Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greenhouse Entry 3:

Friday! I spent the whole day doing one fairly brainless task, which helped compensate for the brain overload the day before. A couple hundred flats of herbs (basil, dill, mint, cilantro, petgrass, etc) had to be de-potted and thrown out because they were either too 'leggy' and 'droopy' or too underdeveloped. I was given three ladies to help. A cart with a base and four support rods on the side is wrapped around with saran wrap to make temporary walls, and the dirt is thrown in.

The tractor guy accidentally got his tire stuck in the ditch after bringing me two pallets to stack the empty trays and pots on. They kept revving and couldn't get it out, and it smelled like burning. The depotting is a slow process. Part of my task is to supervise the East Indian contract workers who work with me. I'm supposed to tell them to hurry up if they're slow and give instructions. I don't really like bossing people around though, cuz I want everyone to like me. :| And plus I'm new and most of them have worked there longer than me. Sometimes I tell them to do something and it ends up being the wrong thing, so then I feel like an idiot.

So I learned to start things myself, and after I've figured out how to do it, then ask them to help. And also spy on them from a distance, and come show them the technique that works better. If I just tell them, it doesn't work. Showing works better, a la Montessori. Learning their names is also super hard.. they all end in jeet or deep.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Greenhouse Entry #2


Today I learned so much my head hurt, and I was ready to come home after 8 hours, even more hours are available if I want. First, I was tasked with spraying the mini carnations with a fertilizer / iron mix. This mix is red in colour, and keeps the fussy carnations from losing their pigment. 45 minutes later, the iron needs to be washed off their leaves so that they don't turn brown. The fertilizer we use is indeed high in nitrogen and potassium, and low in phosphorus. It's also high in calcium and magnesium, hence the name 'calmag.'

Next, we mixed about 80 bags of fertilizer into four giant vats that feed it through the entire greenhouse irrigation system. Approximately 18 bags go in each vat, and blue dye is added. A water test shows the chlorine level. Adding one drop of solution to the sample before it turns black equals one part per million. The chlorine level in our water was about two parts per million. The fertilizer should be about 1.7 parts per million. The vats are located in the hottest part of the greenhouse, unfortunately, and I was sweating and covered in blue fertilizer and dye. I am going to have to devise some ingenious plan on how to get myself from blue collar job to white collar job within 45 minutes, when I pick up more teaching hours. I already bought nail polish to conceal the grime under my fingernails, which won't scrub out.

After that, we checked a bunch of sweet potato vines that allegedly had aphids. Inspection proved otherwise. They were just producing too much sugar, a condition known as botrysis due to improper temperatures, fertilization, air and light. I did however go see real aphids. They're light coloured with dark elbows and their butts stick up in the air. They suck out the nutrition from the plants so that they wither. Caterpillers on the other hand, eat holes. There are two other common and annoying insects that do a lot of damage (tryps and.. ?)

Next, we dusted the greenhouse floors with about 15 bags of baking soda. This has a high PH and kills the liverwort, slugs, moss and other weeds. I learned that snakes and frogs also make their home in the greenhouse, and that a lack of frogs means an unhealthy environment. Good to know they're surviving the chemicals.

Then, I sprayed some plants with a fertilizer mixed with a very potent growth inhibitor hormone plus fungicide. The spray has to be distributed very evenly, or the plants will differ too much in height. I guess it's my own fault that my head hurts.. the girl who hired me, M, is so good at explaining things, and I take advantage of that by asking way too many questions!

David. By Earle Birney.

David and I that summer cut trails on the Survey,
All week in the valley for wages, in air that was steeped
in the wail of mosquitoes, but over the sunalive week-ends
we climbed, to get from the ruck of the camp, the surly

Poker, the wrangling, the snoring under the fetid
Tents, and because we had joy in our lengthening coltish
Muscles, and mountains for David were made to see over,
Stairs from the valleys and steps to the sun's retreats.

