Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.
Playing the Postal Lottery
We live in the age of the lottery. It used to be an accepted principle that fulfilling the American dream required long hours of sweat and toil, but these days people grow up believing that something can be had for nothing, and it often is. Stock Market Day Traders go from broke to billionaire with just a few clicks of the mouse. Ambulance chasing lawyers dredge up brief cases full of cash for "Slippin' Jimmy" clients who frequently stumble on sidewalks and don't mind wearing a neck brace as a fashion statement for a few weeks. Everybody is lawyered up, because dipping into the deep well of class action lawsuits is required to survive in an economy in which minimum wage jobs are not just for teenagers anymore, but have become the standard for adults also.
The age of the lottery has infused our collective mindset with the idea that rags to riches success stories are possible without any brains, initiative, or ability to get out of bed before 1 PM. Power Ball winners have taken the place of astronauts, inventors, and authors in the cultural hierarchy of people we admire the most. Instead of being seen as the dumb luck beneficiaries of impossible 1 in 175 million odds, the winners of these multi-million dollar sweepstakes are fawned upon as if they had some secret, hidden magic that everybody can tap into with the power of positive thinking or by following the right kind of astrological charts,
Enter the American Letter Carrier into this maelstrom of easy money thinking. It used to be that seeing the friendly blue Postal Eagle turn the corner onto your block meant that your retirement, welfare, or social security check might be on the way, but with the spread of Lottery Mindset Disease (LMD) to epidemic proportions, the dollar amounts represented by that cool blue logo have increased significantly, to the point where some people have come to perceive a Postal Vehicle as a bank on wheels; a limitless rolling ATM machine with no PIN number required. After all, if smart bombs typically cost six digits apiece, and our government drops a few dozen of these on a daily basis, then Uncle Sam's deep postal pockets certainly can afford to fix my car or front fence, even if the mail truck had nothing to do with those nasty dings and dents that my wife is nagging me to get taken care of. Or better yet, if I can convince the right people that this ill tempered, surly mailman who drops the letters in my box every day said something offensive or used inappropriate physical contact upon my person, then my family might be singing a much happier "Structured Settlement" carol around our Christmas Tree this time next year.
So I, Mr. Mailman, see an automotive device stuffed full of packages, letters and flats that has to go back to the Post Office empty by 4:30 and you, Mr. Sane or Ms. Rational Postal Customer see a bearer of news arriving that is sometimes happy (check from Grandma), and sometimes aggravating (credit card statement), but Postal Customer from Hell sees only a WIndfall on Wheels (WOW) on the way, a mechanical stagecoach that can be cut off at the pass and looted of its strongbox. Here then are a couple true life examples of Postal Customers from Hell who bushwhacked their neighborhood mailman with the thought of absconding with hidden hordes of cash stashed away in some hidden postal vault buried deep in the earth, but walked away disappointed when they realized that there is no gold mine beneath 1 L'enfant Plaza, and every postal penny is squeezed so tightly it bleeds copper juice.
Postal Customer from Hell 4.1 - Ms. Can You Fix My Car?
Ms. Can You Fix My Car (CYFMC) is already notorious among the multitude of letter carriers who deliver mail on her auxiliary route, which does not have its own regular and is split among different mailmen and women every day. There is a three inch thick dossier on Ms. CYFMC on file at the local post office. She bears a heavy grudge against the men and women in blue ever since she permanently lost her mail delivery for letting her dog run loose. Ms. CYFMC will maintain until her dying day that the letter carrier her dog attacked was deliberately antagonizing her poor, misunderstood pooch, provoking the sweet, cuddly, 100 pound furball to uncharacteristic aggression.
Therefore, Ms. CYFMC's motivations are mixed when she sees the mail truck turn the corner onto her block; but she immediately smells opportunity blowing in from two directions on the breeze. On one hand, she wants revenge for the indignity and nuisance of having to drive a mile and a half every day to check her PO box. Secondly, somebody made a long, deep scratch down the side of her van and she can't afford the $500 dollar deductible the insurance company is demanding to fix it. Ms. CYFMC can't be certain who really committed this outrage. Because she is temperamental and a bit loopy as well, yelling at people who walk by her property in strange tongues that can't be classified into any of the local English, Spanish, or Tagalog dialects; there is no shortage of suspects for the crime. But since nobody will come forward and claim responsibility, to satisfy the demands of the rapacious insurance company she needs to ensnare a victim. Like a blood-sucking spider she spins her web, then hides behind her fence to lie in wait for an unwitting fly to fall into the trap.
The street in front of Ms. CYFMC's house is tightly bottlenecked by the trash cans set out on garbage day. Almost as if she had planned it, Ms. CYFMC's daughter, driving the scratched minivan, goes by one direction through this constricted windpipe just as the mailman is traveling the other way to drop off a holiday package. The Postal Vehicle misses the van by a clean foot. The farthest protruding object on the mail truck is the sideview mirror, which is at least two and a half feet above the deep scratch on the underside of the van. All the same, as soon as the mailman parks to drop off the parcel, Ms. CYFMC's daughter stops the van and runs across the street to accuse the mailman of striking her vehicle.
"You hit my car," Ms. CYFMC's daughter complains.
"There's no way I hit your car," the mailman counters. In the course of 20 some years in the postal service he has had his share of mishaps and close calls, having one time clipped the mirror off of a Ford Taurus while backing. He does not have a spotless driving record, but in this particular instance he is absolutely certain of his innocence. He points out the location of the scratch on the curved underbelly on the van. He got a D in Geometry in High School, but he realizes better than Euclid himself that there is no way the walls of his postal vehicle, forming a perfect right angle with the street, could have created that gouge.
