail isn’t ready to be sorted until 10:30 AM. So, I can no longer finish early in the day.
AJ: Knowing that Amazon and USPS recently signed a contract, I’m wondering, do you get a lot of Amazon packages nowadays?
Janice: Oh yes! We are carrying a lot more parcels, Amazon or not. Currently, some areas of the country are testing Sunday delivery service for Amazon parcels—I know Amazon is paying a premium for that. Louisville has been testing it for two months now. None of the full-time mail carriers work on Sunday. On Sundays, they have been having substitute carriers come in, some clerks, and at least one manager. This is all just for Amazon’s Sunday delivery parcels.
AJ: How do you feel about the loss of Saturday delivery service?
Janice: Well, it hasn’t happened yet. My union says it won’t be good for us, but I’m for anything that will help the Post Office! I love my job and I love the freedom I have while I’m working. I know what I am supposed to do and I do the best job that I can. As long as no one makes a complaint about me, management doesn’t bother me. There is never anyone over my shoulder.
AJ: Are there any job hazards that come with being a mail carrier?
Janice: Yes—carpel tunnel from sorting and holding mail all day and shoulder problems from carrying. You have to be especially careful with the way you lift things because there is a lot of lifting involved. There are also driving hazards to consider, like snow and ice in the winter.
AJ: How do those trucks do in the snow?
Janice: (Laughing again)They aren’t very good for anything other than dry roads. I’ve gotten stuck a few times, but I’ve never had an accident. When it is really icy or snowy, I walk a lot of my route, especially the areas where I am afraid I will get stuck.
AJ: Have you ever seen a cancellation of delivery service due to weather?
Janice: Only once. About 20 years ago, Louisville got 17 inches of snow. The city didn’t salt beforehand, and the roads were terrible. Most people couldn’t get to work and even the interstates were closed. I did come in to work, but we just sorted the mail and did not deliver it. The day after, we delivered the mail and I mostly walked my route.
AJ: Do you have any tips for anyone interested in becoming a mail carrier?
Janice: I would say, try it out to see if you like it before you go for a full-time position. A lot of people find they can’t manage the work after going through the training. Some people have difficulties with sorting—it is definitely a lot of hunting and pecking when you first start with it. When I started this job, I thought it was the hardest job I’d ever done, but once I learned what I was doing, I really loved it. It’s a great job for anyone who likes the work. I have great benefits and make decent money. Like I said earlier, I absolutely love being a mail carrier.
After our interview I did a little research. Here’s a video of news coverage from the storm that cancelled mail delivery.