Our first was Mount Gleam. We hiked in the long afternoon
To a curling lake and lost the lure of the faceted
Cone in the swell of its sprawing shoulders. Past
The inlet we grilled our bacon, the strips festooned

On a poplar prong, in the hurrying slant of the sunset.
Then the two of us rolled in the blanket while round us the cold
Pines thrust at the stars. The dawn was a floating
Of mists still we reached to the slopes above timber, and won

To snow like fire in the sunlight. The peak was upthrust
Like a fist in a frozen ocean of rock that swirled
Into valleys the moon could be rolled in. Remotely unfurling
Eastward the alien prairie glittered. Down through the dusty

Scree on the west we descended, and David showed me
How to use the give of shale for giant incredible
Strides. I remember, before the larches' edge,
That I jumped on a long green surf of juniper flowing

Away from the wind, and landed in gentian and saxifrage
Spilled on the moss. Then the darkening firs
And the sudden whirring of water that knifed down a fern-hidden
Cliff and splashed unseen into mist in the shadows.

One Sunday on Rampart's arête a rainsquall caught us,
And passed, and we clung by our blueing fingers and bootnails
An endless hour in the sun, not daring to move
Till the ice had steamed from the slate. And David taught me

How time on a knife-edge can pass with the guessing of fragments
Remembered from poets, the naming of strata beside one,
And matching of stories from schooldays ... We crawled astride
The peak to feast on the marching ranges flagged

By the fading shreds of the shattered stomcloud. Lingering
there it was David who spied to the south, remote
And unmapped, a sunlit spire on Sawback, an overhang
Crooked like a talon. David named it the Finger.

That day we chanced on the skull and the splayed white ribs
Of a mountain goat underneath a cliff, caught
On a rock. Around were the silken feathers of hawks.
And that was the first I knew that a goat could slip.

And then Inglismaldie. Now I remember only
The long ascent of the lonely valley, the live
Pine spirally scarred by lightning, the slicing pipe
Of invisible pike, and great prints, by the lowest

Snow, of a grizzly. There it was too that David
Taught me to read the scroll of coral in limestone
And the beetle-seal in the shale of ghostly trilobites,
Letters delivered to man from the Cambrian waves.

On Sundance we tried from the col and the going was hard.
The air howled from our feet to the smudged rocks
And the papery lake below. At an outthrust we balked
Till David clung with his left to a dint in the scarp,

Lobbed the iceaxe over the rocky lip,
Slipped from his holds and hung by the quivering pick,
Twisted his long legs up into space and kicked
To the crest. Then, grinning, he reached with his freckled wrist

And drew me up after. We set a new time for that climb.
That day returning we found a robin gyrating
In grass, wing-broken. I caught it to tame but David
Took and killed it, and said, "Could you teach it to fly?"

In August, the second attempt, we ascended The Fortress.
By the Forks of the Spray we caught five trout and fried them
Over a balsam fire. The woods were alive
With the vaulting of mule-deer and drenched with clouds all the morning,

Till we burst at noon to the flashing and floating round
Of the peaks. Coming down we picked in our hats the bright
And sunhot raspberries, eating them under a mighty
Spruce, while marten moving like quicksilver scouted us.

But always we talked of the Finger on Sawback, unknown
And hooked, till the first afternoon in September we slogged
Through the musky woods, past a swamp that quivered with frog-song,
And camped by a bottle-green lake. But under the cold

Breath of the glacier sleep would not come, the moonlight
Etching the finger. We rose and trod past the feathery
Larch, while the stars went out, and the quiet heather
Flushed, and the skyline pulsed with the surging bloom

Of incredible dawn in the Rockies. David spotted
Bighorns across the moraine and sent them leaping
With yodels the ramparts redoubled and rolled to the peaks,
And the peaks to the sun. The ice in the morning thaw

Was a gurgling world of crystal and cold blue chasms,
And seracs that shone like frozen salt-green waves.
At the base of the Finger we tried once and failed. Then David
Edged to the west and discovered the chimney; the last

Hundred feet we fought the rock and shouldered and kneed
Our way for an hour and made it. Unroping we formed
A cairn on the rotting tip. Then I turned to look north
At the glistening wedge of giant Assiniboine, heedless

Of handhold. And one foot gave. I swayed and shouted.
David turned sharp and reached out his arm and steadied me
Turning again with a grin and his lips ready
To jest. But the strain crumbled his foothold. Without

A gasp he was gone. I froze to the sound of grating
Edge-nails and fingers, the slither of stones, the lone
Second of silence, the nightmare thud. Then only
The wind and the muted beat of unknowing cascades.