Almost immediately Ms. CYFMC's daughter begins to back off. She was coached up by her mother, but her heart isn't really in this charade. Mom said it would easy; the mailman would be scared of losing his job and would immediately cave; agreeing to pay the $500 dollar deductible under the table. Perhaps Mother has failed to take into consideration that the mailman is unionized and probably wouldn't lose his job even if he ran amok down the street carving vehicular gashes down the sides of half a dozen parked minivans.
"Okay, just be more careful next time," Ms. CYFMC's daughter says, and retreats timidly into the house.
Ms. CYFMC, however, is not so easily placated. She comes out of the house barking like the bulldog in her backyard that is the cause of her mail moratorium. She shouts at the mailman that he is going too fast and needs to slow down. She accuses him of not stopping after hitting the van. The mailman wisely calls his manager.
Fifteen minutes of awkward silence and foot shuffling later, during which the mailman and his surprisingly non agitated accusers look uncomfortably at their shoes, the manager finally shows up. The manager writes a report, and she takes a lot of pictures too. Ms. CYFMC explains to the manager the part about the insurance company demanding 500 bucks to fix the offending scratch. The mailman can't help but wonder how that line came so quickly off of her tongue. It was almost like some khaki clad insurance representative had told her the same thing very recently.
Ms. CYFMC's family seems nervous now. Mom's little scheme has gone too far, and they fear repercussions. Ms. CYFMC's daughter demands assurances in writing that her insurance company will not be contacted.
"I can't guarantee anything," the manager answers, then leaves Ms. CYFMC and her family alone to stew in uncertainty for a while. The Postal Vehicle, its flashing neon dollar signs now extinguished, drives away. Ms. CYFMC's minivan remains irreparably scratched, but the mail must go through.
Postal Customer From Hell 4.2 - Aspiring Movie Director
Ms. Aspiring Movie Director (AMD) has fallen on hard times. Every week she receives certified letters from the IRS, which the mailman will not deliver to her door because she is a disagreeable, combative person. She is forced to go down to the Post Office to pick these up, if she bothers to do so at all, already understanding the gist of what they say. Ms. AMD owes Uncle Sam money, and has no way to pay it. Her economic situation is unfortunate, but her contentious personality has won her few friends who will even bemoan her fate, much less offer to help. She has run out of options, but in a flash of brilliance a light bulb goes off in her ever scheming head. What if she can provoke her surly, uncooperative mailman into hitting her, or at least get him mad enough that people will believe that he hit her? She intends to videotape the incident on her cell phone, then go down to the post office with the video and extort money out of the same government that is trying to bury her under a mountain of tax debt. It's a long shot, but worth a try.
One week her regular letter carrier goes on vacation, and Ms. AMD receives her neighbor's mail. Whether or not Ms. AMD hands this mail back to the mailman or to its proper owner seems beside the point. The point is that this is the pretext she needs to ambush her regular letter carrier when he comes back from vacation; after which she will force him to do or say something stupid, which she will capture on film. She sees visions of red carpets and golden statuettes dancing in her head.
"I'm missing my check," Ms. AMD shouts at her mailman when she sees him parked in front of the centralized mail receptacles at her townhouse complex. "I got all of my neighbor's mail, so I'm pretty sure you put my mail in my neighbor's mailbox."
"Well, I was on vacation," the mailman says, not noticing that Ms. AMD has slyly started up her cell phone camera. He goes about his business of pulling out the mail to put it in the boxes.
"What is your name?" she demands.
"They know my name at the Post Office," he answers. "Just call them, they know who I am." He is within his rights; not being legally obligated to give his name to customers.
'Why won't you give me your name?" she insists.
"I don't give out my name. There's too many crazy people out here."
The mailman later thinks that maybe he shouldn't have said that last part. It was, of course, a veiled way of calling somebody crazy without really calling them crazy. Perhaps it was an ill-considered remark on his part, but he does not regret having said it.
"I'm not crazy!" Ms. AMD bellows crazily as she follows him over to the mailboxes. She continues to demand his name, and won't get out of his way as he attempts to put the mail in the receptacles.
"You are interfering with the delivery of the mail," he warns her. "If you want to talk to somebody about your mail delivery issue, you'll have to call the Post Office."
"Give me the number!" she demands.
The mailman goes to the back of his Postal Vehicle. He gently hands Ms. AMD a notice left slip that has the 800 customer service number on the back of it. He never makes contact with Ms. AMD's person as he gives it to her. All the same, Ms. AMD now has what she thinks she needs and, much to the letter carrier's relief, goes away. Or does she?
A few minutes later Ms. AMD shows up at the window of the local post office, spewing out outrage and threats at the over matched supervisor. She claims that her mailman slapped her with the notice left slip, and that he physically touched her person when he did it.
The burly supervisor is tongue tied. He doesn't know what to do. Ms. AMD seems to be a tough and stubborn woman.
The Post Office station manager hears the altercation and comes up to the window. The station manager is a tough and stubborn woman too, and much crazier than Ms. AMD when she needs to be. She hears the story and asks to see the video.
There is nothing caught on film that confirms Ms. AMD's story. If anything, the digitally captured evidence seems to contradict her completely. "It looks to me like you were harassing my letter carrier," tough and stubborn station manager says. "Get out of here before I call the Postal Inspectors."
The humiliated and humbled Ms. AMD meekly staggers out of the Post Office lobby, her directorial debut still in the can, where it will probably never be seen again by human eyes. There will be no Oscars, no Golden Globes, not even straight to video - maybe not even You Tube. Ms. AMD makes no attempt to resurrect her fledgling film career. Nearly a year has gone by, but she has yet to make her presence known again to the mailman, to inquire about the possibilities of shooting a sequel. The mailman is just fine with this; his blue uniform makes him look fat on film.