Saturday, December 24, 2011

I'm In Love With the USPS And I Don't Care Who Knows It

One of several boxes of cherished letters.
My father was a carrier with the U.S. Postal Service for nearly 30 years before an early stroke forced him into retirement.  It was a good job, and by contemporary standards maybe a dream job. Under a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by one of the largest public employee unions in the country, he took home a comfortable pay check, enjoyed substantial health benefits for himself and for me, and accrued a pension, something that's become something of a mythical beast of benefits.  In exchange he reported for work before dawn in an atmosphere that was toxic (in part thanks to an extremely adversarial union/management relationship) and made his appointed rounds through rain and snow and heat and gloom of night.

When my grandfather (himself a USPS veteran) suggested I take the civil service exam and go into the family business, my father told me he's never let me "work on the floor with those animals."  I was willing to take his word on that.  When a man who is himself crass, sexist and somewhat racist tells you it's a rough crowd, well, that's good enough for me.

Ironically, one of the hats I wear in my current job is USPS contract employee, picking up and delivering island mail from the processing and distribution center in Scarborough.  I love it there.  The plant itself has a Rube Goldberg quality that I enjoy, and I've developed a jovial, affectionate relationship with most of the people who work there.  At this point, starting pay as a carrier would be a significant pay cut and the grousing of my buddies there confirms that I'm better off where I am in a workplace where the culture is more like a family than a business, but there's a part of me that wishes I'd taken my grandfather's advice way back when.

Of course these days the postal service is considered a sinking ship.  Facing an enormous budget shortfall, there's talk of cutting Saturday service and smaller branches exist under perpetual threat of closure.  I can't even count the number of times I've heard the phrase, "No wonder the postal office is going under..." recently.  This bothers me.  A lot.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Enjoy Being a Girl

Facial hair=competent, right?

 You know how sometimes you bump into someone and apologize and back up and knock something over and apologize and lean over to pick it up and hip check someone and pretty soon you're in this sort semi-comic nightmare vortex of apology?  I think that might happen in a second.  Bear with me.

Some people will read this and think I'm an insult to feminism and its hard-won gains.  Some people will think I'm being simultaneously a boring scold and a whiny, selfish baby and, on the whole, too sensitive feministy altogether.  Some people will probably just think I'm a frivolous nincompoop who spends an awful lot of time pontificating on things that really don't deserve it. Oh, and let's not forget that I'll be using broad strokes and will undoubtedly be accused of stereotyping. As far as what I actually am, well, probably most of it's at least partially true.  Except for the stereotype thing, where I hope you'll accept that I'm not speaking for all women, about all men in all circumstances. Call me out if I really hit a nerve, but I can almost guarantee it'll be something I'm shorthanding for the purpose of the discussion.  So then: sorry for not being a credit to my gender, sorry for being so tetchy, sorry I'm a nitwit, sorry for extrapolating generalized scenarios from shallow experience pools.  Sorry for apologizing in advance. I hate when people do that.  Welcome to the nightmare vortex.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Does This Urban Outfit Make Me Look Fatuous?

Urban Outfitters is putting on a crazy push to finish their store in downtown Portland, Maine.

As I walked by tonight, it occurred to me that although having a national chain plunked down in the midst of the Old Port, our charming little enclave of locally-owned boutiques, feels a little yicky, it's actually a weird testament to the strength and success of our small businesses.  Urban Outfitters isn't interested in atmosphere, it's interested in cash, and the fact that it made sense to them to take up real estate downtown instead of somewhere in the strip mall wasteland that is South Portland is kind of like a high five to the business owners who've grown the area over the past few decades.  You know, the kind of high five you get from your mortal enemy who's super passive aggressive but who it's way easier to just make nice with than face their mean-girl vengeance if you snub them.

If I were the kind of person who paid for clothes instead of scavenging cast offs from friends and making my own from bed linens, I'd think, "Ooh. Urban Outfitters' clearance rack is totally like retail junk food and junk food is so fun.  But I'ma make a concerted effort to get my metaphorical fashion groceries at local stores too, because they're the reason there's even anything in this area besides rats and dive bars.  And I'm never, ever going to buy anything from UO with writing in a foreign language I don't speak, because of that one time when Tricia used her Japanese lessons and realized that they had a T-shirt that said, 'I'm a stupid white person' and she splurged and bought it because it was so hilarious that people who couldn't read it were wearing it because oriental-fetishism was at its peak in the late-90's and it totally scandalized our friend Yuko and Tricia's Japanese hair dresser, both of whom assumed she'd misunderstood."

That, friends, is exactly what I would think.