Somehow I worked down the fifty impossible feet
To the ledge, calling and getting no answer but echoes
Released in the cirque, and trying not to reflect on
What an answer would mean. He lay still, with his lean

Young face upturned and strangely unmarred, but his legs
Splayed beneath him, beside the final drop,
Six hundred feet sheer to the ice. My throat stopped
When I reached him, for he was alive. He opened his grey

Straight eyes and brokenly murmured, "over... over."
And I, feeling beneath him a cruel fang
Of the ledge thrust in his back, but not understanding,
Mumbled stupidly, "Best not to move," and spoke

of his pain. But he said "I can't move ... If only I felt
Some pain." Then my shame stung the tears to my eyes
As I crouched, and I cursed myself, but he cried
Louder, "No, Bobbie! Don't ever blame yourself.

I didn't test my foothold." He shut the lids
Of his eyes to the stare of the sky, while I moistened his lips
From our water flask and tearing my shirt into strips
I swabbed the shredded hands. But the blood slid

From his side and stained the stone and the thirsting lichens,
And yet I dared not lift him up from the gore
Of the rock. Then he whispered, "Bob, I want to go over!"
This time I knew what he meant and I grasped for a lie

And said, "I'll be back here by midnight with ropes
And men from the camp and we'll cradle you out." But I knew
That the day and the night must pass and the cold dews
Of another morning before such men unknowing

The way of mountains could win to the chimney's top.
And then, how long? And he knew ... and the hell of hours
After that, if he lived till we came, roping him out.
But I curled beside him and whispered, "The bleeding will stop.

You can last. " He said only, "Perhaps ... For what? A wheelchair,
Bob?" His eyes brightening with fever upbraided me.
I could not look at him more and said, "Then I'll stay
With you." But he did not speak, for the clouding fever.

I lay dazed and stared at the long valley,
The glistening hair of a creek on the rug stretched
By the firs, while the sun leaned round and flooded the ledge,
The moss, and David still as a broken doll

I hunched on my knees to leave, but he called and his voice
Now was sharpened with fear. "For Christ's sake push me over!
If I could move ... or die ..." The sweat ran from his forehead
But only his head moved. A hawk was buoying

Blackly its wings over the wrinkled ice.
The purr of a waterfall rose and sank with the wind.
Above us climbed the last joint of the Finger
Beckoning bleakly the wide indifferent sky.

Even then in the sun it grew cold lying there ... And I knew
He had tested his holds. It was I who had not ... I looked
At the blood on the ledge, and the far valley. I looked
At last in his eyes. He breathed, "I'd do it for you, Bob."

I will not remember how or why I could twist
Up the wind-devilled peak, and down through the chimney's empty
Horror, and over the traverse alone. I remember
Only the pounding fear I would stumble on It

When I came to the grave-cold maw of the bergschrund ... reeling
Over the sun-cankered snowbridge, shying the caves
In the névé ... the fear, and the need to make sure It was there
On the ice, the running and falling and running, leaping

Of gaping green-throated crevasses, alone and pursued
By the Finger's lengthening shadow. At last through the fanged
And blinding seracs I slid to the milky wrangling
Falls at the glacier's snout, through the rocks piled huge

On the humped moraine, and into the spectral larches,
Alone, By the glooming lake I sank and chilled
My mouth but I could not rest and stumbled still
To the valley, losing my way in the ragged marsh.

