by Christopher Bachler
I recently went to a local post office branch to mail some packages. A scruffy man behind the counter with about four days of overgrowth on his face, disheveled hair and a bad attitude finally came to the counter to help me. So far nothing out of the ordinary; I was at the post office, after all. (I am not mentioning the specific branch because I may have to go back there someday.)
I told the man that I wanted to send two packages the cheapest way possible. He brought up some options on a computer and rudely thumped the screen with his finger without saying a word. I strained to see what he was pointing to on the sun-glared screen and approved one option. He brought up more options and again thumped the screen with his finger — still saying nothing.
I answered. He did the same again and again until FINALLY, in pure indignation, I demanded: “DON’T YOU TALK?” He pointed to his ear and shook his head. I concluded that he was a deaf mute.
At the start I assumed — based on his demeanor and attitude — that he was just another postal ignoramus. I have had many encounters with that kind. But I never imagined that he was a deaf mute.
Who would expect a deaf mute to be working a counter at the post office?
Only the U.S. government would pull something like this. It would be almost comical — like a Steve Martin or John Candy movie — if it wasn’t so appallingly real. Here is affirmative action and political correctness RUN AMOK!
Everyone understands the need to employ the disabled. But you expect people to be assigned to jobs they can properly do. For instance, a person in a wheelchair could do phone work as well as anyone else, but you wouldn’t expect a deaf person to answer phones; would you?
Of course, there was also a time when you wouldn’t expect a person who can’t speak English to be working the phones with an English-speaking public. You would also expect the operator to live and work somewhere in this country. Why must we call Asia to fix problems here? Is the U.S. Postal Service running everything?
Someone — perhaps in the depths of Hell — must be messing with us! These absurdities remind me of a 1960s’ sitcom called “F-Troop,” in which the permanent lookout guard at the fort was a nearly blind man named Vanderbilt. Sit-coms thrive on such nonsense. Evidently, life imitates art.
Some will insist that exceptions must be made for the disabled. No. A place of employment does not exist for the benefit of employees but for the benefit of customers on whose patronage the organization depends. Should exceptions be made for someone flying a plane or performing open heart surgery? Would you hop in a cab with a blind driver?
And then there was this postal worker’s demeanor. Does a man’s hearing limitations prevent him from bathing and shaving? Does the inability to speak compel him to behave like an ignoramus? And are supervisors too cowardly to upbraid employees, especially if they are classified as disabled?
I can understand a bad attitude in an immature kid who works a counter for minimum wage. But I believe that postal workers are paid fairly well, at least when benefits are factored in. (I’m sure that they won’t agree since few people, even on Wall Street, ever think they are paid what they deserve.) Yes, I actually have the nerve to expect a little better from our public employees, especially those at the top.
This and more begs the inevitable question: Where does the U.S. Postal Service get its employees? Do they recruit employees like field hands? Do they send out crews of seedy men in pickup trucks to round up homeless people or disoriented barflies?
There seems to be an extraordinary number of dolts working at these places. Their manners are often poor and their competence minimal. Only rarely have I dealt with civil postal workers BEHIND the counter. On the other hand, I have rarely encountered letter carriers who were not friendly, polite and helpful.
Has it occurred to the U.S. Postal Service to put these sharp and civil workers in the office behind the counter and to send the crusty dullards out to do the real work? I guess not. This is the U.S. government, after all. And this is the golden age of political correctness.
So what does common sense have to do with anything?
Christopher Bachler is a freelance curmudgeon from Media who would like all people who wait on the public to be smiling, courteous and friendly. In other words, he must be taking too many prescription drugs.