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Post Office Massacre

August 31, 1986

"Mailman Kills Self, 14 Others." Tragic? Certainly. Surprising? Not at all.

You are a substitute letter carrier assigned to an unfamiliar route. You haphazardly sort the enormous pile of mail in front of you while a supervisor stands behind you with arms crossed, scowling. You leave the office long after your last co-worker has left. "Better make up that time on the street," you are counseled.

Patrons await you with an oft-repeated chorus: "My, but you are late." "Oh, he won't bite." "This person hasn't lived here for years . . . you must be new." Mailboxes mock you from behind trees and from inside bushes.

Suddenly a smile: "Nice day, isn't it?" Perhaps, but all you've noticed is the pavement beneath the letters in your hand. Huffing and puffing in the summer heat, you feel your satchel growing heavier as the sun disappears. Stumbling over objects in the dark, you nearly complete your appointed rounds, but, alas, in your haste you have locked your keys in the Jeep along with that last tray of mail. A compassionate patron lets you use the phone--muttered obscenities on the other end of the line.

Your job performance has been rated unsatisfactory with little hope of improvement. And yet, the Kafka-esque unreality of your plight somehow consoles you: you are a warm body, you are a number-- you are a mailman.

But the regular carriers complain that you are destroying their routes. Management never fails to let you know: "You ain't cutting it." And if you can't cut it as a mailman--well, what's the point? They just don't want to see how hard you've tried.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, you'll show them all.

CLAUDE FRIEND

Los Angeles

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