I was glad of the mire that covered the stains, on my ripped
Boots, of his blood, but panic was on me, the creek
Of the bog, the purple glimmer of toadstools obscene
In the twilight. I staggered clear to a firewaste, tripped

And fell with a shriek on my shoulder. It somehow eased
My heart to know I was hurt, but I did not faint
And I could not stop while over me hung the range
Of the Sawback. In blackness I searched for the trail by the creek

And found it ... My feet squelched a slug and horror
Rose again in my nostrils. I hurled myself
Down the path. In the woods behind some animal yelped.
Then I saw the glimmer of tents and babbled my story.

I said that he fell straight to the ice where they found him,
And none but the sun and incurious clouds have lingered
Around the marks of that day on the ledge of the Finger,
That day, the last of my youth, on the last of our mountains.

Earle Birney

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mail carrying is like, so last month. So.. wanna know where plants come from?

The real reason I have this new job is for blogging purposes. I plan to keep changing jobs once a month so that I have something new to blog about. So far I LOVE my new job. I work at a greenhouse that supplies all the plants to Home Depot and other such stores. It's huge -- probably a few acres large. I get lost in it a lot. Here's a summary of my first three days:

1. Monday: The day began with sorting through catnip and lemon balm plants, throwing away the small ones, and amalgamating the good ones, to make room for new plants. Next, sowing sweet basil and red rubin basil seeds. 300 flats of the first and 75 of the second. Seeds are very expensive, especially the red rubin, so they're kept locked up in the office, generally speaking, until sowing. 15 seeds go in each pot. Too many, and the middle of the plants grows fungus. Sowing the seeds all in the centre of the pot means each individual plant supports its neighbour.

Part of this involved getting dirt and filling the pots. Planter soil comes through these conveyor belts in the roof, and when they run, dirt rains in your hair. :( The belts lead to three separate planting machines worth $2 million each. The machines fill the trays with dirt, and delicately place plants in them. But because we were seeding by hand, we had to shovel out the dirt ourselves, and cart it over to the herb section. The greenhouse is divided into three main sections: the seeding area, growing area, and order picking area.

Next, I learned about how to fertilize using an irrigation pump. Basically, you take this pump that looks like a motor and bucket on wheels, and you hook it up to a network of pipes that run above the plants. You take fertilizer and mix it with the water. Then you put a hose into the water and hit a switch that removes the air from the water. You keep adding fertilizer and testing the water that comes out of the hose with a guage that reads the concentration level. In this case, for flowering baskets, we wanted a .2 concentration. It takes a while for the plants to get soaked, but you keep measuring the soil's concentration level using the guage, until it hits around .2, and then you stop.

2. Tuesday: The day began with destroying the most beautiful easter hanging baskets I ever saw. A few hundred baskets of pastel coloured pansies (yellow, purple, pink) in full bloom hadn't sold, so we were given scissors and instructions to deliver a Britney-Spears hack job. We chopped off every single flower. This allows the plants to bloom again, in time for Mother's Day, when they will be sold.

After that, I spent the day picking off sticks and buds from miniature carnations. They were a more ugly colour (fluorescent pink), so I didn't mind quite so much. The plants were still so small even though they were sown in October. From birth to sale, each plant must be plucked of its buds ELEVEN times, to allow them to grow bushier. It seems so labour intensive!

3. Wednesday: Today was a fun day. First, I put tags on the basil we sowed on Monday. Then, I hand-watered a bunch of plants. I watered them because they were about to get a dose of growth inhibitor spray. This spray actually destroys and / or delays a gene in the plant, to keep it small and compact. Then, after being purchased, the plant will grow. Who knew that the plants you buy are genetically engineered via a simple spray?!

Other plants are also sprayed with a myriad of different types of fertilizer. Some are made of kelp, some of fish eyes. Some are 400 parts per million and possibly toxic. Others are 4 parts per million. Luckily I won't have to spray the toxic stuff if I choose not to (for now). I think I watered verbena and durango gold marigolds.

Next, the fun part! Hanging baskets are hung on conveyor belts on the ceiling. Push a button, and they move. Push another button, and they rotate past a sensor that sends a shower of water on them. My task though, was to pinch the buds of the osteos (African Daisy), down to the second set of leaves. It was sort of like duck hunting - trying to pluck before the basket whizzed by. Some conveyor belts didn't work, so I ended up balancing things precariously on each other, climbing poles and table tops in order to reach.

