Friday, October 30, 2009

You Are Soooo Good Looking...

Recently a friend of mine at the office told me that her daughter had accidently grabbed her glasses that morning, so that she was now wearing her daughter's glasses. They both have similar frames, hence the mistake. The perscriptions are slightly different, however. I asked her if this was going to screw up her vision at all that day. She said it would probably mess with it a little. She then turned, looked up at me, and said, "Oh, Ken, you look good!"

I have friends everywhere...

Blog Post Soundtrack; Montreal Canadiens at Chicago Blackhawks

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Greg Moore

The photo that is currently up on the blog here is one I took of race car driver Greg Moore at a race in Nazareth, PA, in April, 1999. I was living in New York at the time, and the CART Series (Championship Auto Racing Teams, what everyone knows as IndyCars) came to Nazareth once a year. Even though it was only a couple hours drive away, I got a hotel the first time I went in 1998. When I went again in 1999, I just drove back and forth each day over the race weekend.

I'd been a fan of CART since the early 90's, and got more heavily into it starting in 1996, which was Greg's first year in the series. He came off the most successful season ever in Indy Lights, the top junior series for racing at the time, winning 10 of 12 races that year, and running away with the championship. He immediately made an impact in his first season in CART. While not winning his first race until mid-1997, he was a consistent top-5 finisher, often challenging for the lead, and running well in the season championship. He only managed 5 race victories in his career, and never did win a championship at the CART level, but he was definitely a success.

He was also a very friendly and approachable person. One of the more popular drivers in the series, he was liked by fans and competitors alike. Since CART never approached NASCAR-like success in this country, the drivers were accessible at races. I was able to meet Greg at several races over the late 90's, taking many pictures of him both in and out of the car. The above photo was of him getting his gear on as he prepared to go out for a practice session. I eventually had this shot blown up to 9 X 12", and had him sign it when I met him again at a race in Cleveland in July of 1999. Matted and framed, it's on the wall over the fireplace in my home, underneath a favorite painting by my father.

I think because he was a rookie in 1996, plus that was the first year I followed the series from opener to closer, and the car he drove was sponsored by Player's (a Canadian tobacco brand) and decked out in the coolest shade of blue, made him my favorite. While I enjoyed watching races, and did like some of the other drivers, Greg was always the one I really pulled for, and really wanted to see win. I remember being so thrilled when he pulled out an amazing victory in Detroit in 1997, coming from a very close third to win on the last lap, when both cars of the PacWest team ran out of fuel in front of him! They had gambled big, and lost big, but Greg had been right there all thru the race, and it was fantastic to see him win.

The first time I met him, at Nazareth in April 1998, I got one of my favorite photographs ever. Greg came out to meet the fans for a few minutes, chatted with people, signed autographs, and posed for photos. His father, who was his manager as well, came out to let him know he was needed back at work. As the two of them turned to walk back into their tent, I snapped one last picture on the crappy camera I had at the time. It wasn't until I got the film developed (you see, in the old days, cameras had film...) about a week later that I realized I'd gotten a gem. The picture has Greg on the left, with his father to his right, walking in lockstep away from the camera back into the tent. The two of them were always very close, with Ric being Greg's coach, guide, agent, mentor, manager, and friend all thru his career. I had 8 X 10"s made of that, and separately presented each of them with a copy when I saw them in Nazareth in 1999. I also had them both sign one for me, which is framed and on top of a bookcase here in my home office.

This Halloween will mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Greg Moore, who was killed in the final race of the 1999 CART season, doing what he loved to do. He was 24.

Blog Post Soundtrack; Slipknot, Tom Lehrer, Danzig, The Runaways, The Coasters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bo Diddley, The English Beat, Queen, Queens Of The Stone Age, Alice In Chains, Anthrax, and the Vancouver Canucks visiting the Chicago Blackhawks in the background

Monday, October 19, 2009

We Actually Deliver The Dead As Well

Yeah, yeah, another Postal anecdote. What can I say, I've had a few interesting stories accumulate over the past 14 years on the job...