All in all, working there has increased my interest in gardening, rather than make me sick of it. When I come home, I want to mess around with plants even more! I just planted a whole tray of foxglove, for example, and put them on Jules' window. They're biennials, so they won't bloom until next year. That means there is so much chance for them to die between now and then, so they will be a challenge. On the weekend, we also planted the blueberry (Elliot and Nelson varieties) and raspberry (Tulameen) in the front flower bed.

I'm tired! Sleep, please.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Granville Island Market

BaH! Stupid Google appears to have bought stupid Blogger, just like Yahoo bought Flicker. So they make you sign in with your user ID and password from the parent site.. and then it said Safari wasn't accepting cookies, even though it is, so I had to open a new browser.. and now the format is all different. Blargh on monopolizing companies pac-manning small independent companies that are doing perfectly fine without them!

Anyway, that's not why I came here. I came here to say one of my favorite things to do with the boi is explore artisan markets, wineries and cheeseries, be they on Islands, the Interior, or the Lower Mainlaind. Today we went to Granville Island, and check out the weird assortment of things we bought:

+ A FEDORA for Moolz (that I have fun wearing and pretending to be a spy)

+ A blueberry and a strawberry rhubarb tart

+ Cured horse meat

Tomorrow I'm starting a new job. Guess what it is! That's a pretty tough challenge, considering I change careers about as often as the wind blows.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The following post contains..

....Graphic images of some of the booboo's incurred by my former letter carrying job. I never even noticed until after I quit my job, how many I had. I counted 14 bruises, 9 cuts or welts on my hand, and one recurring blister on my toe. I'm so excited that they are going to disappear soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I quit my job!

Toner ink - $40
Fancy Resume paper and envelopes - $20
Hiking shoes - $200
Custom Orthotics - $400
Driving lessons and rental - $200
Pants - $30
Massage to attempt to relieve back tension - $80
Wool Socks - $10
Busfare downtown for training $60
= $1040 invested in attaining this job, which is more than I've put into attaining any other job.

And yet, today, I formally quit my job. The past three days have been miserable. The footwalk routes I could deal with. Getting lost isn't such a pain when you're delivering on foot. But it's the mobile routes, the ones with 70+ large parcels, plus 1.5 hours worth of footwalk, plus driving bundles for two other routes, and clearing a couple red-letter boxes, then dropping off all the carded parcels at the retail postal outlet, that kill me. These mobile routes involve driving a large diesel truck and a good sense of direction, which I don't have. One of these days I would've hit somebody while desperately scanning office buildings for addresses.

Added to my bad spatial abilities is the fact that my position is the position with the second highest rate of accidents in Canada (the first highest being longshore workers). I haven't had any serious injuries yet, but I've had tons of little ones and I can see the potential everywhere for large ones. In the last hour of my work I scraped my finger on something and it was gushing blood, but I didn't even know I was bleeding until later, as I have cuts and scrapes all over my hands that feel similar.

They tell you the load will never surpass 35 lbs but that's definitely untrue. My back has never ever caused me problems, but it started hurting one day as I carried a load up a steep hill. It's fine now, but do I really want to risk my health for a $45,000/ yr unionized income? No, health is more important than any income. My cuts and scrapes are insignificant but I hear of all the retirees needing physio and having chronic pain, and getting attacked by dogs, and slipping and falling and cracking their skulls. Not to mention, I haven't even been eating lunch or dinner, so I often have been eating nothing between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm. There just hasn't been time to stop for breaks.

Next, I am not physically strong enough to do mobile routes (at least, not without tacking on about 6 hours of overtime, which management detests and will make your life a living hell for taking). I don't know why they hired me knowing the weight, size and amount of parcels.. I'm a skinny girl.. people are always telling me to eat more. The kind of route I am assigned to needs a big muscular guy. People in public, in elevators and office buildings would stop and stare or shake their heads with pity because I look so out of place hauling around boxes as big as shopping carts, dropping stuff everywhere, and banging into things. Speaking of the public, I started envying happy, well-dressed, clean people as I toiled away with dirty hands and a sweaty scowl.

And my idea of being a happy permanent fixture in peoples' days, and idea of building a sense of community in an individualist, faceless and wary society is shot, because a) I'm not on the same route every day and b) a lot of the public harps on mail carriers, using them as a scapegoat for not recieving their welfare checks on time, etc. The dolly used to carry heavy loads is so heavy itself, I can barely carry it out of the truck without hurting myself! I talked to both supervisors and the superintendent to ensure there was no other option regarding switching my route. The two nice ones told me that a) the workload is only going to get worse, so I should look out for my health first and that b) there was no way to avoid doing mobile routes for the next few months or years, as everything is assigned by seniority, and it would take over a year to bid on a permanent route.

The next reason I quit is because the main supervisor and route that I have, as I mentioned before, are known throughout all of Burnaby and Vancouver as being the worst. With no seniority, you take the worst routes in the station, and the one I've been doing this week used to be all contracted out to an independent parcel delivery service. That's why there are so many parcels. This one supervisor who has been in charge of me this week is the biggest bitchcow villainess I've ever met. I heard about her in training, and at other depots before I even met her.

Take all the evil villainesses in every Disney movie out there, and roll them into one big ball, add a dose of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest, and voila. She is the type that purposely ignores you when you walk by her, and is always right, even when she is wrong. She has a face of steel and the only time I ever saw the corners of her mouth twitch upwards was when I told her I was thinking about quitting, this morning. Who knows, maybe deep down inside there's a nice person in there, but she sure hides it at the expense of making a whole depot lose its morale.

All in all though, I think I could even deal with the bitchy supervisor (and countless bitchy old workers) if I was just doing a footwalk. I did like the fresh air, and some of the beautiful lawns and gardens, and not having to interact with many people in a customer-service way. I liked sorting and pulling the mail; it was kind of fun in a comforting, routine-ish way. And many people at the depot really went out of their way to help me out and answer questions.

I wish the job had been accurately advertised as a 'mobile courier' or 'parcel delivery' position, rather than 'mail carrier,' because then I wouldn't even have sent in my resume. I almost didn't go in to work today but I had some delivery notice cards to drop off so I decided to give it one last shot. They paired me up with someone to follow me around the whole day to give me hints and tips, and I took notes. But even with all the help I was still miserable doing the parcel delivery. So I feel pretty good about having survived a month of being a postie. Now on to job applications again, which I'm becoming pretty expert at. I know there's something better for me out there..

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Horrible, horrible day. One of the worst supervisors, so bad, she has a reputation at every other depot in Van and Bby, was in charge of me today, and she assigned me the worst route at the depot, one that is so bad, it also has a reputation that extends to depots in other cities.

Combine this together with the fact that I'm not very strong when it comes to lifting heavy things or good with directions = me working a 14 hour day with no lunch or dinner break.

Monday, April 09, 2007


I just woke up from a two hour nap. I'm exhausted because I've been gardening non-stop for all of Easter long weekend. Here is a list of things we are growing:

Climbing on a trellis:

-White evergreen clematis
-Peachy pink antique climbing rose

Evergreen clematis:

In containers and pots:

- Long New Zealand sedge grass
-Three perennials (One is called 'blue-eyed grass' and has tan/purple star flowers, one has pink globes and no name for now, and the 'fanfare blanket flower' has orange/yellow flowers)
- Strawberries
-Herbs (English mint, lavender, lemon balm)
-Two types of blueberry bush, one raspberry bush (undecided where we will plant these)

New Zealand sedge:

Blue-eyed grass:

Fanfare blanket flower:

In the garden:

-Green onion

I spent hours and hours working the soil and adding things to it, and only about 5% of the time actually planting. We now have many buckets of concrete and tile that I removed from the garden, and are looking for somewhere to dump it. I'm looking forward to many delicious salads in the summer!