Back in Roslyn Heights, a fairly affluent suburb on Long Island, New York, I never had my own route. My job was to cover 5 different routes on their rotating days off. Consequently, I would only see each route once a week. Even so, I would start to pick up little nuances about each route here and there.

One particular house had a fairly decent sized dog that would always bark loudly as I walked his cul de sac. His house happened to be the last one on that relay, so I would hear him barking at me, over the noise from my Walkman (remember those, kids? Told you I've been doing this a long time), for quite a few minutes before I got to his house. He would run up and down the yard alongside the house, happily barking away, I think somewhat upset that he was trapped behind this fence while I was outside able to roam free and have fun.

So one week, I must've made it about halfway thru that cul de sac before I realized that I hadn't heard "Cujo" (I never did know the dog's name) barking. While I did think that was unusual, I just figured they were out for the day, or he'd been taken to the vet for a check-up, or a trip to the park, something innocuous like that.

Fast forward to the next week when I was on that route again, and this time I had a Registered parcel for that house. A Registered item is one that needs a signature from the recipient. The box was slightly smaller than one that could hold a football helmet, so I could fit it in my bag.

Again, as I walked the cul de sac, I noticed the lack of annoying, but happy, barking. As I approached their house, I reached into my bag to get the parcel out. As I stood at their door, I started to write up the parcel, and this was the first time I'd noticed who the sender was.

As the woman of the house opened the door, I asked her if this box that needed to be signed for contained what, or who, I thought it did, as it was from a local pet mortuary. She wistfully confirmed my suspicions. You see, the Registered parcel I was delivering to her contained the ashes of the recently deceased "Cujo". I offered my condolences, and as I walked back to my truck, I turned the volume down a little on my Walkman.

Blog Post Soundtrack: watching/listening to the Rangers lose to the Sharks

Friday, October 16, 2009

We Deliver To The Dead

Really, other things do happen in my life, but I get reminded here and there about these Postal episodes that have happened that are just so funny or unusual that I tend to write mostly about them. Case in point...

I first transferred to Henderson in March of 2000. When you transfer, you go to the bottom of the seniority list within that particular office, but you keep your overall seniority in the Post Office. So, as low man on the totem pole within the office, you have to do some things that the others no longer have to.

About once every 3 or 4 weeks or so, it became my turn to work on a Sunday delivering Express Mail. Two people from my office would work each Sunday and holiday doing this. The nite before, you would park a Postal vehicle out in front of the office, and take the keys home with you. Then you'd go back to the office Sunday morning, pick up the truck, and drive to the Postal hangar at the airport to get the Express Mail for your area of town.

My office covered a large section of Henderson, and also incorporated the areas where all of the rapid growth and expansion was going on. There was a lot of territory to cover, and only 2 people to do it, so it involved a lot of driving. It was common to put 60 miles on the truck in one Sunday. I enjoyed it though, because it afforded me an opportunity to see areas of Henderson I didn't get to see during the week, and as I was looking to buy a house at the time, that worked out nicely.

On this one particular summer Sunday, after having done a few pieces of Express Mail, I pulled up at another house. I went to the door, delivered this piece to a pleasant older woman, and went back out to the truck. I then sat there doing paperwork and lining out where I'd be driving for my next few Express pieces. After a few minutes, the woman came out to the truck, and very nicely asked me when this piece had been mailed out. I told her that it was probably the day before, but that you could see it right here on the label...

...which showed a date roughly TWO MONTHS prior to that particular day. My jaw hit the floor, and I turned to the woman, apologized to her, and explained that it had probably been left in a piece of equipment that had been thought empty. I told her the sender could call the number on the label to get a refund that they were obviously due, at which point she very matter-of-factly said to me, "Oh, that's okay, this was for my husband, and he's dead now..."

At this point, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. I know that may sound cruel, but the situation was so absurd, it was the only reaction I had. The woman was amazingly cool about the entire situation, and wasn't visibly upset, didn't raise her voice, nothing to hint any dismay. I really did feel bad about it, I apologized for the loss of her husband, and I seem to recall chatting with her for a couple more minutes. I have no idea what was in that envelope, but I can only hope it wasn't a release form from an insurance company that was going to allow him to take some medication that would have kept him alive.

Blog Post Soundtrack: Slipknot, The Runaways, Prong, Hermano, Madness, Clutch

Sunday, October 4, 2009

You Do What You Gotta Do

Here's another Post Office story. It may be in slightly-off taste, so it's remotely possible that this may bother someone, in which case, I suggest doing two things. 1.) Don't read any further, and 2.) take a look at the world around you and realize that life's too short to be offended by petty stuff. Now then, on with our show!

I've been a mailman for quite a while now (14 years this month, matter of fact...happy anniversary to me!), so I've encountered many different situations. In talking with a gentleman a couple days ago at one of the apartment complexes (complecies?) I deliver to, I was reminded of this incident.

I started out carrying mail in Roslyn Heights, which is on Long Island, a fairly affluent suburb of New York City. It's a predominantly upper middle class residential area, with each house being kinda large, and a little bit of property as well. While my office only had about 15 routes in it, it covered a decent amount of territory geographically speaking.

Since this was an area of New York, we were subject to the phenomenon known as winter (something basically unheard of out here in the greater Las Vegas area). With a 7AM start time, you were generally leaving the office to go to the street at 9:30 or so, on average. With an 8 hour day ending at 3:30PM, this meant roughly 5 and change hours out in the cold, damp, NY winter weather. Sounds like fun so far, right?

And don't think the vehicle offered any solace from the elements. While you may have been shielded from any falling rain or snow, the little tin LLV's (Long Life Vehicles, as the small boxey-shaped Postal Vehicles are known) are practically incapable of generating any heat. You needed to have the vehicle running for a good 10 minutes before the engine (and I use that word loosely) started to produce anything remotely resembling warmth in the cabin. But you never had to drive for more than a few seconds at a time to get from a parking spot to your next delivery section's parking spot. Only the trips to and from the routes in the mornings and afternoons involved a journey of a few minutes or so.

Now, with this being a mostly residential area, and really no business section anywhere within range of the routes, finding a place to go to the bathroom during the day, if necessary, could be interesting. You couldn't just drive for a minute and pop in the local Target to use their restroom. And it was even more of a challenge for someone with my particular assignment. I didn't have one permanent route, I had a set of 5 that I filled in for on those carrier's days off. And if that person came in on their day off to work overtime, I got bumped to a different route. Consequently, doing a route at most once a week, it was difficult to get to know anyone on the routes well enough to be comfortable with asking to be able to use the bathroom in their home.

Basically, you had to just do your best to make sure you weren't going to have to do anything over the course of the day. Or, you had to be somewhat resourceful if you did need to do anything. Most of the "male" carriers (yes, we've all done that joke a thousand times...) would just carry a bottle around in the truck, for the occasional time that it was necessary. The women were pretty much forced to go to someone's house, I guess. I'll have to ask in my current office if any females are from cold weather regions, and what they did in those situations. 95% of our office is from somewhere else. Very few Vegas-area carriers started here. We're all from somewhere else.

Anyway, in filling in for one of the guys, one day I got in the truck in his route, and found the bottle he kept in it, with a small sample of liquid in it, that he must have just forgotten to take out of the truck the day before. I just smiled, tucked it under the seat, and spotted an opportunity for comedy.

Upon this carrier's return to work the following day, I told him, across the workroom floor, with a very serious and straight face, that I hoped he didn't mind, but I'd gotten real thirsty at some point yesterday, and I had some of that lemonade he kept in that bottle in the truck. In the midst of everyone else laughing, shaking their heads, and/or having disgusted looks on their faces, this carrier's eyes got very wide, as he knew immediately what bottle I was referring to, and was very afraid I'd actually done this! I kept that straight face for a few seconds, as he stood there open-mouthed, then let him off the hook, informing him that while I may look stupid, that's only because I am...wait, that's not right...

Blog Post Soundtrack: Probot, The Dandy Warhols, Pink Floyd, Kyuss, The Minutemen, The Doors, Queens Of The Stone Age, Monty Python, Led Zeppelin, Zeke, Fu Manchu