Friday, April 06, 2007

37th and Dunbar

So after that day I spent driving 600 k, I spent the next day compiling duplicate copies of 'return to sender' magazines and periodicals, ripping off the front cover, placing each cover in a new envelope, and addressing them. It's such a waste of paper. Who knew the federal gov't wasted so much paper?! I guess in the end it all gets recycled though. :/

Then, yesterday, I was sent from S. Burnaby to S. Vancouver, and from there I covered two-thirds of a route beside the UBC endowment lands. The area is SO beautiful. It seems like every house owner is an expert in gardening and I saw ponds, a buddhist garden with wind chimes and gnarled driftwood, lots of doorways and arches draped in vines like clematis and wisteria, and the smell of flowers, topsoil and mushroom manure everywhere.

The volume of mail was bordering illegal. I am quite sure I was carrying about 70 lbs on my hips, and I had to hold on to the sides of the overflowing mail bags as I stomped up and down stairs. I guess when you're well off, you belong to more organizations and have more credit card statements. I started walking at 2pm and finished at 6:30, and feel incredibly satisfied that nothing went wrong and I was done before sunset. I even knocked on one guy's door to tell him his headlights were on.

In total, tax dollars paid $80 for my cabfare yesterday. I can see why we pay such high taxes here..

Anyway, it's Friday of the long weekend, so I'm gonna go work in the garden.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

So you wanna know how the mail works?

I feel obliged to report more about work. But it's kind of hard to summarize in a few paragraphs. It's hard. The learning curve is steep. I work at least an hour overtime everyday.. sometimes two, and once, four. I learn so many new things each day. I do a completely different route or task every day. Up until today it has been pretty much all walking on foot. However, today I drove about 600 kilometres dropping off items around Burnaby, in a right-hand drive vehicle. I also dropped off a truck in Vancouver and brought another one back to Burnaby. It's when I'm driving north in 10 am traffic on a sunny day and seeing the snow-dusted mountains framed by clusters of cherry blossoms that I'm glad I'm not stuck in an office.

But there are times I envy the office folk to whom I deliver. Their feet aren't calloused and blistered. Their hands aren't all papercut, with fraying cuticles. They don't have to worry about getting lost, or circling the block multiple times, looking for an address. They don't risk back injury (though they do risk carpal tunnel and flabby flesh!)

Every day I'm more thoroughly amazed at the process the mail goes through, and how much of it is done by hand. Another new recruit and I were marvelling about this, and he said, "Whenever I saw mail carriers, I always thought the mail poured out a giant chute and somehow ended up all sorted and bundled in their bags, ready for delivery." That is SO not the case!

Every single piece of mail that comes through your mail slot has been sorted at least three times by the carrier and driver alone. First, mail is hand-sorted in piles according to street name. Then, it is sorted into a 'case.' A case has about 600 slots in it, one for each house on the route. Then, it is 'tied out,' or gathered into handfuls, wrapped with elastics, and each pile is hand-numbered. Then, the piles are put into 5 or 6 separate bags, or 'bundles.' These bundles are driven out by the driver, and dropped into the grey boxes. Then, the carrier visits the boxes and retrieves the bundles, unties the mail, and double checks the addresses before sending them through the slots. Assuming each house or business gets on average 5 pieces of mail a day, that's 3000 pieces of hand-sorted mail!

That may not include the 'unaddressed admail,' or flyers, that must also be delivered, and can really add on extra time and weight. Also, each route typically has about 12 or so 'registered items,' which are parcels or mail that need signatures, cash on delivery, or need to be received in person. When you change your address, there isn't some giant machine that redirects your mail. Instead, orange 'address change' cards go into your cubby hole in the mail carrier's case, and each day, the carrier checks the card against the mail, and takes both card and mail to the registration desk, where it is collected and redirected, and the card returned for the next day.

I don't want to be a bore with the processes.. I'm boring myself already.. but I guess my point is, the system seems much more archaic than I expected! I expected machines and robots, and all I would have to do is stroll down the street and fling paper airplanes made of mail in the general direction of houses.